Attorneys Fight for Release of Transgender Honduran Migrant Kept in Solitary Confinement

Attorneys are fighting for their client, a Honduran transgender migrant, to be released from inhumane conditions. The attorneys also say that Nicole Garcia Aguilar, 24, is being illegally held, oftentimes in solitary confinement, even though she was granted asylum in October 2018. She is currently being held at an immigration detention center while her case is being appealed.

Aguilar, as a transgender woman, faced persecution, rape and threats in her home country of Honduras, which is notoriously violent toward transgender people. But U.S. government lawyers appealed her first asylum because they didn’t think her claims were credible.

The American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico and the National Immigrant Justice Center filed in federal court that Aguilar should be released because of the policy that people who have been granted asylum typically are released pending appeal.

Aguilar is currently being held at the Cibola County Correctional Center in Milan, New Mexico. She was supposed to get out on March 15.

“Not only is ICE detaining our client illegally, they are doing so in conditions that are harmful and dangerous,” said Tania Linares Garcia, a staff attorney with the National Immigrant Justice Center.

Aguilar and thousands of other migrants fleeing violence are in U.S. custody after arriving at the border. Aguilar applied for asylum after coming to the border near Nogales, Arizona. She has been in custody since then.

Much of that time in the privately-run prison in New Mexico, Aguilar was moved from the transgender unit to solitary confinement, supposedly for her protection. Aguilar also suffers from chronic anxiety, depression, nightmares and panic attacks, which are made worse by the extended periods of time in solitary confinement.

Dozens of LGBTQ local activists and community members have been killed in Honduras over the last decade. Violence and a lack of economic opportunities are major reasons why lesbian, gay, and especially transgender Hondurans leave the country.

Statistics from Cattrachas, a lesbian feminist network that is based in the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa, say that at least 15 people were reported killed in the country in 2018 because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.