US: For transgender migrants fleeing death threats, asylum in the U.S. is a crapshoot - - PressFrom - US
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US For transgender migrants fleeing death threats, asylum in the U.S. is a crapshoot

16:35  29 october  2019
16:35  29 october  2019 Source:   latimes.com

Trump’s Asylum Ban Could Apply Retroactively to Thousands of Migrants Even Though Officials Promised It Wouldn’t

  Trump’s Asylum Ban Could Apply Retroactively to Thousands of Migrants Even Though Officials Promised It Wouldn’t ProPublica is a nonprofit newsroom that investigates abuses of power. Sign up for ProPublica’s Big Story newsletter to receive stories like this one in your inbox as soon as they are published. Thousands of migrants who agreed to wait in Mexico for their asylum hearings in the United States are now finding out they may not be eligible for asylum at all. They’re stuck at the Kafkaesque intersection of two Trump policies designed to crack down on those seeking humanitarian protection. First, when they came to the U.S. to seek asylum earlier this year, they were given court dates but forced to wait in Mexico for their hearings.

Roxsana Hernandez Rodriguez was an HIV-positive transgender woman who fled Honduras to seek asylum in the "She saw in the United States the opportunity to start new life free of abuse, risk, and threats , by seeking asylum "Any death that happens in ICE custody is a cause for concern, and

Afghanistan’ s first female air force pilot has been granted asylum in the US after death threats forced her to flee her home country. Having applied for asylum two years ago, she received it this week – on the day that suicide bomb attacks killed at least 25 people in Kabul, including 11 children and nine

As has happened so often in her life, Mayela Villegas once again faced the threat of violence.

Digna Ochoa et al. sitting at a table with a birthday cake: MATAMOROS, TAMAULIPAS -- TUESDAY, OCTOBER 1, 2019: Mayela Villegas, 26, of San Salvador, El Salvador, a transgender woman, fled her home after receiving death threats from gangs, lines up with other migrants from Central America and Mexico, awaiting the outcome of their U.S. immigration court cases in a tent encampment near the Gateway International Bridge, gather as volunteers dole out dinner at the U.S.-Mexico border in Matamoros, Tamaulipas, on Oct. 1, 2019. The stranded migrants seeking political asylum remain in Mexico under Trump administration's © Gary Coronado/Los Angeles Times/TNS MATAMOROS, TAMAULIPAS -- TUESDAY, OCTOBER 1, 2019: Mayela Villegas, 26, of San Salvador, El Salvador, a transgender woman, fled her home after receiving death threats from gangs, lines up with other migrants from Central America and Mexico, awaiting the outcome of their U.S. immigration court cases in a tent encampment near the Gateway International Bridge, gather as volunteers dole out dinner at the U.S.-Mexico border in Matamoros, Tamaulipas, on Oct. 1, 2019. The stranded migrants seeking political asylum remain in Mexico under Trump administration's "Remain in Mexico" policy.

It was a late afternoon in September and she was alone. Hundreds of other asylum seekers camped at the foot of the U.S.-Mexico border bridge were resting before volunteers arrived with dinner.

US close to implementing asylum agreement with Guatemala

  US close to implementing asylum agreement with Guatemala The Trump administration is close to implementing an asylum agreement with Guatemala that would limit who's eligible for asylum in the United States, according to sources familiar with the matter. © Jacquelyn Martin/AP President Donald Trump speaks to members of the media as he leaves the White House, Wednesday, October 23. The agreement, which President Donald Trump announced in the Oval Office in July, is part of a concerted effort by the administration to curb the flow of asylum seekers to the United States. The accord commits Guatemala to extend asylum to migrants who seek it.

While migrants fleeing communist governments in Central America during the Cold War were welcomed in the 1980 s , those arriving now do not Piggybacking on that announcement, Mr. Trump declared on Twitter that he wanted the power to immediately reject people who had no clear basis for

The International Organisation of Migration estimates that 232 million people a year become international migrants and another 740 million A refugee is a person who has fled armed conflict or persecution and who is recognised as needing of international protection because it is too dangerous

Suddenly, a fellow Central American migrant appeared at her tent, growling threats.

"I don't want any problems," said Villegas, a slight figure with long brown hair and red lipstick.

"What problems?" the woman said. "The only problem would be how to take a knife and gut you. You wouldn't be the first or the last. You're worthless — annoying. You'll never compare to me because I have a vagina and you don't."

Villegas is transgender. She had stayed at the bridge in hopes of obtaining asylum in the United States to escape such threats.

The Honduran woman threatening her was dating a member of a Mexican drug cartel. Villegas tried to appease the woman by acknowledging she had powerful friends, even as Villegas secretly recorded their encounter on a cellphone.

ICE detention center may have allowed video to be deleted after detainee’s death, lawyers say

  ICE detention center may have allowed video to be deleted after detainee’s death, lawyers say Lawyers call it a disturbing development in their search for justice for Hernandez, a transgender asylum seeker from Honduras who died weeks after surrendering at a port of entry to the United States. require(["medianetNativeAdOnArticle"], function (medianetNativeAdOnArticle) { medianetNativeAdOnArticle.getMedianetNativeAds(true); }); The woman’s death in May 2018 has fueled scrutiny of ICE’s treatment of LGBTQ detainees as critics say the agency fails to provide adequate medical care for conditions such as HIV.

Migration from Central America to the U . S . is not a new phenomenon, however the reasons, or push factors that are While the United States has seen a record in asylum applications in recent years, Central American countries are dealing with larger migratory flows from the NTCA within their borders.

A death threat over an outstanding extortion payment. Amid the justified uproar at the Trump administration’ s policies on America’ s southern border Today’ s migrant flow is very different. Yes, there are still male heads of household seeking to pursue the “American Dream” in the U . S . so as to

"Yes," the woman snarled before leaving for her nearby tent. "You know how this is going to end."

Studies show LGBTQ migrants are among the most vulnerable, more likely to be assaulted and killed: 88% were victims of sexual and gender-based violence in their countries of origin; two-thirds suffered similar attacks in Mexico, according to a 2017 study by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.

Non-Mexican migrants seeking asylum must now await U.S. immigration court hearings south of the border under the Trump administration's Remain in Mexico program. A Homeland Security spokeswoman said asylum seekers may be removed from the program and allowed into the U.S. if they are "more likely than not to face persecution or torture in Mexico."

Some transgender migrants have indeed been released or placed in detention in the U.S. But many more LGBTQ asylum seekers have been placed on waiting lists or returned to Mexico for months. Dozens of LGBTQ asylum seekers in Ciudad Juarez, Matamoros and Tijuana said in interviews that U.S. immigration officials told them they were not exempt from Remain in Mexico.

U.S. using pilot program to fast-track deportations of asylum seekers

  U.S. using pilot program to fast-track deportations of asylum seekers Immigration lawyers who've found out about the secretive program say it denies migrants due process, restricts access to counsel and effectively ensures their prompt deportation .According to the attorneys, migrants subject to the pilot initiative, which they believe began this month, are not placed in the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) program, another experimental and controversial policy the administration implemented in late 2018. The program, also referred to as "Remain in Mexico," has required more than 55,000 asylum seekers to wait in Mexico for the duration of their court proceedings.

Migrants who were part of a caravan that traveled through Mexico were accompanied by legal observes as they approached the border with the United States in These are the kind of people fleeing persecution in their homelands who typically won asylum in the United States over the years.

The new migrants head for South Texas because it is the shortest distance from Central America. Many Central Americans say they are fleeing extortion or forced recruitment by criminal gangs. But lawyers for asylum seekers said migrants frequently report that Border Patrol agents never asked

Villegas, a 27-year-old hairdresser from El Salvador, first sought refuge in the U.S. five years ago. She entered the country via Tijuana, but was deported. Two years later she returned, only to be deported again by a judge who didn't believe she was Salvadoran or transgender, according to court documents she keeps with her.

Villegas said she and a transgender friend were kidnapped in the southern Mexican city of Tapachula by men who stripped and raped them repeatedly. Villegas, who dropped out of college to help support her family, managed to escape and return home, only to be assaulted and forced into prostitution by Salvadoran gang members. She reported the attacks to the police and to Amnesty International, testifying at a human rights conference. But after receiving a death threat from the gang in May, she headed north again, hoping to join her aunt, a legal resident in Houston.

Villegas said her family accepted her as transgender. Her aunt, a fellow hairstylist, would help her find work and made room for Villegas in her suburban home. But the aunt, who is conservative, also would call her by her male name, pressure her to attend church and criticize her if she wore flashy dresses or anything too feminine.

Police find 12 migrants alive in refrigerated truck in Belgium

  Police find 12 migrants alive in refrigerated truck in Belgium Belgian police found 12 migrants alive in a refrigerated truck at a motorway parking area in northern Belgium on Wednesday after the driver alerted authorities, a federal police spokeswoman said. © Bing Maps © 2019 HERE/Microsoft Police find 12 migrants alive in refrigerated truck in Belgium The driver, who was transporting fruit and vegetables, called police who found 12 adult men of Syrian and Sudanese origin and took them to the Immigration Office in the city of Antwerp.Last week, 39 migrants were found dead in a refrigerated truck in Britain after crossing from the Belgian port of Zeebrugge.

Whether a migrant is fleeing violence or persecution does not have a bearing on the legality or illegality of their entry into the United States, although Likewise, migrants have a right to apply for asylum in the U . S ., regardless of whether they entered or remained in the country legally or illegally.

For some migrants , the policy effectively meant no asylum case at all. Miguel Aquino, 29, who fled El Salvador in a caravan in October after being shot in But blaming other countries and painting those coming across the border from Mexico as a national security threat has never failed to animate Mr

In Matamoros, Villegas waited three weeks before she was allowed to cross the border bridge to Brownsville, Texas, and claim asylum. Customs and Border Protection agents could see from her identification that she was transgender. When she asked if there were exceptions to Remain in Mexico for trans migrants, "They said that would happen at my court hearing."

She was sent back to Mexico the same day. Her immigration hearing in Brownsville wasn't until Dec. 9.

"I could die before that," she said.

Migrants bathing in the nearby Rio Grande last month found the torso of a man whose limbs and head had been cut off. Villegas thought about her own death a lot.

"Where will I be buried?" she wondered aloud. "Will my mother know?"

On Sept. 1, she and a half dozen LGBTQ migrants, accompanied by U.S. legal advocates, entered the bridge and confronted customs officers, demanding they be removed from Remain in Mexico. They were sent back to Matamoros.

As weeks passed, life at the camp worsened. Migrants threw trash onto a fetid black pile beside Villegas' tent. The woman who had threatened her kept circling. Villegas wondered if she would get attacked.

"I think about suicide sometimes," she said.

She did not consider wearing men's clothes or acting macho to blend in.

"I'm a woman," she said. "I can't give up what I am."

Greece shifts migrants from overcrowded islands to mainland

  Greece shifts migrants from overcrowded islands to mainland The transfer of migrants from overcrowded camps on the islands to the Greek mainland continued over the weekend, with authorities saying 415 arrived at the port of Eleusis west of Athens Saturday afternoon and another 380 expected around noon Sunday. The migrants had been living on the island of Lesbos, at the Moria camp where almost 15,000 migrants still live in a space designed for 3,000. The migrants had been living on the island of Lesbos, at the Moria camp where almost 15,000 migrants still live in a space designed for 3,000. They were being transported by Greek Navy ships usually used to transport tanks.

TIJUANA, Mexico — Several members of the Latin American migrant caravan that has enraged President Trump were allowed to step onto United States territory to apply for asylum late Monday, ending a border standoff that had lasted more than a day and marking the beginning of the final

After Willians Bonilla fled threats from a street gang in Honduras two years ago to seek asylum in the United States, he spent seven months in At least 140 migrants of the caravan plan to apply for asylum . U . S . authorities have allowed in a few at a time since Monday, mostly women and children

Villegas has a smooth face and breasts, having taken hormone blocking drugs since age 16. She dreamed about having gender reassignment surgery once she made it to the U.S. and found work. She said she wanted to be free to walk the streets without fear, "to finish my transition and to not be persecuted by anyone anymore."

Though her hearing was weeks away, an immigration lawyer offered to walk her over the bridge to attempt an asylum claim this month. Days later, she heard that presidential candidate Julián Castro, working with the Texas Civil Rights Project, was coming to Matamoros to escort fellow LGBTQ asylum seekers across the bridge.

Villegas wondered what would increase her chances for asylum. Crossing on her own? With her friends?

In her tent the night before she was due to cross, she packed two small suitcases and messaged other LGBTQ asylum seekers on WhatsApp.

"What would you do in my shoes?" she said.

It's not clear how many LGBTQ people are among the 54,000 asylum seekers returned to Mexico or the 26,000 more on waiting lists to apply for asylum. Forty-five congressional lawmakers wrote to Homeland Security officials in June, demanding they clarify the Remain in Mexico policy for LGBTQ migrants and detail how many had been returned.

"Forcing them to remain in Mexico or creating additional hardships in their asylum process only makes them more susceptible to the same violence that forced them from their home countries in the first place," the lawmakers wrote.

Homeland Security Deputy Undersecretary James McCament declined to release details, citing lawsuits challenging Remain in Mexico. "But I want to reiterate DHS's commitment to the responsible implementation of this program as it applies to all populations, including [LGBTQ] asylum seekers and other vulnerable populations," he wrote in a July letter to the lawmakers.

Trump administration weighs restricting asylum seekers from working

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Migrants fleeing violence in their country should be allowed to apply for asylum in the United States, a court ruled Wednesday. Albert Yared stands near the Greyhound Bus Station in downtown San Diego on Saturday. Albert traveled with his parents in the migrant caravan from Honduras hoping to

Generally, Central American migrants are fleeing gangs, drug cartels or other violence. But fearing for one’ s life isn’t reason enough for asylum , Mr. Haine They entered the United States illegally and applied for asylum in 2016 in Utah. A judge denied her request in March on the grounds that claims

This month, Rep. Raul M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) said he was drafting a follow-up letter to Homeland Security demanding it disclose the information.

"We're going to press it again," he said in an interview. "The vulnerability of LGBTQ asylum seekers is historic in this country, as well as Latin America. We want some response and acknowledgment that that's true, and what are you going to do about it."

Rep. Nanette Barragán (D-San Pedro), who serves on the House Homeland Security Committee, said, "We do need to get some answers and some clear definitions of who qualifies, and we need to push so that vulnerable populations do qualify to be exempt."

LGBTQ migrants are facing pressures all along the U.S.-Mexico border.

In Juarez, more than 800 miles west of Matamoros, the only shelter for LGBTQ migrants has no steady funding, no windowpanes and crumbling walls. In some places, the roof has caved in, and is patched with trash bags that don't keep out water when it rains.

Transgender nurse Grecia Herrera Alvarado founded the shelter last year and named it Respetttrans "because we want respect, respect of our identity." Unlike religious migrant shelters in Juarez, it has received little funding from the Mexican government, she said.

One day in September, the shelter housed about 50 people, a dozen of them LGBTQ. Young boys on a tattered couch giggled as they pointed at a poster showing dozens of transgender migrants who had stayed at the shelter, including two who died after they crossed the border and fell ill at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention centers.

More migrants were arriving every day. Soon, temperatures would start to dip as winter approached. Herrera needed to fix the roof and windows before then, but a GoFundMe website had raised only enough to cover monthly expenses.

"Sometimes I get tired," she said. "Seeing the deaths of my sisters; when I see the house, the condition the state leaves us in; that we don't matter to anyone."

French police began evacuating hundreds of migrants from camps in northern Paris on Thursday, a day after French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe vowed to "take back control" of immigration.

  French police began evacuating hundreds of migrants from camps in northern Paris on Thursday, a day after French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe vowed to French police evacuated over 1,600 migrants from two camps in northern Paris on Thursday, one of the biggest such operations in the city in years, a day after the government unveiled tough new measures to a "take back control" of immigration.Around 600 police officers escorted the migrants from tents where coaches transported them to reception centres, in an operation that began under steady rain at around 6:00 am (0500 GMT), an AFP reporter said.

Transgender woman seeking U . S . asylum in migrant caravan dies in ICE custody. Advocates want U . S . immigration authorities to stop holding transgender migrants after Roxana Hernandez, a transgender woman, died while being detained at a facility in New Mexico.

A week before, two transgender women she knew had been found dead in a nearby viaduct, shot and chopped up. Five had been killed in Juarez in the last month, she said.

Transgender Honduran Courtney Collins has been waiting at the shelter to claim asylum in the U.S. for six months, afraid to go out. Collins, 20, said that her mother died when she was a toddler and that relatives who raised her kicked her out at age 14 after they caught her wearing women's clothes.

Like many LGBTQ migrants at the shelter, Collins had relatives in the U.S., including in Los Angeles. She reached them by phone, but said they refused to help her because they're conservative, Pentecostal.

"My aunt told me the only way she could take me is if I be a good man and have a woman and start to have children," Collins said.

She refused.

"I said 'That's not the life I want,'" Collins recalled. "And she said, 'Burn in hell.'"

Collins was excited at the prospect of entering the U.S., but worried she could fall ill or be assaulted while in detention.

"We don't have much to defend ourselves," she said of transgender migrants. "We're just looking for a place where we can be who we really are."

Migrants at the shelter from Cuba, El Salvador and Honduras said they had been raped in their home countries, targeted because they were LGBTQ.

LGBTQ asylum seekers in Matamoros say the same.

Andrea, 24, fled El Salvador in June with her longtime girlfriend and her girlfriend's 9-year-old daughter after being harassed by a neighbor. Andrea, who declined to give her full name, said that when they told Border Patrol agents they were a couple, the agents laughed and detained them separately.

"They said that's not worth anything," she said.

Her girlfriend was allowed to enter the U.S. with her daughter, and they went to stay with her sister in Iowa. Andrea was returned to Mexico.

As for Villegas, she decided to cross the bridge on her own. On Oct. 5 she hugged other LGBTQ migrants in front of the bridge, and they offered advice about how to act with customs officers.

"When you talk, use a firm voice. Don't cry," said one.

Villegas nodded. As she approached the bridge, she pulled a pink bag behind her labeled in Spanish, "Where there's a woman, there's illusion."

Jodi Goodwin, her lawyer, stopped to consult with her. "Mayela, you know all the consequences," she said in Spanish.

Villegas nodded.

"You have to be very strong with them," Goodwin said.

As they approached the center of the bridge, Goodwin paused again with Villegas to pray, finishing with, "God, hear us."

Then Goodwin introduced her client to the half dozen U.S. customs officers stationed at the center of the bridge. They summoned a supervisor. Moments later, they escorted Villegas into the U.S. port of entry.

Villegas was interviewed as her LGBTQ friends had been: via telephone, by an asylum officer. Unlike the one who interviewed her before, this officer was sympathetic; he said he had a gay relative.

Villegas told him about being threatened at the tent camp, that she had recorded the encounter, reported it to the police and obtained police reports.

The officer listened and then made a ruling: Villegas could stay in the U.S. while her asylum case is pending. She was allowed to contact her aunt, who bought her a bus ticket to Houston. By the next morning, she was on her way.

But the following day, eight of her LGBTQ friends tried to cross the same bridge with Castro. They too were interviewed by an asylum officer. But this officer said there were no exceptions to Remain in Mexico for LGBTQ migrants. They said he told them that if they felt unsafe in Matamoros, they should move somewhere "with more gays," like Mexico City.

All eight migrants were returned to Mexico.

———

©2019 the Los Angeles Times

Visit the Los Angeles Times at www.latimes.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

French police began evacuating hundreds of migrants from camps in northern Paris on Thursday, a day after French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe vowed to "take back control" of immigration. .
French police evacuated over 1,600 migrants from two camps in northern Paris on Thursday, one of the biggest such operations in the city in years, a day after the government unveiled tough new measures to a "take back control" of immigration.Around 600 police officers escorted the migrants from tents where coaches transported them to reception centres, in an operation that began under steady rain at around 6:00 am (0500 GMT), an AFP reporter said.

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