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Legal Group Prepping To Minimize Detention For Transgender Asylum-Seekers

Marisa Demarco / KUNM
Protesters demonstrated outside ICE's Albuquerque field office in June after Roxsana Hernandez died while she was in custody.

Transgender asylum-seekers are detained in a special unit in New Mexico’s Cibola County Correctional Center. A Santa Fe legal group is working with transgender people from the new caravan at the border to try and minimize their time in lockup here.

Lawyer Allegra Love just returned from the border. She says the transgender folks there are waiting in cold and rough conditions, where they’ll likely have to stay for the next couple of weeks. A transgender asylum-seeker from an earlier caravan, Roxsana Hernandez, was severely dehydrated and beaten before she died in custody, according to a recently released autopsy report.

"The last caravan, it took us months and months and months to get them out, and as we all know, Roxsana died in that process," Love said. "So what we’re trying to do is make sure that we’re as ready as possible to move quickly on getting them released."

Transgender people often face higher rates of violence in volatile situations, Love said, because they’re highly visible and vulnerable. Dozens of transgender women from this caravan are waiting in Mexico to start the asylum process, which likely will mean detention in New Mexico. And this time, Love’s group, the Santa Fe Dreamers Project, is working in advance to find support when they come through the state.

Overall, the Santa Fe group has helped more than 80 women get released so far, with 20 winning their asylum claims.

Marisa Demarco began a career in radio at KUNM News in late 2013 and covered public health for much of her time at the station. During the pandemic, she is also the executive producer for Your NM Government and No More Normal, shows focused on the varied impacts of COVID-19 and community response, as well as racial and social justice. She joined Source New Mexico as editor-in-chief in 2021.
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