Sign the Petition

Photo Credit: Kendal Blust at Nogales International

As Kendal Blust reported for [Nogales International]( on August 10, 2017:

Lined up along the narrow, shaded passage south of the Dennis DeConcini Port of Entry in Nogales, Sonora on Thursday afternoon, 16 gay and transgender migrants held thick packets of paperwork detailing their claims for political asylum as they waited to present themselves to U.S. immigration authorities.

With dozens of reporters and activists pressed along the other side of the corridor snapping photographs and calling out words of encouragement, the four gay men and 12 transgender women from Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Mexico faced an uncertain end to a months-long journey to the U.S.-Mexico border, fleeing persecution based on their sexual orientation and gender identity that they said poses a credible threat to their lives and well-being if they are sent back to their home countries in Central America.

Calling themselves the first Caravana Trans-Gay Migrante, or LGBTQ migrant caravan, the group joined together as they traveled north through Central American and Mexico. Escaping physical, sexual and emotional violence in their home countries, the migrants said they also experienced persecution, discrimination and abuse at the hands of Mexican police, military and immigration officials en route to the United States.

“Our mistreatment starts in our families, who don’t accept us as transgender women. We’re targeted by gangs, and even the very police who should protect us,” said Estefany, a 22-year-old transgender woman from Honduras, speaking during a press conference in the shadow of the border wall on Thursday morning. “Many of us have been kidnapped, forced into prostitution. We come from our countries full of so much pain and suffering, and we experienced the same things here in Mexico, too.

“We now have the option of going to the United States looking for safety, that safety and protection that they, the United States, can give us,” she added.

The group arrived in Nogales, Sonora on July 25, where they began meeting with lawyers to prepare their asylum cases in the hopes that immigration authorities would not only accept their pleas for refuge, but also that they would be released from detention on humanitarian parole while their cases are processed because of the trauma many of them have already faced as victims of kidnappings, torture and other abuse, Estefany said.

The #Rainbow16 are now in immigration detention in the US. Sign the Petition demanding that ICE immediately release the #Rainbow16:

Caravan members presented themselves at the Nogales Port 
of Entry on August 10, 2017. Help us make our 10,000 signature goal and tell ICE to free the #Rainbow16!

This is a petition for individuals, not organizations*, that support the #Rainbow16!

We, the signatories, below write to support the request for parole of the 16 members of the Primera Caravana Trans 2017 (First Trans Caravan 2017). The members of this Caravan, are transgender, travestis, non-binary and gay individuals who have faced pervasive discrimination, hatred, violence, police abuse, rape, torture, and vicious murder and should be eligible for asylum, withholding of removal or relief under the Convention Against Torture. Due to the current pervasive nature of homophobia, transphobia and violence in Latin American countries, relocation to another part of their home countries or a neighboring country is not possible or would not prevent the harm they fear.

Detaining members of the Caravan in immigration detention is not in the public interest because it will subject them to immediate and irreparable harm. It is overwhelmingly well documented that Immigration detention facilities are ill-equipped to respect the human rights, safety, and dignity for transgender and gay immigrants in immigration detention. In fact, Human Rights Watch issued a report in 2016 entitled “Do You See How Much I’m Suffering Here?: Abuse against Transgender Women in US Immigration Detention” that documents cases of transgender women who were held in men’s facilities, spent significant time in solitary confinement, and were victims of sexual abuse, trauma, and profound psychological distress while in immigration detention. In addition, “[s]ince many transgender women seek asylum after experiencing extreme violence in their countries of origin, they are especially vulnerable to the mental health strain of being held in detention. Studies show that detention is a threat to the psychological health of immigrants and can worsen the intense psychological distress often carried by asylum-seekers fleeing persecution.” The systematic problem of degrading-treatment against transgender women in ICE detention includes sexual assault, denial of medical care, extended periods of solitary confinement, discrimination and abuse.

We strongly believe the request of the members of the Caravan to be paroled into the United States should be granted because as transgender and gay men from Latin America, the members of the Caravan fear and face serious immediate harm and are particularly vulnerable both in their countries of origin and in immigration detention in the Unites States.

Similarly, we support the nation-wide #EndTransDetention campaign because DHS cannot continue to maintain transgender immigrants in deplorable and inhumane detention conditions and waste millions of dollars detaining a vulnerable population that is overwhelmingly eligible for relief. Instead, ICE should employ already proven and cost-effective alternatives to detention.

We trust that you as DHS leaders will comply with your legal obligations under domestic and international law that require protecting, and not further victimizing, refugees who reach our borders.

*This is an individual sign-on letter to support the #Rainbow16. Organizations, please sign on here.