A trans asylum seeker has been re-detained by US immigration officials only a week after her release.
Nicole Garcia Aguilar was re-detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) last week despite having been granted asylum.
Garcia’s lawyers say that the move could have serious effects on her physical and mental health.
ICE had kept the asylum seeker in solitary confinement for months and housed her in a male facility.
It is not clear why Garcia has been re-detained.
Migrant rights group Mijente has launched a campaign demanding Garcia’s release.
Garcia’s case is another in a series of controversial moves on asylum seekers. Numerous hardline policies on immigration have been adopted under the presidency of Donald Trump.
‘She suffered nightmares and panic attacks’
Aguilar had arrived in the US in April last year after fleeing Honduras in fear for her life, the Guardian reports.
The 24-year-old had experienced sexual assault, death threats and attempted murder in her home country.
Though Garcia had gone to the police in Honduras, she was told that she was being targeted because of ‘the way she was’. The officer also said the violence against her would not stop until she was dead.
Upon arriving in the US, Garcia had initially been held in ICE’s only specialist transgender unit in Cibola County, New Mexico.
Although she was granted asylum in October, ICE appealed the ruling. Garcia was then transferred to a male facility and held in solitary confinement.
Tania Linares Garcia from the National Immigration Justice Centre (NIJC), Aguilar’s attorney, said her health rapidly deteriorated while she was in custody.
‘Nicole’s time in Ice custody has been unconscionably painful,’ the attorney said.
‘Unforgivable in any circumstance, solitary confinement is particularly harmful for Nicole, who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, anxiety and depression. Her physical and emotional health deteriorated rapidly. She suffered nightmares and panic attacks.’
Garcia begged not to be put in the ‘cold room’
Garcia had been released last week after a successful appeal by the NIJC and the American Civil Liberties Union.
However, Garcia was not given any release paperwork, which is necessary for asylum seekers to travel freely in the US.
When she went to claim the paperwork with a migrants support group, Garcia was again taken into custody.
‘She argued with the agent, but he said it was out of his hands and coming from higher up,’ said Jennifer Apodaca, a member of the Detained Migrants Solidarity Committee.
Garcia begged not to be put in the ‘cold room’, meaning solitary confinement. ‘She was crying and asked me to fight to get her out,’ Apodaca added.
It remains unclear why Garcia was re-detained.
She is currently being held in the El Paso service processing center in Texas. The facility has been plagued by accusations of human rights violations and abuse.
Mijente, an asylum seekers’ support group, has set up campaign demanding that Garcia be released and continue her asylum claim.
‘Cruel’ immigration policies
Countless LGBTI people are among refugees seeking asylum at the southern border of the US after fleeing persecution in their home countries.
Trans communities face particular discrimination in South America, which is the deadliest continent for trans people.
ICE has come under scrutiny for their treatment of trans asylum seekers.
Roxsana Hernández died while in ICE custody in May 2018, in a case that outraged civil rights activists.
An autopsy conducted by the Georgia Chief Medical Examiner found that Hernández showed ‘evidence of physical abuse’. This included ‘deep bruising’ on Hernández’ rib cage, and ‘deep contusions extending onto the back’.
However, a later autopsy from the New Mexico Office of the Medical Investigator concluded that Hernández had died of AIDS-related illnesses, and had not been abused.
The debate over refugees and asylum seekers has become particularly divisive during the presidency of Donald Trump.
The White House has implemented a number of hardline policies with regard to immigrants and has curtailed a number of trans rights.
Human rights groups have condemned the US government for what they describe as ‘cruel’ and inhumane treatment of migrants and asylum seekers.
In February, Trump was also accused of stoking fears over immigration to help secure funding to build a wall along the southern border.