Deborah Alvarez first arrived to the U.S. when she was 13, where she lived for 17 years. Deported for a low-level crime — prostitution solicitation — in 2005, she was forced to return to a country that she feels threatened in because she is transgender.
Since her deportation in 2005, Alvarez has been shot by rubber bullets during a police raid in on transgender sex workers, continues to receive threats and slurs, and will not go outside alone. In Mexico, Alvarez was left with few job options; she says her only option initially was sex work because “No trans girl can find work in Juarez.”
Alvarez’s story is one of many faced by Mexican LGBT migrants, according to a report from Amy Lieberman for Women eNews. The Mexican National Institute of Public Health found that more than one-third of transgender migrants in shelters in Mexico experience violence and abuse. Outside of shelters, the rate of abuse is even higher.
While LGBT immigrants have been able to seek U.S. asylum for two decades, less than 2 percent of Mexican migrants who applied are granted asylum. One reason why is because detained immigrants are often left to navigate immigration courts alone, where they sign papers and testify often with no or limited knowledge of English or U.S. customs.
The pattern of abuse begin well before immigrants return to their native countries, since U.S. detention facilities have fielded allegations of sexual abuse, denial of medical treatment, and forcing long-term solitary confinement for LGBT immigrants.
These dangers aren’t always unique to the LGBT community, showing how deportation practices do not typically account for the perils immigrants face in their native countries. According to the American Prospect in the Mexican state of Tamaulipas, one in five deportees are repatriated in the middle of the night, and 39 percent of the time they lack any of their personal belongings, money, or ID. Tamaulipas, meanwhile, has the highest rate of kidnapping in Mexico and is overrun by drug-trafficking.
Even though the Obama administration has promised to prioritize criminal deportations, the vast majority of deportees are charged with low-level offenses ranging from driving violations to charges like Alvarez’s prostitution solicitation, forced to return to a country that does not necessarily welcome them.