August 12, 2017 at 12:11 am EST | by Michael K. Lavers
16 trans, gay Central America migrants seek asylum in U.S.

A group of 16 transgender and gay migrants from Mexico and Central America march through Nogales, Mexico, on Aug. 10, 2017. The migrants later asked for asylum in the U.S. (Photo by Kendal Blust)

A group of 16 transgender and gay migrants from Central America on Thursday sought asylum in the U.S.

The migrants — who are from Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and Mexico — called themselves the first Trans Gay Migrant Caravan of 2017. They left Mexico City and walked and used buses and other forms of transportation to travel to Nogales, Mexico, which is on the Arizona-Mexico border.

The Nogales International, a newspaper that is based in Nogales, Ariz., reported the migrants arrived in Nogales, Mexico, on July 25.

A Facebook Live video the Transgender Law Center recorded shows the migrants carrying signs and chanting, “What do we want? Freedom” and other slogans as they marched along the border wall that separates the two cities.

A second Facebook Live video shows the migrants holding paperwork lined up outside the Dennis DeConcini Port of Entry before entering the U.S.

A number of the migrants appeared to wipe tears from their eyes before they entered the border crossing.

“What is happening in Central America is what happening globally: The lack of protections, the lack of understanding of who we are as trans people, as queer people,” Isa Noyola of the Transgender Law Center told the Washington Blade on Friday during a telephone interview. “That translates into violence and discrimination and stigmas that are harmful. We are left in these really vulnerable situations.”

The Phoenix-based Puente Human Rights Movement, the National Immigrant Justice Center and Somos Un Pueblo Unido in Santa Fe, N.M., also provided support to the migrants.

Migrants ‘entering into another phase of their journey’

Violence associated with gangs and drug trafficking in Central America have prompted LGBT migrants to flee the region. A lack of access to education, employment and health care have made trans women particularly susceptible to discrimination and exploitation.

“We have a forced migration,” a trans activist in the Honduran city of San Pedro Sula told the Blade in February during an interview at their office. “They don’t do it because they want to. They are doing it because the situation in which we are living in our country is very difficult.”

San Pedro Sula, gay news, Washington Blade

San Pedro Sula (Honduras) City Hall (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Noyola told the Blade the migrants who entered the U.S. on Thursday requested asylum based on a “well-founded fear of persecution on account of . . . membership in a particular social group” under the Immigration and Nationality Act as Immigration Equality notes on its website.

She said U.S. Customs and Border Patrol is currently processing the migrants. Noyola told the Blade she hopes they will soon have their “credible fear interview” and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement will allow them to remain in the U.S. as their cases proceed.

“Now they are entering into another phase of their journey,” she said.

The migrants applied for asylum nine days after President Trump endorsed a bill that would, among other things, reduce the number of people who the U.S. will allow to legally immigrate to the U.S. each year.

Trump in January signed two executive orders spurring construction of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and paving the way for cuts in federal funding to so-called “sanctuary cities” that protect undocumented immigrants. Immigrant rights advocates and their supporters have sharply criticized both mandates.

Murals on a wall that marks the U.S.-Mexico border in Mexicali, Mexico. (Photo courtesy of Victor Aguirre)

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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