Editor’s note: A Spanish version of this story that El Salvador Correspondent Ernesto Valle wrote was published on the Washington Blade’s website on Feb. 16. This article has been updated with additional details about Camila and her deportation from the U.S.
SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador — A transgender woman who the U.S. deported back to her native El Salvador died earlier this month after she was attacked outside the country’s capital.
Asociación Aspidh Arcoiris Trans, a Salvadoran trans advocacy group, told the Washington Blade that Aurora, who was also known as Camila, had been reported missing at the end of January.
The group looked for Camila at various hospitals and eventually learned she had been admitted to Rosales National Hospital in San Salvador, the Salvadoran capital, on Jan. 31 with multiple injuries. Camila passed away on Feb. 3.
She was found on Carretera de Oro above the municipality of Soyapango outside of San Salvador. It remains unclear what happened to Camila.
Activists with whom the Blade spoke said threats that Camila received prompted her to travel to the U.S. with one of the migrant caravans that left Central America last year. They said the U.S. deported Camila and she had been in El Salvador for 4-5 months before her death.
“She migrated to the U.S. because of threats that she had received, but she was deported because they didn’t believe her,” Aislinn Odaly’s, an independent LGBTI rights advocate, told the Blade.
Camila is the second trans women reported killed in El Salvador this month.
A trans woman who used the name Lolita was killed with a machete on Feb. 8. The murder took place in Sonsonate, but trans rights organizations don’t have any additional information.
El Salvador’s National Civil Police and the country’s attorney general have not classified either murder as a hate crime, in part, because Lolita and Camila died in public hospitals where the reports that were made did not mention they were victims of violence.
“We want justice and that these cases are investigated and the reformed penal code procedures to be applied when those who are responsible are found,” Aspidh Arcoiris Trans Projects Coordinator Ambar Alfaro told the Blade, referring to a 2015 amendment to El Salvador’s legal code that enhances penalties for hate crimes based on sexual orientation and gender identity. “Although we have begun the year badly, we hope these crimes establish precedents for there to also be a positive legal framework that regulates the situation of trans people, especially the situation of violence and insecurity.”
The lack of action on the part of the judicial system to investigate hate crimes has created a widespread feeling of anxiety among El Salvador’s LGBTI activists. “It is unfortunate that although we have articles in the penal code that (allow for the classification of) crimes committed against trans people as hate crimes, they are not put into practice,” Miss Trans El Salvador 2018 Tatiana Molina, who is also an LGBTI activist, told the Blade. “Such is the case of all the crimes that have occurred in recent years and specifically the cases of Camila and Lolita. That is why we are demanding justice and the prompt investigation and prosecution of these cases.”
The increase in anti-LGBTI hate crimes and the lack of prosecution of them has sparked increased fear among community members. “I feel outraged, insecure and even more so I am afraid of any reaction of a homophobic or transphobic person who can harm us while walking in the streets,” said Odaly’s.
Aspidh Arcoiris Trans has made formal complaints in Camila’s case and continues to give special attention to it. Advocacy groups have also filed formal complaints in Lolita’s case, but it remains unclear whether any investigation into either murder or those who may be responsible has begun.
A spokesperson for the National Civil Police has not returned the Blade’s request for comment.
Casa Ruby working with trans Salvadoran women detained by ICE
El Salvador, which borders Guatemala and Honduras, has one of the world’s highest per capita murder rates. Thousands of people — including trans women who are even more vulnerable to violence from gang members, police and family members because of their gender identity — have migrated from El Salvador in hopes of reaching the U.S. and other countries that include Mexico.
The Blade earlier this month confirmed U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement was housing 45 trans women at a privately-run detention center in Texas. Some of the detained trans women for whom the D.C.-based Casa Ruby is working to provide housing are from El Salvador.