Trans woman is murdered after being deported to El Salvador — a country she left due to threats to her identity
Earlier this month, an El Salvadorian transgender woman was murdered outside of the country’s capital after having been deported from the United States several months prior, the LGBTQ-focused outlet the Washington Blade reported on Sunday. Camila, who was also known as Aurora, is the second trans woman reported killed in El Salvador just this month; in fact, she immigrated to the U.S. in the first place because she had received threat. Camila’s murder highlights the deadly impact of American immigration policies on vulnerable populations, especially women and LGTBQ people who migrated to the United States seeking safety.
Camila’s murder was discovered by the Salvadoran trans advocacy group “Asociación Aspidh Arcoiris Trans,” after she was reported missing in late January. On January 31, the organization learned that Camila had been admitted to a hospital in San Salvador t and died three days later. The exact nature of her injuries is not known.
Camila had traveled north with one of the migrant caravans that left Central America last year, according to activists who spoke with the Blade, but was deported back to El Salvador sometime in mid-2018, presumably because her asylum claim was rejected. “She migrated to the U.S. because of threats that she had received, but she was deported because they didn’t believe her,” said independent LGBTI rights advocate Aislinn Odaly.
There is scant data on how vulnerable individuals fare after being deported from the U.S., but research suggests that Camila’s death is part of a greater pattern. In a report released in August, the Center for American Progress (CAP) raised concerns about several policy initiatives instituted by the Trump administration, including the termination of Temporary Protected Status (TPC) for nationals of many countries including Honduras, Nicaragua and El Salvador. They also took issue with administrative changes that make it impossible for people facing domestic or gang violence to claim asylum on those grounds. Since the report was published, several related lawsuits have moved forward, including a permanent injunction that was put in place to prevent Trump from implementing his restrictions on asylum claims and a temporary injunction that prevents Trump from ending TPS protections for people from Sudan, El Salvador, Haiti, and Nicaragua.
“The Trump administration has led an aggressive anti-immigrant campaign that will have dangerous ramifications for vulnerable populations—especially women and LGBTQ immigrants,” the CAP report states. “Many are being returned to Latin American countries such as Mexico, El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala that are rife with dangers—including gender-based violence, domestic abuse, and gang violence—without stable enough institutions to protect them.”
Transgender people from the Northern Triangle of Central America (El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala) are at particular risk of violence in their home countries, according to a November 2017 Amnesty International report, and cannot rely on their local governments to keep them safe. One study cited in the report, which was conducted by the United Nations Development Programme, found that 72 percent of trans women assaulted in the country opted not to report the incident to the police out of fear they would face retaliation or a belief that they would be ignored or discriminated against by the justice system.
Trans people held in immigration detention in the US are at a heightened risk of sexual violence and placement in solitary confinement, yet for many individuals, even these deplorable conditions are preferable over staying at home. In a 2015 story published by Take Part, journalist Jake Naughton interviewed a trans woman named Johanna Vasquez, who endured over a month in isolation and repeated sexual harassment while in ICE custody. She was deported to El Salvador and reportedly attacked as soon as she left the airport, but survived and immediately started traveling back north. She later returned to the US and was subsequently granted protection from future deportations.
“I left the same day. The same minute,” Vasquez told Take Part. “To stay in El Salvador where they will kill you or to leave? There was no choice.”
More articles by Category: Immigration, LGBTQIA
More articles by Tag: South & Central America, Intersectionality, Transgender, Women of color