Honduran trans woman freed from ICE custody six months after being granted asylum

A hand holding an 'abolish ice' placard

A Honduran transgender woman has been released from solitary confinement in a men’s immigration unit, six months she was granted asylum by a federal judge.

Nicole García Aguilar was detained by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) after she fled Honduras in April 2018, having survived rape, attempted murder and police abuse.

A federal judge granted her asylum in October 2018, a decision which ICE appealed.

In the past six months Aguilar has been held in a unit populated by men in the Cibola County Correctional Facility, New Mexico.

Three of those months were spent in solitary confinement, an ordeal which caused her to lose one third of her body weight, according to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

ALCU petitioned for Nicole García Aguilar’s release

Aguilar was freed on Wednesday (April 17), six days after a petition for her release was filed by the ACLU.

ACLU layer Kristin Love said in an April 11 statement: “It is beyond cruel that ICE continues to detain a woman upon whom an immigration judge has already conferred asylum status.

“Continuing to hold an asylee who has already suffered so greatly serves no purpose other than to inflict misery. We demand that ICE end her prolonged and illegal detention immediately.”

Following Aguilar’s release, Love added: “We have forced ICE to review what it was doing to one person, but this is an out-of-control agency that refuses to follow the law unless sued. That’s not how government should operate.”

“This is an out-of-control agency that refuses to follow the law.”

Kristin Love, ACLU

Since its liberal president was removed in a 2009 coup, Honduras has become especially hostile towards LGBT+ people.

307 LGBT+ die in Honduras

In the past decade an estimated 307 LGBT+ people have been killed, according to the LGBT+ group Cattrachas. Of that number, 98 were transgender.

Those who flee to the US face further challenges from ICE, which has been repeatedly criticised for its treatment of LGBT+ refugees.

Roxsana Hernández Rodriguez, another Honduran trans woman, died in ICE custody on May 25, 2018.

A member of the Pink Unity Collective holds a photo of Roxana Hernandez.

A member of the Pink Unity Collective holds a photo of Roxana Hernandez. (Orlando Sierra/AFP/Getty)

An independent autopsy found that she was beaten shortly before her death, which an official report put down to a rare, AIDS-related illness. The state medical investigator refuted THE claims of abuse.

Shortly afterwards, in June 2018, a report found that LGBT+ detainees were 97 times more likely to be sexually assaulted while being held by ICE than straight people.