This week a transgender woman from Honduras was granted asylum after almost a year in immigration detention. AZPM has tracked Nicol Dago Garcia's case since May of last year after she presented herself at the Nogales Port of Entry with evidence of rape and near-death beatings because she is transgender.
Human rights groups say violence against women has become institutionalized in Central America. Honduras has the highest rate of women being murdered in Central America. Life for Garcia was difficult. She says she joined a women's march two summers ago in Tegucigalpa and was encouraged by other women to ask for asylum in the U.S. She made the journey to the U.S. twice, and twice was deported.
The third time she tried, she brought documentation from Honduran police, an emergency room, an eyewitness and a newspaper article documenting her near-death beating for being transgender.
The third time she asked for asylum, she was granted a hearing by U.S. immigration officials. But unlike many other asylum seekers, Garcia was held in a detention center in Cibola, New Mexico.
She was able to find an immigration attorney to take her case. The American Civil Liberties Union and the Transgender Immigration Law Center helped her in court.
Although she was granted a hearing, she had to spend almost a year in detention in New Mexico. She won her case, and then the U.S. government appealed. This week she won the appeal and was granted asylum and then released. Garcia's attorneys say the U.S. government may appeal a second time.
Immigration experts say the first appeal is not rare but a second appeal is almost unheard of. In the meantime, Garcia is free, but has no money and nowhere to go. She is temporarily staying with a member of an asylum support group in Las Cruces, N.M.