While the Trump administration has successfully severely limited asylum qualifications for people fleeing general violence in Central America, people can still request asylum based on their gender identity or sexual orientation.
By WENDY FRY
Question: How did you hear about this story?
We were aware that LGBTQ migrants who arrived in Tijuana with last year’s caravans faced intense challenges, and even violence, when trying to seek U.S. asylum. At one shelter that housed people from this vulnerable community, arsonists barred the door shut and tried to light it on fire. We decided to follow-up to see how newer U.S. immigration policies were playing out on the ground.
Question: Who is Pedro Luis Perez? What happened to him?
Perez is a Guatemalan asylum seeker and a member of the LGBTQ community who arrived in Tijuana in January 2018. Up until this month, he was waiting in Mexico to ask for U.S. asylum under a policy known as “metering.” Growing up in Guatemala, he was thrown out of his home for being gay when he was 13 years old. When he was a little older, he said police kidnapped him, beat him and abused him sexually. He also said his father sent people to kill him because his sexual orientation was an embarrassment to his family.
Question: You spent time at Casa de Luz in Tijuana. What was that like?
It is really a beautiful place. It was once a rock climbing gym, so it resembles an indoor cave. Lots of families stay there, but it is also one of the few places in Tijuana that shelter migrants from the LGBTQ community. So, there are several transgender migrants from different places in the world there also waiting for their turn to ask for asylum. They call it a casa collectiva, rather than a shelter, which just means everyone who lives there, contributes something to the home.
Question: Why are there not more resources for migrants from the LGBTQ community in Mexico?
Resources are strained for migrants across all groups and populations in Mexico. But, specifically for the LGBTQ community, there was an incident at one of the shelters that served migrants in the LGBTQ community in Tijuana — the door was barred shut and a mattress was lit on fire. That incident may have led other shelters that provide services to LGBTQ migrants to be less public about their locations and the services they offer for safety reasons.
Question: What is happening at the congressional level?
House Democrats have asked the Department of Homeland Security to clarify the policy — on whether or not members of this vulnerable community should be forced to remain in Mexico when trying to seek U.S. asylum. The Deputy Undersecretary James McCament declined to release details, citing ongoing legal challenges to the Remain in Mexico policy. However, he did say the agency is responsibly for implementing the program as it applies to everyone, including members of the LGBTQ community.
Where is Pedro now?
He’s currently being held in the Otay Mesa Detention Center near San Diego. He’s in the custody of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.
The Mazatlan Post