On Thursday, the ACLU of New Mexico filed a lawsuit on behalf of Nicole Garcia Aguilar, a transgender migrant who was granted asylum in October 2018.
But the American Civil Liberties Union said Immigrations and Customs Enforcement has refused to release Aguilar from custody and appealed the ruling.
Aguilar’s journey through the U.S. asylum system was routine, crossing into the United States in April 2018 in Nogales, Arizona, where she presented herself for asylum.
ICE then took her to their holding facility in Cibola County, New Mexico, to have her case reviewed.
In early October, a judge granted Aguilar asylum, on the basis that she was persecuted in her home country based on her gender identity and would face more danger if the U.S. returned her there.
LGBT advocates in El Paso said Aguilar's motivation to leave Central America is a common one.
“For the LGBT population, they’re highly victimized, very at risk for their safety in their countries of origin,” said Ashley Heidebrecht, an intern with the Borderland Rainbow Center. “In fact, in many of their countries, aspects of their life aren’t even legal."
Based on ICE policy, Aguilar should have been released after being granted asylum.
Instead, ICE appealed the judge's decision, arguing that her story wasn't credible and the judge made a mistake.
Now the ACLU has sued both ICE and the Department of Homeland Security, saying Aguilar should have been freed after being granted asylum.
ICE also placed Aguilar in solitary confinement for almost three months, which the ACLU described as being psychologically brutal.
“In coming to this detention center and being held, it comes down again to that erasure,” said Heidebrecht. “We’re going to put you in a gender you don’t identify with, or we’re going to hide you.”
Since being granted asylum, Aguilar has been in either solitary confinement or the men's section of the holding facility instead of the transgender unit.
CBS4 has reached out to ICE multiple times to find out why they've continued to detain Aguilar, but they have yet to respond.