On Monday, October 7, democratic presidential candidate Julian Castro escorted 12 asylum seekers, eight of whom identified as LGBTQ, from the border of Mexico into his home state of Texas.
Coming from Cuba, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, the eight face a range of oppression in their home countries. From the denial of same-gender marriage all the way through police investigations for trans folks who receive surgical procedures like breast implants, the daily life of an LGBTQ person in a lot of the world is intertwined with invisibility and fear.
Castro’s public march was an attempt to appeal to border protection officers, claiming that these “vulnerable” migrants should be exempted from a program titled Migrant Protection Protocols which detains people awaiting U.S. asylum case decisions in Mexico.
The Trump administration implemented the Migrant Protection Protocols in January of 2019, better known as Remain in Mexico, as a way to keep migrants and asylum seekers off U.S. territory. Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen M. Nielson claimed this approach is a humanitarian effort that is a commonsense approach to ending the exploitation of U.S. immigration laws, according to a press release.
“There are thousands of migrants who are suffering because of Trump’s Remain in Mexico policy. They are being kidnapped, extorted, and subjected to violence,” Castro said to NBC News. “I want to speak out particularly for the most vulnerable, migrants with disability and migrants who are LGBTQ. They’ve been particularly hurt by this policy.”
Unfortunately, all those who crossed with Castro were returned to Mexico to join the 50,000 other asylum seekers despite the high-profile escort and all eight alleging they had faced some form of discrimination, assault, or harassment in the migrant facilities.
Although 2018 saw a 9 percent rise in hate crimes in the U.S. against black, Jewish, and LGBTQ communities, at least 1,300 LGBTQ people have been murdered in South American countries so far this year alone. And while we continue to watch the current administration in the White House hack away at federal protections for LGBTQ folks here in America, it is still far safer here than in most parts of the world.
The risk of detainment in facilities on either side of the border, however, is still a better option for some of the folks who walked with Castro, as that may be the only way to save their own lives and the lives of their loved ones.
“Ten years in detention is better than a day here,” said Dany, 22, a lesbian who fled Cuba with her partner to the Los Angeles Times.