The Queer Teenager And Their Families Who Flee Their Countries
Some of the a large number of Central American children looking to get to the United States would like a love and approval they can’t get at home.
MEXICO CITY – Jefferson’s face was protected in fake bloodstream as he discussed departing El Salvador for america after gangs defeat him up for wearing women’s clothes.
The 17-year-old was wearing a cadaver costume to look trick-or-treating with a group of teenagers on the south side of Mexico City, where U.S.-style Halloween mixes with Mexico’s Día de los Muertos. He previously also helped build an altar of offerings of food and blossoms for the lifeless spirits thought to visit the living in the first times of November. More than 100 kids also residing in the shelter where he has resided for the past year and a half did the same. Jefferson wore a bright smile under his make-up, running between groups of friends in the auditorium as the offerings were judged.
The shelter was the most stable home the teen – who find the pseudonym Jefferson to keep his real name private – got known. His mom kicked him out of their house in rural El Salvador when he was 11 because he previously started wearing women’s clothes. “She realized this is one way I had been and she defeat me, saying, ‘I’d rather have a crazy person in my house than a homosexual one,'” Jefferson said. Jefferson survived as a prostitute on the streets of the capital San Salvador for 90 days, until his mother got ill with an illness that paralyzed her face and compelled him to come back home to support her. As her situation deteriorated, his cross-dressing caught the interest of a few of the gang associates in his neighborhood. Gangs have become into large arranged crime syndicates in Central America over the past 20 years, thanks a lot in large part to the U.S. plan of deporting immigrants who was simply part of gangs like MS13 in LA. The gang associates informed him they didn’t like viewing people like him “contaminating a nearby,” beat him up, and pressured him into doing work for them, though he didn’t say what work he do.
On Feb. 19, 2012, gang people beat him up yet again. The same night time, his mother required herself to a healthcare facility. That’s when he decided to head to the United States.
“I decided it was better to get out,” he said.
Jefferson made a decision to make the trip north around once increasingly more kids from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras were doing the same, sometimes at their parents’ urging. These three countries only constitute 93% of the greater than 60,000 children who attemptedto enter the United States independently in 2014. The explosion in the number of unaccompanied child migrants – rapidly rising from less than 20,000 in 2011 – has mainly been driven by gang violence, politics instability, and extreme poverty within their borders.
Human legal rights activists say these countries likewise have some of the best rates of anti-LGBT violence in the Americas – especially targeting trans women – although extensive hate crime figures are not readily available. The Salvadoran trans advocacy company COMCAVIS has noted 14 murders of LGBT people this season; 12 were trans women and two were gay men. One study of trans women in El Salvador discovered that 87% knew at least one trans female who was simply murdered, and not a single case in which the killers have been arrested.
LGBT kids mind north searching for the same stability and security as other migrant children. But they also seek some sort of love and acceptance that seems unimaginable at home.
Jefferson remembered informing his mother as he still left, “I am fed up with my family. I’d like a better family.”
Jefferson began walking toward Guatemala that evening in February 2012 with almost no profit his storage compartments, “maybe 10 cents.” He was vague in what happened before he reached Guatemala, but it got almost a season before he managed to get out of El Salvador. He said he walked and hitchhiked. Sometimes the pickup truck drivers who offered him rides would also give food to him, but he mostly slept on the road.
He previously some good luck when he entered Guatemala and found someone to take him completely to the Mexican boundary in just 1 day. He slipped into Chiapas and remained in a shelter for migrants while begging on the road to improve enough money to cover a seat on the minibuses that transport migrants north to the U.S. He eventually managed to get using one – but the bus was quickly ended by immigration law enforcement. They informed Jefferson they were heading to send him back to El Salvador.
Jefferson said he told the officials, “I can’t go back to my country because I … faced death dangers. … After what I’ve done, they’re not going to forgive me.”
Jefferson had a solid state against deportation: Both the U.S. and Mexico clearly recognize LGBT people as part of a cultural group which have grounds for politics asylum, unlike people who are fleeing poverty or gang violence. Rather than being delivered home, Jefferson’s case was described the Mexican company that grants or loans humanitarian visas, known as COMAR, and he was taken to a detention facility in the town of Palenque to wait because of their decision.
Advocates say most LGBT migrants don’t petition for asylum in Mexico, largely because it doesn’t promise the same careers as the U.S., and Mexico also offers high rates of anti-LGBT violence. (Advocates who use LGBT people seeking asylum in the U.S. say that Mexico is among the most typical countries their clients are fleeing.) But others simply don’t know they have the right to petition or neglect to navigate complicated legal processes that even many adults hardly understand. Even in the U.S., where there are extensive programs for connecting unaccompanied minors with immigration lawyers, only a comparatively few asylum cases are submitted – significantly less than 3 percent of the children estimated to have moved into the U.S. in the past year have petitioned for asylum, according to figures from the Section of Homeland Security.
And law enforcement can pose special dangers for LGBT migrants. One 16-year-old trans woman from El Salvador who was simply deported earlier this year after being caught by Mexico City police reported to the El Salvadoran trans privileges group COMCAVIS that she was gang raped by officers while in detention. Jefferson also said he was raped during his almost three months in detention.
Though he was only 15, Jefferson was placed in a facility with adult men and says he was told there have been no separate facilities for children. He says there were no guards inside the facility who could protect him; only the perimeter of the service was guarded. So when he started being harassed, there is no one he could consider.
“There were two,” he said. “One closed the entranceway, and the other…”
He said he tried to tell those in charge what was taking place, but “they didn’t do anything” except arrange for him to see a doctor and a psychologist and tried to broker a dialogue between him and his attacker. “They told me that he wanted to speak to me, but I didn’t wish to accomplish it,” he said.
Jefferson’s story has a mostly happy ending – at least temporarily.
He was eventually granted the right to stay in Mexico. After nearly 90 days, COMAR granted him a visa and he was taken to the airport. Those in control wouldn’t simply tell him where he was going – a technique to ensure that the men who experienced assaulted him inside the detention middle would not have the ability to find him, he was later told. The trip to Mexico City was the first time he’d been with an airplane. The air travel, he said, was “bone-chilling.”
They took him to the shelter where he now lives, which houses both Mexican and migrant children who have no homes. It really is affiliated with the global organization Covenant House International, but its management has asked that Queer Life not distribute its name for Jefferson’s security.
Five males he previously met in the detention center were already living at the shelter, and being reunited with them was like coming home – but to a family that actually loved him. “I sensed, like, better still than I did so with my children, because my family never provided me a good hug or a toy,” Jefferson said. Since the group of kids were reunited at the shelter, “we love each other as if we are brothers.”
Life isn’t perfect there – he has to wear boy’s clothes and keep his hair brief. A spokeswoman for the shelter said this is for his own basic safety because “regrettably Mexican society encounters some scenarios that are not LGBT-friendly.”
But Jefferson said this “isn’t a problem,” especially since he’s only a year from being 18, when he will be able to live as he choses. He’s been out to the other kids since the day he showed up and never had any problems, he said, and there is at least one other LGBT young who lives there. Jefferson is finishing senior high school and learning how to make, make clothes, and do make-up.
“Overall, I’m doing very well,” he said.
When Jefferson becomes an adult in the eyes of the law, he plans to get where he left off and end his trip to the U.S., even though he has a permit to stay in Mexico. If he makes it, he risks being placed into a U.S. detention center, where harassment and violence concentrating on LGBT people has been such a significant problem that a civil rights group submitted a mass civil rights issue against the Division of Homeland Security in 2011. In addition to proving why he can’t return to El Salvador, he’ll also need to make an instance for why he cannot stay in Mexico, because once a refugee is given safe harbor by a different country, they’re ineligible for asylum in the United States. Even though there are numerous programs to get legal services to child immigrants, adults are not so lucky – they have to find an attorney on their own, and there is no guarantee of legal representation for people facing deportation the way there is certainly for defendants facing criminal charges.
Jefferson said too much of Mexico is simply as dangerous as El Salvador. He also worries that he won’t be in a position to earn enough money there. Despite his severe words to his mother when he remaining, he says part of his reason for departing is that he didn’t want her to get worried about his problems with the gangs as she struggled with her health. He’s expecting that in the U.S., his diploma from the sewing college will let him find “better work [to purchase a] get rid of for my mother’s disease.”
But this time, he said, he would be determined to make the trip unique of the one which brought him to Mexico City.
“I don’t want to go back from what I originated from, traveling in a truck, hitchhiking,” he said. “I endured craving for food, chilly, punches, humiliation from people. I’ve experienced enough of journeying by land.”
He plans to fly.