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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, November 12, 2010 - Volume 38 Issue 46
U.S. grants asylum to Mexican Trans woman
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U.S. grants asylum to Mexican Trans woman

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Alexandra Reyes has been granted asylum by a U.S. immigration judge, based on the persecution she suffered as a Transgender woman in Mexico.

The Board of Immigration Appeals withheld her removal from the U.S. after determining that the Mexican government would not protect her from abuse if she were deported.

'It would be physically dangerous for her to walk down the street,' said her U.S. attorney, Bryon Large. 'She could be sexually assaulted.'

As a condition of her asylum, Reyes must obey U.S. laws and may not leave the U.S. for any reason if she hopes to be allowed back in.

When Reyes was born, she was named Carlos and raised as a boy, but she began living life as a girl at age 8.

This infuriated her traditional Mayan family in Cenotillo, Mexico.

When her father caught her wearing her sister's clothes, he tied her up and beat her.

One night, an aunt walked into her bedroom and tried to kill her with a machete because she didn't want Reyes in the family.

The Mexican police refused to intervene or arrest Reyes' abusers.

So 10 years ago, she paid a smuggler to get her across the border. She walked four days and four nights through the desert into the U.S. and made it to Colorado, where a friend told her she would be safe.

Now 32, Reyes lives in the Denver area.

Reyes found herself in trouble last year after she failed to pay a cab driver a $500 fare.

According to the Denver Post, the friend Reyes had driven to meet refused to pay the fare as promised.

Reyes went to the cab company a week later to pay the bill, and the company called the police, who then called ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement).

'I am still ashamed,' she told the newspaper.

Reyes paid restitution in the cab driver case. In the meantime, she was moved to an immigration detention facility in Aurora, Colorado, for deportation proceedings.

Because she has not had sexual reassignment surgery, Reyes spent her 11 months in custody housed with men, but she says she was treated well and didn't have any problems despite a lack of privacy.

Reyes' case was referred to Bryan Large by the Rocky Mountain Immigrant Advocacy Network, and he began working pro bono to gain her release and asylum.

Same-sex marriage is legal in Mexico City, and many LGBT tourists flock to beach resorts throughout the country, leading to the misconception that the country is welcoming, Large told the Denver Post. Asylum is easier to obtain for immigrants from countries such as Jamaica, where Gays are imprisoned, or Iran, where members of the LGBT community are executed, Large added.

In defending Reyes, one of the cases Large used to persuade the board was of a Gay Mexican immigrant who fled to Canada but was denied asylum.

After he was deported back to Mexico, he was killed.

For now, Reyes is sharing an apartment in Aurora, Colorado, with friends and waiting to get a work permit from the U.S. government.

She says she finds the American people accepting of her differences.

'What I have seen here is people are more open than people from my country,' she said. 'Sometimes I miss Mexico, but I am scared to return.'

Reyes is trying to learn English and deciding what kind of work she wants to do.

'I want others to know that nothing is impossible,' she said.

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