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24-year-old Asylum Seeker Nicole Garcia Aguilar Was Re-Arrested When She Went to Texas ICE Office to Retrieve Documentation after Previous Year-Long Detention

EL PASO, TEXAS — One week after U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) released Nicole Garcia Aguilar, a transgender asylum seeker from Honduras, after nearly a year in detention, the agency re-detained her on April 24 when she arrived at a Texas office to obtain paperwork about her case.

“The timing and circumstances of her re-detention suggest that ICE is retaliating against Nicole for being brave enough to speak out about her experiences in detention and for pursuing her due process rights,” said National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) Attorney Tania Linares Garcia, who represents Ms. Garcia Aguilar. “Nicole is only 24 years old. She has spent the past year of her young life suffering in immigration jails. Her time in ICE custody has been unconscionably painful, including months in solitary confinement even as she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, anxiety and depression, and suffered panic attacks. To lock her up again is devastating.”

Ms. Garcia Aguilar fled to the United States after she endured death threats, rape, attempted murder, and police threats because she is transgender. Shortly before she fled, a Honduran police officer told her the violence against her was “because of the way [she is]” and would not stop until she was dead. When she asked for asylum upon arriving at a port of entry on the southern U.S. border, ICE jailed Ms. Garcia Aguilar in the Cibola County Correctional Center in New Mexico. ICE continued to jail her even after an immigration judge granted her asylum on October 9, 2018.

Finally, on April 17, 2019, Ms. Garcia Aguilar experienced freedom after ICE released her in response to a petition of habeas corpus by NIJC and the ACLU of New Mexico. Upon release, Ms. Garcia Aguilar spoke out about her story to the press, as she had during her time in detention. The events that followed suggest a concerning use of retaliation by ICE. ICE re-detained Ms. Aguilar when she appeared at an ICE office to request necessary paperwork documenting her release.

Ms. Garcia Aguilar now is locked in the El Paso Service Processing Center in Texas, where she is vulnerable to abuse and further deterioration of her physical and mental health. Securing her release is critical to her ability to remain healthy and to continue to pursue her claim to asylum. NIJC continues to represent Ms. Garcia Aguilar and will vigorously advocate for ICE to release her once and for all.

TAKE ACTION: Mijente has launched an online campaign calling on the El Paso ICE office to release Ms. Garcia Aguilar immediately.