(Albuquerque, NM) – Transgender Law Center celebrated this morning that Christina Lopez, a transgender woman from Peru and a survivor of human trafficking, has secured a special visa and will be released from immigration detention later today. She was first detained by immigration officials in 2014, and has spent the bulk of her years since in custody.
“I am so happy!” said Christina upon hearing the news. “I have been in detention for so long and I wasn’t sure if I would ever be able to see my mother again, but now I am able to go home because of Transgender Law Center. TLC helped me stay strong through all of this and I now know I can continue to be strong. I am very grateful for the support I have been given from people I know and even from people I don’t know. It is what has gotten me through these years in detention.”
The Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) took on Christina’s case in March 2018, after TLC filed a motion to reopen her case and a stay of removal arguing that her past criminal convictions were due to the fact she’d been a victim of human trafficking. Although the motion to reopen was several years past the deadline, due to exceptional circumstances the petition was granted. She won her case at the BIA, her case was reopened, and on January 31, 2019, her trafficking visa was approved.
“Christina walking free after almost five years of incarceration is a huge victory, but it is not the only victory here,” said Lynly Egyes, interim legal director at Transgender Law Center. “Transgender women, and particularly those without immigration status, are frequently targeted for trafficking and forced into illegal activity against their will, leading to criminal convictions that the government uses to justify deportation. Through the precedent and novel legal arguments created in Christina’s case, countless other survivors of human trafficking could now be protected from deportation.”
Christina left Peru following her parents, who had traveled to the U.S. to find better economic opportunities. In addition to wanting to be with her family, emigrating was a matter of life and death for Christina, as an attempt to escape harsh violence against transgender people in Peru.
Lopez was the center of a #Not1More campaign that received support from Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement and GetEQUAL among others.
Transgender Law Center (TLC) is the largest national trans-led organization advocating for a world in which all people are free to define themselves and their futures. Grounded in legal expertise and committed to racial justice, TLC employs a variety of community-driven strategies to keep transgender and gender nonconforming people alive, thriving, and fighting for liberation. transgenderlawcenter.org