Representation for Trans* Women in Immigrant Detention

Join NMILC’s fight to ensure every imprisoned trans woman in immigrant detention in NM has legal representation.

New Mexico Immigrant Law Center

Human Rights

Our story


If you drive about 90 miles west of Albuquerque into the tiny town of Milan, NM, you’ll come across a large complex surrounded by tall gates and barbed wire–the Cibola County Detention Center. Not long ago, Cibola was a private prison run by the infamous Corrections Corporations of America, or CCA, and was shut down due to medical violations. However, shortly after Trump took office, CCA rebranded themselves as CoreCivic, and Cibola reopened its doors as an immigrant detention center. It is also the only detention center in the country that has a pod dedicated to holding transgender immigrant women.   


Most of the transwomen detained in the Cibola facility have experienced significant trauma and discrimination in their home countries, often coming from rural areas in Mexico and Central America where they have been abused by family members, gangs, and law enforcement. Instead of finding refuge in the United States, these women are sent to a men’s immigrant prison where they often spend months waiting to fight their case court. While detained, it has been documented in numerous studies that LGBTQ populations face a much greater risk of experiencing sexual violence.


The trans pod of immigrant women was relocated from a detention facility in southern California when the Cibola Correctional Center reopened in 2017 when activists shut down the facility. Now, these women face new barriers. The rural location of the Cibola County detention facility, language barriers, lack of knowledge of their rights, and the at times impossible tasks of affording an attorney reduce justice to an elusive fantasy for these women.


We’re here to change that.


A year ago, NMILC, in partnership with the Santa Fe Dreamers Project, launched a legal services program to provide support to the hundreds of immigrants detained in Cibola. Studies show that detained immigrants with an attorney are seven times as likely to win their case, so we work to ensure that every woman in Cibola receives the support of a pro bono attorney. We’re happy to report that in the past year, attorneys with the legal services program have won xx asylum cases, and


We can’t continue this work without your help.


Providing these services are expensive; a single asylum case can take 20 hours of attorney time, and transportation for our staff and volunteers to the rural center is costly. We want to raise enough money to keep this program going strong in the coming months and ensure more detained women in Cibola are able to experience the safety and freedom of resettling in the U.S. Please consider donating in any amount to help us continue the fight for trans* immigrant women detained in New Mexico. $2,500 would give us enough money to fund two asylum cases and a month’s worth of legal workshops at the Cibola County Detention Center.





Stuart Bluestone

Keep up the good work. It's very important.


Guadalupe W Pena




Margaret Roberts, MD






Martha A. Phillips


Nancy Baca

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