The Horrific Untold Story of Trans ICE Detention

From The Atlantic.

“I decided to come to the U.S. to save my life,” says Luz, a transgender asylum-seeker, in Sylvia Johnson’s short documentary. In Honduras, Luz was shot multiple times by gang members who targeted her for her trans identity. She barely emerged with her life. As soon as she was released from the hospital, she was transferred to a Honduran prison on charges of defending her identity. Upon her release ten months later, several gang members who had abused Luz in prison threatened her life.

Luz entered the United States via an official port of entry and asked for protection through political asylum. She was promptly imprisoned. “I had already been imprisoned [in Honduras], and didn’t want to experience another situation like what I had been through,” she says in the film.

Later, Luz would learn that her ICE Detention Center, New Mexico’s Cibola County Correctional Facility, was previously a criminal correctional prison. In October 2016, it was shut down due to inhumane conditions that resulted in several inmate deaths. Shortly thereafter, ICE offered a $30 million/year contract to the same facility. It reopened in January 2017. Since early 2018, Cibola has incarcerated more than 180 women in its “transgender pod”—the only known ICE-run detention facility for transgender-identifying women. According to Johnson, the incarcerated women, like Luz, sought protection from violence and persecution they suffered in their home countries. Read more:

“Luz’s Story” was directed by Sylvia Johnson ( It is part of The Atlantic Selects, an online showcase of short documentaries from independent creators, curated by The Atlantic.