After a campaign to free Maura, a 41-year-old transgender woman originally from Nicaragua, generated thousands of emails — including at least 3,000 Urgent Actions from Canada — to the ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) San Diego Field Office, the agency has finally released her. Maura was detained for over 800 days in a facility accused of medical neglect and failing to prevent COVID-19 outbreaks.
Following her release, Maura said:
I am so, so happy. I still can’t believe it. I thought I wasn’t going to get out of that place, I thought I wasn’t going to get out of that hell. It was very difficult, very traumatic, very horrible. I thought I was alone in this world. I thought it wasn’t worth it to keep fighting. And then I realized that there were people around the world, who I didn’t even know, very good people who have been very supportive. They supported me by sending me letters, they gave me moral support. I am very happy for all that, very grateful.
A campaign consisting of Amnesty International, American Friends Service Committee Colorado, the National Immigrant Justice Center, and the TransLatin@ Coalition, succeeded in advocating for ICE to re-review Maura’s case.
A lawful permanent resident for over 25 years in the U.S., Maura attended high school in San Diego, held numerous jobs in the food service industry, and built a community that accepts and embraces her. She is seeking humanitarian protection to stay in the United States as she fears for her life if returned to Nicaragua, a country she has not known for decades, as a trans woman. ICE detained her for over two years at the Otay Mesa Detention Center in California, where she was subjected to abuse and the facility failed to provide adequate medical care.
Now, Maura can return to the things she loved to do: dancing, singing along to Celia Cruz’s La Vida Es Un Carnaval, and producing and performing in shows.
“Maura has finally been able to reunite with her friends and loved ones in freedom and join her sponsors—individuals who support community-based solutions over detention—in California as she continues to pursue her right to seek humanitarian protection to stay in the United States,” said Denise Bell, the researcher for refugee and migrant rights at Amnesty International USA. “While we celebrate Maura’s freedom and resilience, the work is not done until all trans people are released from ICE custody and the detention of trans people ends once and for all.”
Thank you to everyone who has taken action for Maura’s freedom!