According to the Facebook page of the Trans Lifeline, Nina Chaubal, the Indian-born co-founder of the Trans Lifeline—”a crisis hotline by and for the transgender community”—has been taken by Arizona border patrol and put into an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facility in Eloy, Arizona. That’s troubling not only because it might affect the Lifeline, but because trans and LGB people are 15 times more likely to experience physical and sexual violence within ICE facilities.
According to Raw Story, Chaubal was in the process of moving from Chicago to California with her partner Greta Martela when they passed through an immigration checkpoint in Arizona:
When asked if everyone in the car was a U.S. citizen, Martela told them that Chaubal is from India.
However, it was when Border Patrol officers saw Chaubal’s passport — upon which she is still identified as male — that the situation became tense and uncomfortable….
Chaubal is currently undocumented because her marriage to Martela has not been legally ratified. Martela needs to provide record of her divorce in 1990. However, the California records bureau that would ordinarily provide that verification lost years of documents in the transfer from paper to electronic records, Martela said.
“The woman I got divorced from is now deceased,” she explained, leaving the pair in legal limbo until they can obtain documentation by some other means.
In 2010, Arizona passed SB 1070, also known as the “Show Me Your Papers” law. The U.S. Supreme Court later invalidated some of its most racist provisions, but police are still allowed to demand documentation of citizenship from anyone they pull over. Polling has shown that 50% to 65% of Americans favor SB 1070 and other laws like it.
The detaining officers said that Chaubal would be deported to India, a country that criminalizes same-sex intercourse; a lesbian couple married in the country in 2011 had to flee their village following threats of violence. As a result, Martela says that Chaubal will be seeking asylum in the U.S..
Martela says that has able to get Chaubal her medications in the facility, but that they have contacted the Transgender Law Center and other activists to help get Chaubal transferred to a more trans-friendly facility. A GoFundMe page has also been created to help pay Chaubal’s legal fees. “We need people to make enough noise that they either release or transfer her,” Martela said.