Graduation Date

Fall 12-16-2016

Grading Professor

Lisa Armstrong

Subject Concentration

Arts & Culture

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


The United State Supreme Court declared the right to marry for LGBT people under “equal dignity in the eyes of the law,” on June 26th, 2015. The front pages of virtually every newspaper that day highlighted that proclamation. Exactly a week prior, another United States federal agency made an official declaration that didn’t make the front pages but also affected LGBTQ politics. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) issued a Transgender Care Memorandum, detailing policies for treatment trans migrants in detention facilities. The facilities have a noted history of mistreatment of transgender detainees.

Ishalaa Ortega is a transgender woman who lives in Queens, New York. She was a leading transgender activist in her native Tijuana, Mexico. She led local LGBTQ rights organizations in protests against an anti-LGBTQ gubernatorial candidate.

Following the uptick of public presence, Ortega began receiving death threats, which prompted her decision to come to the United States in July 2013.

When she presented herself to the border, Ortega was admitted into a detention center before being released on bond. In 2016, Immigration Equality fought her deportation and won the case. Through Ortega’s perspective, I will follow the broader processes of the asylum seeking process for a trans person facing violence in her home country juxtaposed with those who still face violence, with the memorandum that was allegedly meant to end these problems and insight from experts on the abuse of trans women in Mexico and in the United States Immigration system.



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