The Honduran woman said she was disappointed to find the guards at the center where she was held to be so dismissive. In her hometown, she said, she had been viciously attacked by a man who struck her with a machete. She never reported the crime, though he had targeted her several times before, she said. “In Honduras, it’s better not to go to the police, because that just makes it worse. If they don’t kill me, they’ll kill one of my family members.”
Raiza Daniela Aparicio Hernandez, 33, a transgender human-rights activist from El Salvador, said she was physically assaulted in 2016 by four police officers in her home in San Salvador, which she shared with her boyfriend. The officers had harassed and threatened her before, arriving at their home without a warrant and demanding to be let in, before barging in and assaulting them. “They beat me. They beat me a long time,” she said.
Ms. Aparicio Hernandez and her partner tried to file a formal complaint about the abuse in El Salvador she said, but they ran into obstacles along the way. She left El Salvador in June 2017 and arrived at the San Ysidro point of entry, on the border between Tijuana and San Diego, to request asylum.
Before speaking to The Times, Ms. Aparacio Hernandez shared her account with her lawyer. She won asylum through the courts on the merits of her case.
“Leaving my country was such a hard decision,” she said. “I’ve seen a lot of friends die in this fight, at the hands of the government, and people being beat and tortured. And this is happening at the hands of police officers. It’s sad, and it’s difficult, but you have to fight.”
Marcos Williamson, the detention relief coordinator for Transcend Arizona, a Phoenix-based nonprofit group that helps L.G.B.T. migrants, said asylum seekers who are released from detention on bond often struggle to make ends meet because they are given neither benefits nor work permits. L.G.B.T. people, who often do not have the support of family members, are particularly alone.
For now, Ms. Quintanilla feels safe at Mariposas, though she has been accosted on the streets of Tijuana and harassed, she said. She is grateful to the center for taking her in. And she is not yet ready for what comes next in her long journey.