Trans Lifeline is a suicide prevention help line for trans people. The co-founder of Trans Lifeline, Nina Chaubal, is currently in ICE detention and being threatened with deportation:
Raw Story spoke to Greta Martela — Chaubal’s partner and co-founder of TransLifeline, an 800-number for trans people in crisis — who explained that because of a bureaucratic muddle, Chaubal has been unable to complete the naturalization process. These types of catch-22 situations are all too common for transgender people as they attempt to negotiate the many layers of red tape involved in changing one’s gender.
Martela and Chaubal are in the process of moving from Chicago to California. They were passing through Arizona on Wednesday, Dec. 28 on a return trip to Chicago when they encountered an immigration checkpoint. 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.
“She hasn’t had her gender changed on her Indian passport,” said Martela by phone, sounding anxious and exhausted. “So they started low-key giving her shit about being trans, but eventually they said, ‘We’re going to take her to Wellton, Arizona’ — this was the Border Patrol — ‘and hand her over to ICE and then we’re going to put her in front of a judge and try to deport her.’”
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.
There’s reason to worry that Nina is in particular danger as a trans woman in the Eloy, Arizona ICE facility:
After being held for 48 hours, they’ve transferred her to an ICE facility in Eloy, Arizona with a history of human rights abuses towards trans women. A former transgender inmate, Marichuy Leal Gamino, was raped in custody at the Eloy ICE facility. When she reported the abuse but the staff instead tried to cover up the attack by pressuring Marichuy to sign a statement that the rape was consensual. A google search reveals a number of troubling cases involving sexual violence and guard misconduct.
Trans Lifeline is asking that people call and email on Nina’s behalf:
We need you to help us #FreeNina today! Call the Border Patrol Wellton Office at 928–785–9364 and say: “Hi, my name is ________. I’m calling to express my concern about the continued detention of Nina Chaubal, DOB 9/15/1991. Nina is the cofounder of Trans Lifeline which has helped over 18,000 people in the last two years alone. She is married to a US citizen and is an integral part of our community. She does not represent a flight risk or danger to anyone. I urge you to release her immediately or have her transferred to the Santa Ana facility.”
Melanie Gillman writes that when she called, she was told to direct her concerns to “the public relations office at (602)257-5943.”