Camila Díaz Córdova was killed in her home country of El Salvador just more than a year after Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) had her deported from the United States, and livid activists immediately took their ire to the media.
Except, ICE tells a different story.
As it turns out, Camila — known as Nelson Arquímedes Díaz Córdova on ICE documentation — showed up to immigration court in San Diego, California, and asked to be sent home, an immigration official told The Daily Caller.
After asking to return home, Díaz Córdova was deported Nov. 22, 2017, and pronounced dead on Feb. 5, 2019.
Within a week, the story popped up first in the Washington Blade and was later picked up by NBC News and Buzzfeed, who cast her death as a result of an oppressive administration that’s too tough on at-risk immigrants seeking asylum in the United States.
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Camila Díaz Córdova, 29, died on Feb. 3, days after she was found injured outside of San Salvador. Doctors said she had either been brutally attacked or struck by a vehicle. She had requested asylum from CBP in Tijuana in the summer of 2017 after gang members had tried to kill her, but by November 2017 she had been deported to El Salvador. (Virginia Flores)
Díaz Córdova, a transgender woman, was about 30 years old when she boarded a migrant caravan from El Salvador in 2017 bound for the Otay Mesa port of entry in Tijuana, Mexico. They say the El Salvador native was seeking asylum “to escape violent threats,” according to Mónica Linares, director of Salvadoran transgender advocacy group Asociación Aspidh Arcoiris Trans (ASPIDH).
Linares said she knew Díaz Córdova for 10 years, and threats against her dated back to 2014, “when Díaz Córdova first filed a report with El Salvador’s National Civil Police.”
Díaz Córdova petitioned for asylum upon arriving in the United States through a port of entry in August 2017 but was deported back to El Salvador in November of 2017. Linares, however, wasn’t sure about the specifics of her deportation, NBC goes on to explain.
El Salvador has one of the highest murder rates in the world at 50.3 deaths for every 100,000 people, the Associated Press reports.
Other statistics suggest that members of the LGBTQ community in El Salvador face a greater risk of violence. Salvadoran rights group COMCAVIS reports that at least 136 members of the LGBT community El Salvador have fled the country since 2012, and most crimes go unpunished.
To get the specifics of Díaz Córdova’s deportation circumstances, The Daily Caller reached out to ICE, who said in a statement: “Nelson Arquimides [Camila] Díaz Córdova applied for admission to enter the United States without proper entry documents on August 4, 2017, at the Otay Mesa Port of Entry.”
The statement explains how Díaz Córdova was processed for expedited removal by ICE after an interview and inspection:
After an interview and inspection by officers with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Díaz Córdova was processed for expedited removal and transferred to ICE custody. On August 23, 2017, Diaz Cordova was placed into removal proceedings before an immigration judge with the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR).
Diaz Cordova later appeared in immigration court and asked to return home to El Salvador instead of being ordered to be deported. She was also informed about her right to apply for “relief from removal,” but did not apply and waived her appeal rights. The statement continues:
On November 1, 2017, Díaz Córdova appeared in immigration court and asked the immigration judge for return to El Salvador. After advising Diaz Cordova as to the right to pursue applications for relief from removal, the immigration judge issued a final order of removal and both parties waived appeal rights. On November 22, 2017, Diaz Cordova was removed to El Salvador.
Díaz Córdova could have asked to be deported elsewhere besides El Salvador. The ICE official explained that such a request is possible if “individuals in removal proceedings can ask the judge to be removed to a specific country, but the court would have to approve it, and that country would have to accept the person.”
In other words, ICE says Díaz Córdova was not forced to leave and was given “full due process” and decided on her own to return to her home country.
About a year and four months after returning to El Salvador in Nov. 2017, however, Díaz Córdova had been either attacked or hit by a car on the outskirts of San Salvador, was hospitalized and suffered death on Feb. 3, 2019, ASPIDH reported. An official police report has yet to be filed.
Virginia Flores, a close friend of Díaz Córdova, told Buzzfeed that her friend had little education and no support from her family after transitioning, so her only option to make money was “sex work” and that “Díaz Córdova was being threatened by other trans sex workers in the days leading up to her death … in part because she refused to work on the same block as others and suspected jealousy.”
Flores also told Reuters that U.S. authorities “forced” Díaz Córdova “to sign [her deportation letter] and she signed, but she did not know what she signed because it was in English.”
Many have spoken out against the United States for deporting Díaz Córdova back to El Salvador.
Her name was Camila Díaz Córdova. She was 29-years-old. She asked for asylum in the US, was deported, and then was murdered in El Salvador. https://t.co/BzhTw9neMf
— Frida Ghitis (@FridaGhitis) February 22, 2019
A transgender woman died this month in her native El Salvador shortly after being deported from the U.S. The woman, Camila Díaz Córdova, 31, joined one of the migrant caravans heading from Central America to the U.S. last year to escape violent threats. https://t.co/SdegXBBSva
— American Progress (@amprog) February 21, 2019
Camila Díaz Córdova, a transgender woman who sought asylum in the US and was deported by immigration authorities to El Salvador, was killed earlier this monthhttps://t.co/Mgms143hBr
— BuzzFeed News (@BuzzFeedNews) February 22, 2019
While Buzzfeed includes ICE’s statements in their report, they also write, “Her death comes amid criticism of the Trump administration’s treatment of transgender asylum seekers, including efforts to bar protections for people who enter the [United States] between ports of entry and making migrants wait in Mexico while their immigration cases are adjudicated.”
Lineras blamed the United States, in part, for Díaz Córdova’s death, telling NBC, “There’s a failure of protection in El Salvador and a failure of protection in the United States. Camila had a lot of evidence, and she still was not given asylum.”