A non-American who has lived in San Francisco for 40 years, and who thinks he is a woman, has become a rallying point for the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office as it files a motion seeking a temporary restraining order against U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Yuba County Sheriff’s Office, according to CBS SF Bay Area.
The Public Defender’s Office is asking for an immediate hearing on behalf of the transgender immigrant they say was illegally transferred on Christmas night to a remote detention facility in Texas. The office says the immigrant, Lexis Avilez, has since been kept at that Texas facility in segregated confinement, forced to wear male clothes, and denied the ability to call his lawyer at no cost.
The motion was filed Friday in federal court in San Francisco.
Avilez entered the U.S. as a baby and has resided in San Francisco since 1979.
“We are gravely concerned for Lexis’s health and safety,” said San Francisco Deputy Public Defender Hector Vega, who took on Avilez’s case in January 2019. “This was a callous act from a heartless agency and we demand that ICE release Lexis from custody.”
In taking on Avilez’s case, Vega helped him obtain medical treatment, therapy, legal recognition of his female name and gender preference, and legal representation in his pending immigration case, according to the public defender’s office.
Born male, Avilez has struggled throughout his life to understand his identity, and suffered verbal and physical abuse from immediate family well into adulthood, according to the public defender’s office. In 2018 he was taken into ICE custody and placed in removal proceedings, and has been in ICE custody ever since.
On Christmas Day he was transferred to the Prairieland Detention Center in Alvarado, Texas.
In last week’s statement from the Public Defender’s office, Avilez said, “ICE and the other officers know how difficult the last 14 months have been for me and yet have had no compassion for the way they detain me and move me around like I mean nothing.”