PHOENIX, Ariz. — To sit and talk with Lincy Sopall is to sit with a survivor. She is transgender, an identity that forced her to leave her home behind.
“If you stay, you’re going to die, so you try hard to get out of the country so you can live and have a better life,” said Sopall.
Sopall was born in Honduras, but after getting death threats and being harassed for being transgender, she made the journey through Central America to reach a port of entry in the United States.
“I have goals and dreams. I didn’t come to the United States for vacation.”
She traveled by train, by bus and walked for miles. Finally, she arrived at a border checkpoint in Texas. She attempted to cross into the United States, but her Honduran I.D. triggered the alarm at the checkpoint.
“I put my identification card, and obviously that’s when the officers came out, and they detained me,” said Sopall. “And that feels really bad, because you can’t enter the country because you’re not from the country.”
Sopall spent months in a detention center on the border before she was granted asylum in Arizona.
“Despite fear, there is also hope,” said Sopall of the emotions she had while staying inside the detention center. “You are in a place where you are safer, where you see police on the streets, and you know you have rights, and you have opportunities.”
This year, there’s been a large increase in people seeking asylum in America, many experiencing treacherous life or death situations like Sopall.
“Honduras is an incredibly dangerous country for women,” said Beth Strano of the International Rescue Committee. “The rates of femicide are very, very high, and for a trans woman in particular, that's extremely traumatic and dangerous. Safety is not, is not present, and you don't have the luxury of being able to stay where you are and wait for a decision to be made.”
Strano runs the Welcome Center for asylees in Arizona and helps migrants through the legal process of entering the United States. She said asylum cases are piling up and the IRC’s resources are being stretched thin as families travel from all over the world, not just Central America, to get into the U.S.
“This is what happens when we're at the intersection of policies, when there's policies being debated and discussed. People are dying, people are making life-changing decisions,” said Strano of the political back and forth surrounding asylum policies.
Sopall said she is hopeful compromises will be made to help people in danger find safety like she did. She also is hopeful those around her will have compassion for the people who are currently trying to enter the country.
“When you have a country that’s given you everything or you’ve had everything, and you’ve never been in a country that’s never given you anything, you can’t know what it feels like,” said Sopall.
But with resources and entrepreneurship training from the IRC, Sopall is now embracing her true self.
She is launching her own fashion line: Lincy Sopall Design. This dream was one she knew she could never achieve safely in Honduras.
“I hope one day to be able to fill every little corner of every closet in this country,” said Sopall.
She said if only more people like her only got this chance, they could find great success, too.
“When you fight and try and you want, you achieve,” said Sopall.
For more information on the resources offered by the International Rescue Committee and for ways to helps refugees, click HERE.