In this article, Type Media Center fellow Safiya Charles covers Estrella Santos-Zacaria’s difficult process of seeking asylum in the United States in order to escape the persecution she has faced as a transgender woman in her home country of Guatemala.


  • The Dangers She Fled: The article discusses the violence and persecution Santos-Zacaria faced in Guatemala from a young age, leading her to seek refuge in the United States. Santos-Zacaria explains that she was “living in fear all the time”, having been assaulted, raped, attacked, and threatened.
  • The Legal Cycle: Charles recalls the numerous attempts Santos-Zacaria has made to seek asylum in the U.S., starting when she was only 17, only to be detained and deported repeatedly.
  • The Value of Pro Bono: Santos-Zacaria’s case was brought to the Supreme Court by the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Southeast Immigrant Freedom Initiative (SIFI), which provides pro bono legal representation for immigrants detained in the Deep South who are seeking asylum. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of Santos-Zacaria, providing her with the chance to continue challenging her deportation and potentially stay in the U.S.
  • The Hope of Safety: Charles highlights that Estrella Santos-Zacaria’s ultimate goal is to feel safe, something she had not been afforded previously. While Santos-Zacaria awaits her next chance to defend her case, she is living in Southern California near her two brothers, where she is finally feeling that sense of safety.

Type Media Center’s Note

This article by our fellow Safiya Charles reflects Type Media Center’s dedication to nurturing independent journalism that not only informs but strives for societal change.