When Ms. Ortega arrived to the border in 2013, she was put into detention with men, she said, where she was often harassed and denied resources.
“When I arrived, I went three days without being able to take a shower, being able to fix my face, shave,” said Ms. Ortega. “Everyone was laughing at me when they were looking at me.”
After nearly two months, Ms. Ortega was released. She moved to New York the next year, armed with a green card, ambition and multiple technical degrees. But even here, she encountered a problem that she said is common among transgender women.
“I applied to many places as a woman and they wouldn’t hire me,” she said, “I realized that regardless if you’re a citizen, or an immigrant or whatever, you’re still very far behind just for being a trans woman. Especially if you don’t pass.”
She enrolled in LaGuardia Community College, where she graduated earlier this month with a degree in political science. She starts Hunter College in the fall, and hopes to become a human rights lawyer, she said, “to make sure that those affected by homophobia and transphobia, who are not able to go to school, still have their rights.”