ALRP Staff Attorney Ana Montano Honored in El Salvador

ALRP Immigration Attorney Ana Montano recently received the 2013 Crisálida Award in El Salvador from that nation’s Attorney General for the Defense of Human Rights, LGBTI Division. This award is in recognition of her extensive pro bono work on behalf of the LGBTI population in El Salvador.

Although there have been some advances in public policy in El Salvador, LGBTI community members there experience extreme hardship and discrimination on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity. The award recognized Ana’s work defending and promoting the human rights of LGBTI El Salvadorans.

The Crisálida Award is given to human rights activists, public institutions and media that have promoted affirmative action and positive public opinion for the El Salvadoran LGBTI community. “We believe that despite the advances in inclusive public policy,” the award committee said, “that our country still suffers from programs and services that promote direct struggle against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and acceptance of human diversity as an element of democracy and peace.”

Ana Montano, front row right, meets in El Salvador with ASPIDH Arco Iris.

Ana Montano, front row right, meets in El Salvador with ASPIDH Arco Iris.

Ana has spent many years promoting the rights of the LGBTI population in her native El Salvador.  In September, she met with the nonprofit group  ASPIDH Arco Iris in El Salvador, which defends the rights of transgender people. She was joined by professor Allison Davenport of UC Berkeley Human Rights Clinic, and Shannon Minter, Legal Director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights in San Francisco. They are working with ASPIDH Arco Iris to promote a new identity law in El Salvador that would secure transgender people the right to legally change their names to conform with their self-identified gender.  They are also working to have recent extra-judicial murders of trans women thoroughly investigated and for the perpetrators to be brought to trial.

Ana grew up in San Francisco’s Mission District, where her family was very active in community organizing. In addition to her full-time role at ALRP, she is working to establish a legal services program similar to ALRP for the LGBTI community in El Salvador. “The pro bono model is not well known in El Salvador,” she said, “but we have had attorneys approach us there and say they want to help. We’re raising money to fund a staff attorney.” Ana also had a hand in convincing UC Berkeley School of Law to produce a study on the condition of the El Salvadoran LGBTI community, and helped develop community events such as a human rights conference and a visual arts show.

“As an immigration attorney, when I hear the stories about why LGBTI people have left El Salvador I realize that the situation there is pretty extreme,” she said. “My clients have opened my eyes to how people are suffering.”