Pasadena, California - The Public Law Center (PLC) applauds today's decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit granting deferral relief under the Convention Against Torture (CAT) to an undocumented transgender woman represented by PLC, along with pro bono counsel Manatt, Phelps, Phillips, LLP. Carey Avendano-Hernandez came to the United States seeking protection after being threatened, beaten and raped by law enforcement and military officials in Mexico.
"Today's decision is monumental for transgender immigrants fleeing from persecution and torture and who seek refuge in the United States. This precedent-setting decision makes clear that sexual orientation should never be conflated with gender identity and goes even further in recognizing the unique hurdles and challenges faced by the transgender community." said Munmeeth Soni, a PLC staff attorney who is co-counsel for Ms. Avendano-Hernandez.
The Ninth Circuit rebuked the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) for denying CAT relief due to misassumptions about the threat of future torture to Ms. Avendano-Hernandez. Specifically, the court found that the BIA had conflated gender identity with sexual orientation and erroneously concluded that the passage of same-sex marriage laws in Mexico demonstrated a commitment to protecting the rights of transgender people.
"We are thrilled with the Ninth Circuit's decision. Carey and other transgender individuals that flee their home countries to escape persecution and torture face numerous hurdles before they can seek relief here. We are relieved that Carey will not have to return to Mexico to face further torture, and we hope that this decision will eliminate some of those same legal challenges for others in Carey's desperate situation," said Manatt Associate Andrea Ruth Bird, who served as pro bono co-counsel for Ms. Avendano-Hernandez.
Avendano-Hernandez v. Lynch was one of three PLC cases involving undocumented transgender women that were argued in March. In unpublished rulings in
Mondragon-Alday v. Lynch and
Godoy-Ramirez v. Lynch, the court today also granted relief to two other individuals who faced similar violence.
"These decisions are also extremely timely as the government moves forward with increasing the number of transgender women detained in California and transferring them from the Santa Ana Jail to the Adelanto Detention Center-a facility that is nearly 80 miles away from Los Angeles and where detainees have limited access to representation," added Soni.