PASADENA, CA — A federal appeals court has granted Convention Against Torture protection to Edin (Carey) Avendano-Hernandez, a transgender woman who fled persecution in Mexico, scolding the administrative immigration court judge who originally denied the case as “ironically exhibiting some of the same misconceptions about the transgender community that Avendano-Hernandez faced in her home country.”
The court simultaneously issued unpublished rulings granting relief to two other transgender Mexican women who faced similar hurdles when they sought protection before a California immigration judge.
Heartland Alliance’s National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) participated in oral arguments in Ms. Avendano-Hernandez’s case before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in March 2015 and submitted amicus briefs on behalf of Ms. Avendano-Hernandez and one of the other women.
“This decision is overwhelmingly positive and sets a precedent that we hope eliminates some of the unnecessary hurdles transgender people face when they flee to the United States to escape persecution,” said Keren Zwick, managing attorney for NIJC’s LGBT Immigrant Rights Initiative, who argued as amicus on behalf of Ms. Avendano-Hernandez. “The ruling is particularly timely as the government moves forward with plans to increase and consolidate its detention of transgender women at the Adelanto Detention Center in California, which will limit access to the kind of legal counsel that proved critical in ensuring Ms. Avendano-Hernandez was able to navigate the complex legal system and overcome the discrimination she faced in the immigration court system.”
Ms. Avendano-Hernandez survived horrific sexual violence in Mexico perpetrated by a wide range of assailants including family, the police, military, and gang members. The Ninth Circuit found that both the immigration judge who denied Ms. Avendano-Hernandez’s request for protection and the Board of Immigration Appeals wrongly “conflated transgender identity and sexual orientation” and “erred in assuming that recent anti-discrimination laws in Mexico have made life safer for transgender individuals while ignoring significant record evidence of violence targeting them.”
Ms. Avendano-Hernandez is represented by the Public Law Center and Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP. NIJC filed its amicus brief in the case in collaboration with five other non-profit organizations and attorneys at Gibson Dunn & Crutcher LLP.