(Virginia) – Late last week, Transgender Law Center (TLC), the largest national trans-led organization advocating self-determination for all people, won an appeal of the U.S. government’s order of removal for Marianna, a transgender woman who emigrated from Mexico almost 20 years ago. In the appeal, TLC argued that the government violated Marianna’s due process, guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, by failing to inform her of her right to apply for asylum after she told an immigration judge she feared for her life should she be forced to return to Mexico.
“This ruling is a victory not only for Marianna, but for the many transgender immigrants whose lives are routinely jeopardized by judges who ignore their fear of returning to their country of origin,” said Flor Bermudez, legal director at Transgender Law Center. “When a transgender woman tells a judge that she might be killed if she is deported, it is unconscionable and illegal for that judge to ignore her plea and deny her the opportunity to apply for asylum or withholding.”
The BIA’s ruling establishes that immigration judges have an absolute non-waivable legal obligation to a person appearing without a lawyer who expresses fear of returning to their home country to tell them that they can apply for asylum or withholding. The appeal, filed with the BIA in August, argued that the judge’s failure to tell Marianna that she can apply for asylum or withholding proceedings once Marianna expressed fear of returning to Mexico violated her right to due process.
Marianna, a 49-year-old transgender woman who has been a lawful permanent resident of the U.S. since 1989, has been held in immigration detention for the past eleven months. In response to the decision, she stated, “I am very happy and I thank TLC and all who have been helping me. I can now hope for the best.
Transgender Law Center and the Cornell Law School LGBT Clinic issued a report last year detailing the pervasive human rights violations faced by transgender women in Mexico. The report documents at least 120 transphobic murders, including the murders of prominent transgender advocates, between 2010 and 2016.
The BIA’s decision remands Marianna’s case to the immigration court and allows her to apply for asylum or withholding.
Transgender immigrants seeking legal support can reach out to TLC’s Trans Immigrant Defense Effort (TIDE) at transgenderlawcenter.org/programs/TIDE. Transgender Law Center launched TIDE in January of this year, in preparation for the increased targeting of transgender immigrants under this White House administration.
Transgender Law Center (TLC) is the largest national trans-led organization advocating self-determination for all people. Grounded in legal expertise and committed to racial justice, TLC employs a variety of community-driven strategies to keep transgender and gender nonconforming people alive, thriving, and fighting for liberation. transgenderlawcenter.org