Transgender Law Center, joined by ten organizations dedicated to serving immigrants and torture survivors, has filed an amicus brief in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals supporting the asylum case of a trans woman (Ms. G.) fighting deportation to Honduras.
Under current immigration law, asylum seekers must file their applications within one year of entering the United States, unless “extraordinary circumstances” such as a mental disability prevented them from filing. Ms. G, like many other undocumented transgender immigrants, experienced severe Posttraumatic Stress Disorder stemming from hate-motivated sexual assaults and persecution that she had experienced in Honduras, which was magnified by the discrimination she continued to experience in the U.S. While PTSD is recognized as an extraordinary circumstance that waives the one year asylum filing deadline, the Immigration Judge ruled that Ms. G’s PTSD could not have been severe because she had held jobs in the U.S. and had been arrested once for drug possession, which was how she was placed in immigration detention and deportation proceedings.
Transgender Law Center’s amicus brief explained (1) that a defining component of PTSD is avoidance of memories and thoughts related to the traumatic events, (2) that an asylum application inherently involves reliving traumatic memories in excruciating detail which is why many people with PTSD delay filing asylum applications, (3) that work unrelated to the traumatic memories is qualitatively different for a person with PTSD than an asylum application and that many people with PTSD actually use work as a way to avoid their painful memories, and (4) that many people with PTSD use substance abuse as an avoidance method and coping mechanism.
This case could potentially set a major precedent on the access to asylum for transgender immigrants (and other immigrants escaping severe persecution) who are experiencing PTSD.