Last week, a federal appeals court finally ordered immigration relief for Carey Avendano-Hernandez, a transgender woman who fled lifelong persecution and torture in Mexico due to her gender identity.
The Court overturned lower courts’ decisions because they wrongly referred to Ms. Avendano-Hernandez as a gay man, “ironically exhibiting some of the same misconceptions about the transgender community that Ms. Avendano-Hernandez faced in her home country.” This decision emphasized the fact that sexual orientation and gender identity are not the same, reminding courts nationwide that transgender women are women.
Ms. Avendano-Hernandez’s victory also provides formal legal recognition that global advances on gay and lesbian rights are not always inclusive of transgender people. Regardless of legal protections for gay men in Mexico, transgender women there remain fundamentally unsafe.
Immigration Equality is proud to have played a role in this victory, and is relieved that Ms. Avendano-Hernandez can now live safely in the United States.
Around the world, transgender people continue to flee countries where their gender identity places them at great risk. When they arrive in the United States, many transgender women are detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement and placed into all-male detention facilities, exposing them to harassment, abuse, and sexual assault. The court’s decision requires the federal government to recognize and respect the gender identity of women like Ms. Avendano-Hernandez. This recognition should be extended to all areas of immigration law, and especially to immigration detention.