Home > Press Releases > Immigration Equality Celebrates Ninth Circuit Decision Protecting Mexican Transgender Woman from Torture

September 5, 2015

Contact: Gabriel Lee
(212) 714-2904 / glee@immigrationequality.org

Immigration Equality Celebrates Ninth Circuit Decision Protecting Mexican Transgender Woman from Torture

PASADENA, CA — Yesterday, a federal appeals court ordered that protection under the Convention Against Torture (“CAT”) be extended to Carey Avendano-Hernandez, a transgender woman who fled life-long persecution and torture in Mexico due to her gender identity.

The Court overturned the lower courts’ decisions because they wrongly referred to Ms. Avendano-Hernandez as a gay man. Yesterday’s decision soundly rejects the conflation of sexual orientation and gender identity, and reminds 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. In its decision, the Court criticized the lower courts as “ironically exhibiting some of the same misconceptions about the transgender community that Ms. Avendano-Hernandez faced in her home country.”

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 U.S. 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 facilities. This exposes them to harassment, abuse, and sexual assault. “Yesterday’s decision requires the federal government to recognize and respect the gender identity of women like Ms. Avendano-Hernandez,” said Aaron Morris, Legal Director of Immigration Equality. “This sentiment should be extended to all areas of immigration law, and especially to immigration detention facilities.”


Since 1994, Immigration Equality has been representing LGBT and HIV-positive asylum seekers, detainees, and binational couples, who are fighting for safety, fair treatment, and freedom. Immigration Equality represents people from around the world fleeing violence, abuse and persecution because of their sexual orientation, gender identity, and HIV status. Our team represents more than 500 individuals in 25 states.