An illegal immigrant from Mexico has been granted asylum by the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals because of her status as a transgender woman. Despite the fact the she was arrested and deported in 2007 after a felony conviction for driving under the influence, Edin Avendano-Hernandez will be allowed to live in the United States, owing to the alleged danger she faced as a transgender woman in Mexico.
Photo by Jan Pietruszka / Getty Images
Avendano-Hernandez, who was born male, first came to the United States in 2000, when she sneaked across the border and made her way to California. Five years later, she began taking female hormones. Then, in 2006, Avendano-Hernandez committed two separated drunk driving offenses — the second one resulted in a felony conviction and jail time. After spending a year in jail, Avendano-Hernandez deported back to Mexico in 2007. According to her, life in Mexico proved difficult because of her inhumane treatment at the hands of Mexican citizens and law enforcement officials.
Avendano-Hernandez claims that she was repeatedly sexually assaulted by uniformed Mexican officials because of her status as a transgender woman. When she originally applied for U.S. asylum through the Board of Immigration appeals, she was subjected to laws that protected gays and lesbians, resulting in her claim being denied.
Her most recent attempt to reenter the country found its way to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which examined the case through the lends of Avendano-Hernandez’s status as a transgender woman. It found that transgender people are subject to an increased level of threat in Mexico due to their orientation, with police officers often singling them out for a variety of heinous crimes.
“While the relationship between gender identity and sexual orientation is complex, and sometimes overlapping, the two identities are distinct,” Circuit Judge Jacqueline Nguyen wrote. “Significant evidence suggests that transgender persons are often especially visible, and vulnerable, to harassment and persecution due to their often public nonconformance with normative gender roles.”