Immigrant Rights Clinic wins transgender asylum victory

Alina Das '05Countless lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) immigrants flee persecution and torture in their countries of origin only to find themselves in the immigration deportation system here in the United States. On January 30, NYU Law's Immigrant Rights Clinic won asylum for a transgender woman who faced deportation to Mexico, where she had experienced a lifetime of physical and emotional abuse from family and government officials. The client (whose name is withheld to protect her privacy) was represented by Anthony Enriquez '13 and Julia Tong '12, supervised by Assistant Professor of Clinical Law Alina Das '05.

The client's case was referred to the clinic by Immigration Equality, a leading institution for the advancement of the rights of LGBT immigrants. In New York Immigration Court, Enriquez and Tong prepared briefing and expert testimony on the unique issues faced by transgender people in Mexico, both in terms of gender identity and sexual orientation. They also briefed the Immigration Court on why it was authorized to grant asylum despite the "one-year bar"—a requirement that asylum seekers must apply within a year of their entry to the United States unless they show "changed circumstances" or "extraordinary circumstances." Enriquez's and Tong's client, who had entered the United States several years ago, had experienced both severe psychological trauma as well as significant changes that allowed her to embrace her identity, qualifying for exceptions to the one-year bar. The Immigration Judge granted asylum and the government—which had initially denied her application—agreed not to appeal.

Over the last few years, Enriquez's and Tong's client has become involved in the LGBT and immigrant rights movements here in New York City, and she wants to use her experience to help young people who are struggling with their identity. Tong said, "I'm happy that after living so much of her life in fear, our client can finally feel at home. New York is a better place because of people like her." Enriquez echoed these sentiments. "We were deeply impressed by the group of supporters that mobilized in our client's defense. Although she was forced to fight for the legal right to call New York her home, it was clear from the moment we met her that she had long been an essential part of a close-knit community," he said.

Posted February 21, 2013

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