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Transgendered Guatemalan Woman Successfully Obtains Asylum in the U.S.

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), under the auspices of its Southeast Immigrant Freedom Initiative (SIFI), recently announced that the organization was able to obtain asylum for a transgendered woman who was fleeing her native country of Guatemala. She said she had been targeted by both the police and drug cartels because of her gender identity.

According to court documents, the woman — known as S.A.C. — left Guatemala in October 2016 because of the harassment, humiliation and death threats she faced. S.A.C. testified that discrimination against transgendered people is widespread in her home country. While she was in Guatemala, she worked at a laboratory before she was fired because her employer believed she was gay. She enrolled in a job skills program, where she learned to be a baker and a hairdresser, but, despite having these skills, no one would hire her because of her gender identity.

Like other transgendered people, S.A.C. said, she entered the sex trade to make money. During that time, Guatemalan police raped her and forced her to perform sexual acts on them while they were on duty. When she tried to collect money from them, they refused to pay her and said their payment was not arresting her for prostitution. Members of the drug cartel — known as narcos — also used her for sex and to collect extortion money from businesses; she said that, when she refused to do so, they beat her and threatened to kill her. She also learned that one of her transgendered friends was killed by the narcos.

In December 2016, after traveling to Mexico, she walked across the Rio Grande into Texas and turned herself in to U.S. Border Patrol. On October 3, 2017, she was granted asylum into the United States. According to the SPLC, she came to this country after learning about the anti-discrimination laws here that protect LGBT individuals and Obergefell v. Hodges, the Supreme Court decision that allowed same-sex couples to marry. The group noted that, although she is being held in a detention center, she is miles away from a country where her gender identity nearly cost her her life.

The New York immigration lawyers at Bretz & Coven, LLP understand the issues LGBT non-citizens face and offer immigration legal services in an LGBT-friendly environment. Whether you or your loved one are seeking citizenship, asylum, or are facing deportation, our immigration lawyers are available to help protect your legal rights and attainable pathways to legal residence or citizenship. For more information, or for a consultation, call (212) 267-2555.

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The immigration consequences of criminal or fraudulent conduct can be harsh and often illogical. Even a very minor offense could have a dramatic immigration consequence, including deportation, detention without bond, being denied naturalization, a visa or re-entry into the United States. Likewise, the use of fake or fraudulent documents, aliases, and other misrepresentations can have similar immigration consequences. Kerry Bretz and Bretz & Coven have been counseling non-citizen criminal defendants, as well as their lawyers, for over 20 years. We have a long history of strategizing deportation and removal defenses, as well as applications for waivers, in very complicated cases.

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