M.C. Sungaila Wins 9th Circuit Reversal for Transgender Immigrant

September 10, 2015 08:17 PM

Haynes and Boone, LLP appellate partner M.C. Sungaila recently earned a significant win in the Ninth Circuit on behalf of Lucia Mondragon-Alday, one of three transgender women seeking asylum in the U.S.

Prior to joining Haynes and Boone earlier this year, Sungaila argued an immigration appeal on behalf of a transgender woman seeking to overturn a Board of Immigration Appeals’ decision to refuse her claim for legal protection in the United States due to alleged past and future persecution and torture. The case was one of three brought by the Public Law Center, in collaboration with pro bono counsel from three separate law firms, on behalf of transgender asylum seekers. All three cases were set for oral argument on the same day before the same panel of 9th Circuit judges.

The decisions in all three cases was also issued on the same day. One of those cases, the immigration case of Edin Avendano-Hernandez, another Mexican transgender woman who fought deportation from the U.S. out of fear of persecution, torture or even death if she returned to Mexico, resulted in a published opinion, the first to recognize the particular hurdles faced by transgender asylum seekers.

Applications for protection were initially denied in part on the ground that there was not enough proof of threat of future persecution, relying on the passage of laws in Mexico legalizing gay marriage and adoption as examples of legal protections afforded to the gay and lesbian community.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the Board of Immigration Appeals’ (BIA) denial of the womens’ claims, observing that the BIA and Immigration Judge "failed to recognize the difference between gender identity and sexual orientation" and that “laws recognizing same-sex marriage may do little to protect a transgender woman...from discrimination, police harassment and violent attacks in daily life.”

In Mondragon-Alday’s case, the 9th Circuit remanded for the BIA to reconsider both her withholding of removal and Convention Against Torture claims in light of “the particularized dangers faced by transgender women,” without “assuming that legal protections for gay and lesbian persons would benefit Mondragon-Alday, a transgender woman.”

Read about the case in the Daily Journal here.
Read the Newsweek write-up here.
View the oral arguments: Mondragon-Alday v. Lynch, Godoy-Ramirez v. Lynch, Avendano-Hernandez v. Lynch

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