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Rights for Transgender Immigrants in the United States

Ever since the election of United States President Donald Trump, the issue of immigration has become more contentious than normal, particularly regarding immigrants who may require protective status. 

In April 2017, a transgender woman from Mexico received a lighter sentence than expected after she entered the U.S. illegally, and she was even allowed to exit on her own without facing removal proceedings. The woman, who was born as Irvin Gonzalez, was arrested in El Paso when she was filing a restraining order against an abusive lover. The case became newsworthy because the judge showed fairness and compassionate treatment of a transgender immigrant.

One week before this case, immigration activists in Southern California marched to the site of a local jail under contract by Immigration and Customs Enforcement to detain immigrants. This facility was targeted because it held transgender immigrants in custody for issues related to mismatched names and gender on passports. 

Years before the Trump administration, the Center for American Progress described the U.S. immigration system as being less than ideal regarding the treatment of transgender people. This is clearly not an acceptable situation for a country that is supposed to be a world leader in terms of freedom. However, this does not mean transgender immigrants are completely devoid of rights. Here are some of the basic immigration rights for transgender individuals.

Entitlement to Asylum

Transgender people who are marginalized to the point of abuse and persecution are entitled to asylum. The basis for this protection emanates from Hernandez-Montiel v. INS, 225 F.3d 1084, a case heard before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. This case recognized that transgender people in some countries are part of a persecuted social group. In 2007, a lawsuit against the Attorney General ended up in immigration court and marked the beginning of transgender recognition in the federal system.

Entitlement to Protection

Transgender immigrants who experience domestic violence and sexual abuse may qualify for special protection under the U visa program, which serves as an encouragement for undocumented immigrants to report certain crimes. Although this is a non-immigrant visa, applicants may be able to work with immigration attorneys in San Diego, CA, to seek employment authorization and even pursue legal residency. The U visa process requires special processing and working with law enforcement agents as well as with prosecutors. For this reason, this visa should ideally be handled by legal professionals.

The Right to Proper Identification

Although the U.S. insists on only accepting passports that designate gender as male or female, transgender people should be identified according to their gender orientation. Some states allow transgender individuals to change the names on their identification documents with abbreviated legal processes, while other states require a court petition and an investigation into outstanding debts. As long as the name change legally took place in an American jurisdiction, immigration officials would have to accept it. 

If you have a transgender family member who wants to immigrate to the United States and you’re looking for family immigration services in San Diego, get in touch with KS Visa Law. We can assist you with your immigration needs and ensure the process goes as smoothly as possible. Call 858-874-0711 today to set up an appointment.

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