This summer, I have had the great privilege of working for Benach Collopy on transgender asylum cases as the Fellow for Trans Asylum. Through a partnership with Whitman-Walker Health Legal Services, I have had the opportunity to work on 11 different asylum cases for transgender women from Central America, Mexico, and Peru. Each of these women were forced to flee their country due to persecution based on their gender identity.
“It is said that the quality of recent immigration is undesirable. The time is quite within recent memory when the same thing was said of immigrants who, with their descendants, are now numbered among our best citizens.” President Grover Cleveland, 1897 Today, it can be easy to forget that Germans were once derided for not speaking English, the Irish were resented for being Catholic, and that Eastern Europeans were considered inferior to “real” white people.
Our Client of the Month for January 2016 is Monique Kagayigayi. A survivor of the Rwandan genocide whose asylum claim was granted in 2004, Monique just received her green card after more than 10 years of waiting. This is the story of a remarkable woman and the legal efforts that were required to secure her status in the United States. On April 6, 1994, Rwanda’s then-president’s plane was shot down, sparking more than three months of terror and killing throughout Rwanda that today seems unthinkable.
Let’s start here: Donald Trump is an abomination. From his slander of Mexicans as rapists to the violence he incites and tolerates at his rallies to his latest outrages of suggesting a database and a ban on admission of Muslims to the United States, there is no public figure more odious or contemptible than Donald Trump. And he is a danger. He incites people to violence, encourages hate and discrimination, and generally contributes to the dumbing down of our culture.
What just happened in the 5th Circuit? The U.S. Court of Appeals formally upheld Judge Hanen’s injunction prohibiting the administration for implementing DAPA & DACA. The injunction prohibited the administration from implementing DAPA and expanded DACA until the litigation brought by Texas and twenty six other states was resolved. Injunctions are sought to preserve the status quo while the legality or proposed actions is resolved. Judge Hanen ruled that Texas presented evidence of the possible injury if DAPA or DACA went forward and that Texas was likely to succeed in challenging DAPA and expanded DACA.
In Avendano-Hernandez v. Lynch, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ruled today that the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) made an error of law in denying protection under the Convention Against Torture (CAT) to a transgender woman from Mexico who had been sexually assaulted and raped by members of the Mexican police and military. Apparently, an immigration judge and the BIA got it so wrong that it took an appeal to the Court of Appeals (a step below the Supreme Court) to reach the right decision.
VM is our Client of the Month for May 2015. VM became a client of Benach Collopy attorneys starting in 2008, when she was detained upon her arrival at the airport from Brazil. Today, after seven years, fights with four immigration agencies, and three immigration applications (asylum, adjustment of status, and naturalization), VM is now a United States citizen. VM fled terrible violence in Brazil because of her gender and sexual identity, and arrived in the United States in search of protection.
Once a year immigration attorneys from all over the country march to Washington, D.C. to meet with their elected officials and to encourage them to take action toward fixing this country’s broken immigration system. The event is organized by the American Immigration Lawyers Association and is appropriately called the National Day of Action. This year, one of the issues we put on the list of things to discuss is family detention.
It has been a whirlwind month for immigration as this country continues on its indecisive course on immigration law and policy. We try to make sense of the goings-on: What is the status of Judge Hanen’s ruling? As you recall, on February 16, 2015, Judge Andrew Hanen of the U.S. District Court of Brownsville, Texas issued a nationwide injunction stopping the Obama administration from implementing executive action reforms, DAPA and expanded DACA.
It is only fitting that major technological achievements like the successful placement of a lander on a comet be paired with news that the Obama administration is planning many reforms to our nation’s immigration policies. After all, our space program and many of our most successful technological breakthroughs are directly related to an immigration policy that made it easier for the best and brightest to come and work here.