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LGBTQ+ Solidarity: US Supreme Court rules in favor of trans woman who fled violence in Guatemala

Supreme Court rules in favor of trans woman who fled violence in Guatemala

By Associated Press in Washington, first pblished in The Guardian on May 11

Estrella Santos-Zacaria will have another chance to seek asylum from sexual assault and death threats after being deported in 2008

The US Supreme Court ruled on Thursday in favor of a transgender Guatemalan woman fighting deportation on the grounds that she would face persecution if returned to her native country.

The unanimous decision in favor of Estrella Santos-Zacaria gives her another chance to argue that immigration officials were wrong to reject her bid to remain in the US.

Lawyers for Santos-Zacaria, now in her mid-30s, said she first fled to the US after being raped as a young teenager and threatened with death because of her gender identity in a country that has targeted the LGBTQ+ community.

But a US immigration judge found she did not make a strong enough case that she would face persecution if sent back to Guatemala.

The issue at the Supreme Court was more technical, concerning whether federal immigration law was flexible enough to allow Santos-Zacaria another day in court.

The fifth US circuit court of appeals ruled against her on that point, but other appellate courts have ruled in favor of immigrants on the same issue.

In an opinion written by Ketanji Brown Jackson, the supreme court said the fifth circuit decision was wrong.

After leaving Guatemala as a teenager, Santos-Zacaria made it to the US once but was deported in 2008, after a brief stay. Ten years later, she again entered the US and was taken into custody by immigration authorities.

Santos-Zacaria testified that she was raped by a neighbor in the small town in which she was born and that townspeople said they would kill her because of her gender identity and attraction to men.

She spent most of her time between 2008 and 2018 in Mexico but decided to try to return to the US after a Mexican gang raped and assaulted her.

The US State Department has found that Guatemala has done little to protect LGBTQ+ people and that transgender women are subject to frequent threats of violence.