The Supreme Court unanimously ruled in favor of a transgender woman who claimed that she would face persecution if she returned to her native country of Guatemala in her ongoing fight against deportation.
Leon Santos-Zacaria, who now goes by Estrella, claimed that she fled Guatemala to seek asylum in the United States in her early teens after she was raped and received death threats due to her gender identity.
The Supreme Court’s decision now gives Santos-Zacaria another opportunity to argue that immigration officials were wrong to reject her bid to remain in the US.
A US immigration judge previously found that she did not make a strong enough case that she would face persecution if deported to her home country.
The judge found Santos-Zacaria’s claims “credible,” but “inexplicably ruled that she did not suffer past persecution, and thus was not entitled to a presumption of future persecution,” according to court documents obtained by Fox News.
The Supreme Court was tasked with determining whether or not immigration law was flexible enough to allow her another day in court to appeal the judge’s decision.
The 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals had ruled against her on that point, but other appellate courts had ruled in favor of immigrants on the same issue.
Estrella Santos-Zacaria argued that she would face persecution if she was deported back to Guatemala.Getty Images
The Justice Department argued against Santos-Zacaria, claiming that she had testified on three separate prior occasions that she would voluntarily go back to Guatemala — undermining her claims of possible persecution, according to Fox News.
According to the DOJ’s brief, the 5th Circuit judge noted that Santos-Zacaria “‘agreed that there was probably a place where she could safely relocate within Guatemala” — which again undermines her claims that her life would be in danger upon returning.
The Supreme Court’s decision for Santos-Zacaria’s case was unanimous.U.S. Supreme Court via Reuters
The Supreme Court ruled in an opinion by Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson that the 5th Circuit was wrong.
Santos-Zacaria fled Guatemala as a teenager but did not spend much time in the US after she was deported in 2008.
In 2018, she again crossed into the US after spending most of the decade in Mexico and was quickly detained by immigration authorities.
Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson wrote the opinion in favor of Santos-Zacaria.AP
She testified that she had been raped by a neighbor in her small hometown and that residents threatened to kill her.
According to the State Department, Guatemala has done little to protect LGBTQ people and transgender women are subject to frequent threats of violence.
With Post wires