December 11, 2023

Immigration Marriage

Feel Good With Immigration

Appeals court reinstates asylum claim for woman attacked for wearing pants to work

A federal appeals court reinstated the asylum case Thursday of a woman who fled Guatemala for the United States after villagers attacked her and threatened to lynch her because she had worn pants to work.

Rebecca Cristobal Antonio said she started wearing pants in the spring of 2013 for a job that required collecting logs and grasses. She said neighbors then began shouting at her that she was a lesbian and that they would kill her because she was a “wrong example for their children.” She said some villagers waited at her workplace one day in December 2013, then demanded that she remove the men’s clothing or she was “going to burn,” and tried to kill her. Someone called the police, who rescued her but made no arrests, Antonio said.

She said her marriage to a man had already fallen apart because of the false rumors that she was a lesbian. She also said her uncles whipped her, demanded food and money and insulted her because of her supposed sexuality.

Antonio entered California in March 2014 and applied for asylum. An asylum officer found she had a credible fear of persecution if deported to Guatemala, but a federal immigration judge dismissed her claim, saying mere threats of harm do not amount to persecution, the legal standard for allowing an undocumented immigrant to remain in the United States. Asylum-seekers must also show they would face persecution because of their membership in a “social group” recognized by immigration law, and the judge said women who wear men’s clothing are not a social group.

But on Thursday, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said its past rulings had established that “death threats can amount to persecution.”