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Refugee claimant gets second chance

A federal court justice has granted a new hearing in the case of a Mexican refugee on the grounds that his gender identity wasn’t taken into account. Jose Arturo Contreras Hernandez was denied refugee status in 2006 after the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) ruled that his fear of persecution in Mexico as a gay man was not objectively well-founded.

In a decision issued on Dec 11 Justice John O’Keefe ruled the IRB’s decision to deny Hernandez refugee status did not factor in all the information available.

“In my opinion there was ample evidence before the board to alert them to the fact that the applicant’s identity was not only a homosexual man but also a crossdresser and transgender individual,” states O’Keefe in the decision. “In failing to assess the state’s ability to adequately protect homosexual individuals that are crossdressers and transgendered, the board erred.”

According to a summary of Hernandez’s case found in the ruling Hernandez was the target of multiple violent attacks while living in Mexico, including an incident in which he was attacked in his place of work and another that occurred after he left a Mexico City nightclub dressed as a woman.

“In December 2001 while leaving the El Taller nightclub in downtown Mexico City the applicant was assaulted by four men,” reads the summary. “The men kidnapped the applicant in their car, put a gun in his mouth and forced him to beg for his life. The men eventually left the applicant alone on a highway where he hailed a taxi. The applicant did not report the incident.”

Hernandez is currently awaiting a new hearing date.