Several months ago, an immigration appeals court reversed a immigration judge's ruling that sex work while HIV positive is a particularly serious crime meriting deportation, and referred the case back to immigration court. Today, a Los Angeles immigration judge ended deportation proceedings, and granted immigration relief to Ms. Lopez, who now can stay in her home in California.
In this case, it was undisputed that Ms. Lopez experienced past persecution on account of her transgender identity. However, the immigration court initially concluded that her HIV status, together with her arrest on sex work charges, constituted a sufficiently serious offense to trump the likely persecution she would face if returned to Mexico, thus allowing deportation. Although arrests for sex work typically are handled as disorderly conduct charges and not as a trigger for deportation proceedings, in this case they evolved into deportation proceedings when it was discovered that Ms. Lopez is HIV positive.
Keren Zwick, managing attorney for National Immigrant Justice Center's LGBT Immigrant Rights Initiative and Adult Detention Project, appealed Ms. Lopez's deportation to the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA). The Center for HIV Law and Policy (CHLP) supported Ms. Lopez's appeal with a friend-of-the-court brief, co-authored with Peter Perkowski of Winston & Strawn, and filed on behalf of behalf of the National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors (NASTAD), the HIV Medicine Association, the Association of Nurses in AIDS Care (ANAC), and Bienestar.
On appeal, the BIA reversed Ms. Lopez's deportation, and sent the case back to immigration court for further proceedings. The government has subsequently waived further appeal. In its final grant of relief to Ms. Lopez, the judge reaffired that sex work while HIV positive is not a particularly serious crime or danger to the community warranting deportation of an individual clearly at risk of persecution in their country of origin. Ms. Lopez is no longer under the threat of removal based on her HIV status. Mr. Perkowski represented Ms. Lopez in immigration court after the BIA appeal.
Windy City Times also featured this victory.