December 16, 2021
In a pro bono matter referred by the International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP) and led by partner Miranda Schiller, Weil won asylum in the United States for our Jordanian client, Lara, on the grounds that she is transgender. This appears to be the first time someone has been granted asylum in the United States from Jordan (and perhaps the Arab world) on the grounds that they are transgender. As such, Lara had no prospect of working, socializing or being accepted into any aspect of Jordanian life, including her own family, which, following her physical transformation, excluded her from all family gatherings and meals and subjected her to physical abuse. By age 18, her life had become so intolerable that she tried to escape to Lebanon; her father had her arrested in the airport and she was returned home by the police.
Weil filed Lara’s application shortly after the prior administration banned travel from certain Muslim countries and warned our client that her prospects for success were slim and that she should seek asylum elsewhere – but not give up hope for a U.S. resettlement. In the meantime, Weil engaged a psychologist to evaluate her and prepare a report explaining her identity and the unique challenges she encountered, and also documented with photos the abuse she had been subjected to by family members. (The case was unique in that there was no evidence of any state-sanctioned abuse, as is customary in asylum cases.)
In spring 2021, after nearly three years, Weil received an email requesting an update to Lara’s application and in response presented a compelling submission about how life had gotten worse for her – not better – and that at age 22 no one would hire her. Lara was selected for an interview at the U.S. Embassy in Amman, and her Weil attorney, Ms. Schiller, advised her to dress as a girl. In a sign of the impression she was making, the Arabic translator teared up during the interview. Right after Thanksgiving, the Embassy notified her that she would be granted asylum.
Lara slipped out of the house without notice, and at the Amman airport, security forces inspected her travel papers and her newly issued visa. (Ms. Schiller had advised her to dress as a male to most resemble her passport photo.) The authorities asked how as a Jordanian citizen she could be a refugee. She replied that she was transgender – and she was allowed to board her flight.
Last week she arrived in Spokane, Washington and after an overnight stay with a host family, was brought to a temporary apartment where she has just begun her life in the United States. Lara’s goal is to one day come to New York City to live and work.