Federal court overturns asylum claim by American transgender woman on grounds of persecution

A Canadian federal court has overturned a decision granting refugee status to an American transgender woman who successfully demonstrated that a combination of gun culture and rising transphobia left her at risk of persecution in the United States.

in The decision was issued this weekJudge Christine Pallotta said the Refugee Appeals Division erred in finding that Colorado authorities were unable to protect Daria Bloodworth from the roommate she accused of stalking her — and that her safety could not be guaranteed anywhere else in the United States.

Bloodworth – who now lives in Whitehorse – says she plans to appeal the ruling to the federal appeals court in the hope of reinstating the October 2022 decision confirming her refugee status under the convention.

“It was made clear from the beginning that this was going to be an uphill battle — winning this thing, or even staying in Canada a little longer and not getting killed in the United States,” Bloodworth told CBC.

“I was very pleased with my victory at the Refugee Appeals Division level. It also increased my confidence in winning this case permanently, because I know, based on the evidence I presented, that I have a strong case.”

“The general climate of hatred against trans people”

Bloodworth came to Canada in 2019, seeking protection as a refugee in connection with allegations that she was the target of threats and violence from her former roommate, her former landlord and a debt collection agency.

According to court documents, Bloodworth complained to police after her former roommate at Colorado State University threatened her with a gun. He was initially charged with menacing, and Bloodworth was granted an order of protection.

But the case against the roommate was dismissed a few months later and the judge refused to keep the protective order in place. Bloodworth claimed her former roommate continued to stalk her, and said police did not respond to her calls for action.

The 36-year-old’s initial claim was unsuccessful, but in 2022, Delaney Mohan, a member of the Refugee Appeals Division, concluded that Bloodworth had a legitimate fear of persecution.

Daria Bloodworth at the Vancouver airport on her way to federal court proceedings.
American Daria Bloodworth plans to appeal a federal court ruling that struck down her application for refugee status on the grounds of fear of persecution as a transgender woman. (Daria Bloodworth)

While Mohan said the initial police response seemed reasonable, she criticized the Refugee Protection Department (RPD) – where the claims were first heard – for failing to consider that Bloodworth had been denied police protection for her subsequent complaints.

Mohan also surveyed a range of US state laws relating to the right to equal treatment before concluding that moving within the United States was not an option.

She pointed to high rates of “discrimination and violence” in Maine, New Jersey, Illinois and Nevada, and said that although New York City may be an option, the move would push Bloodworth into poverty — a risk factor for violence in the United States itself. .

“RPD failed to consider how Colorado’s open carry laws, combined with the general climate of growing anti-trans hate in the United States, could leave her permanently vulnerable and at risk for her life,” Mohan wrote.

He added: “I also find that she does not have a ‘domestic flight alternative’ in the United States because transporting someone with the same profile, in her circumstances, would be unreasonable.”

“Honestly, I feel like this is home.”

Bloodworth, who joked that she has become somewhat of a “prison lawyer,” has represented herself at all levels of the proceedings to this point. Mohan praised her for doing “an impressive job in gathering evidence to support her claim.”

Vancouver immigration lawyer Zul Suleiman — who was not involved in the case — said Bloodworth’s short-lived victory in the Refugee Appeals Division is noteworthy.

“It is unusual for cases from the United States to be approved as refugee cases in Canada. In general, the United States is not considered a refugee-producing country,” he told CBC.

“In this particular case, the federal court clearly felt it necessary to put more thought into the types of protections available to the plaintiff. We will need to monitor it to see whether it becomes an area of ​​increased persecution.” Claims from the United States.

Mohan pointed out that the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration did not interfere in the procedures of the Refugee Appeals Section “in any way.”

But that changed with the granting of refugee status.

The secretary argued in federal court that Mohan erred in “imposing the state’s ideal standard of protection” and failing to identify “any loophole in Colorado’s laws, which include statewide laws to protect transgender individuals.”

Pallotta agreed, finding that Mohan had failed to evaluate whether Bloodworth had “proven by clear and convincing evidence that she had exhausted the course of action reasonably available to her, without success.”

The federal court ruling also says the Appellate Division failed to determine that a domestic flight was impossible — saying “more than mere evidence demonstrating hardship and disadvantage” was needed to remove New York City from the list.

Bloodworth – who now studies biological sciences at Yukon University – said she hopes to stay in Canada, either by convincing the federal appeals court to overturn the Pallotta decision or by bringing her case for refugee status before a new tribunal of the Refugee Appeals Division.

“Honestly, it feels like home. I won’t say Canada is perfect, but at least since I moved here I haven’t been threatened with a gun or a knife. And I haven’t been discriminated against because I’m transgender,” she said.

“I feel like I could actually live here, if I were allowed to live here.”

(tags for translation)Federal Court

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