Lambda Legal Urges Federal Court to Grant Asylum to Transgender Woman Living With HIV/AIDS

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“Karolina Lopez Berera suffered horrific abuse at the hands of her family and police because of her transgender identity. Her forced removal, in light of rampant HIV persecution, amounts to nothing less than an indirect death sentence.”
November 30, 2011

(Los Angeles, CA, November 29, 2011) – Today, Lambda Legal and a group of organizations that advocate for the rights of people living with HIV, including HIV-affected immigrants, filed a friend-of-the-court brief with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in Lopez Berera v. Holder, urging the Court to grant asylum to a transgender Mexican woman living with HIV/AIDS.

“Growing up in Mexico, Karolina Lopez Berera suffered horrific abuse at the hands of her family and police because of her transgender identity,” said Iván Espinoza-Madrigal, Lambda Legal Staff Attorney. “She fled to the United States to escape that abuse, and immigration officials concede that she was persecuted.”

“Ms. Lopez Berera has been diagnosed with HIV/AIDS. Notwithstanding her diagnosis and her credible claims of persecution and abuse, the U.S. government is intent on deporting her to Mexico. Her forced removal, in light of rampant HIV stigma, discrimination, and persecution amounts to nothing less than an indirect death sentence.”

“Our brief highlights the reality of Mexican cultural and social conditions, in contrast to recent pro-LGBT legislative accomplishments that are as yet only paper tigers,” said Peter Perkowski, a partner at Winston & Strawn LLP. “Until Mexican attitudes catch up with the country's aspirations, Mexico will always be a dangerous place for transgender people with HIV, like Karolina. This case is therefore important not just for her, but for others like her who rely on United States asylum law as an avenue of escape from horrific abuses in their home countries.”

The friend-of-the-court brief highlights country condition reports, media accounts, and studies that document the persecution, discrimination and neglect that transgender individuals, especially transgender people living with HIV/AIDS, face in critical HIV-related health care services in Mexico. Since transgender people are often deliberately excluded from access to, and the delivery of, HIV medications, Ms. Lopez Berera will not have access to life-saving medications. In addition, the brief discusses how Ms. Lopez Berera’s HIV status places her in great danger of persecution because people living with HIV in Mexico are frequently the victims of hate crimes.

Counsel for amici curiae include Iván Espinoza-Madrigal from Lambda Legal, and Peter E. Perkowski from Winston & Strawn LLP. The firm handled this matter pro bono. The brief was filed on behalf of Lambda Legal, the American Civil Liberties Union, the HIV Law Project, AIDS Legal Council, Asian Pacific AIDS Intervention Team, East Bay Community Law Center, HIV & AIDS Legal Services Alliance, and the Health and Human Rights Clinic at Indiana University School of Law – Indianapolis.

Brief of Amici Curiae in Support of Petitioner, Urging Reversal

Motion for Leave to File Brief of Amici Curiae

Espinoza-Madrigal is fluent in Spanish


Contact Info

Press contact: Tom Warnke, Cell: 213-841-4503: Email:

Lambda Legal is a national organization committed to achieving full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and those with HIV through impact litigation, education and public policy work.