Davis Polk’s years-long representation of a gender non-binary individual who faced severe persecution in Central America concluded on March 28 at a Maryland immigration court trial where we secured our client’s asylum. In their home country, our client was active in the LGBTQ+ rights, trans rights and dance communities, took on leadership roles that made them publicly visible and was also recognizable as gender non-conforming. Targeted because of their sexual orientation and gender identity, our client was assaulted multiple times, including incidents when assailants used homophobic and transphobic slurs and police officers shouted slurs. Our client was also kidnapped and raped as a means to control and deter them from their LGBTQ+ activism. These experiences led our client to flee and seek asylum in the United States.

Davis Polk developed this case through extensive work with our client, several affiants and an expert witness. During trial, which was held in early 2024, the government did not provide meaningful stipulations and focused on the assault and its aftermath. In response, the Davis Polk team skillfully navigated between having the client re-live their traumatic experiences and eliciting critical testimony. At the end of the hearing, the judge noted that our argument was detailed, credible and so well-documented that it overcame the government’s objections, and went on to issue an asylum grant directly from the bench. The record was so developed that the government had no option but to concede and waive appeal.  

The Davis Polk team included associates Chris Looney, Emily Park, Phoebe Roque and Esther Townes, with support by legal assistant Adi Mayer and supervision from Pro Bono Counsel for Humanitarian Immigration Matters Nishan Bhaumik. 

Learn more about Davis Polk’s Pro Bono program.