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Case Summary & History

Asylum & Immigration

Case: Martinez v. Holder

STATUS: Loss, Guatemala

Saul Martinez is a gay man from Guatemala who was beaten, sexually assaulted, and threatened by Guatemalan Congressman and repeatedly harassed by the Guatemalan police because of his sexual orientation. He fled to the United States and applied for asylum. However, in 1992, when he initially applied for asylum without an attorney, the U.S. had not yet recognized sexual orientation as a ground for asylum. Afraid of being forced back to Guatemala, where he feared for his life, Martinez did not disclose his sexual orientation in his initial asylum application, stating instead that he feared returning to Guatemala because of his political opinion. Once he retained an attorney, however, he immediately corrected his application and told the Immigration Judge the real reason he feared returning to Guatemala—because of the persistent persecution he had faced for his sexual orientation. The judge denied him asylum, finding that since he had not told the truth in his initial application, nothing else he said was credible, even though Martinez’s life partner testified in court about their relationship. On March 3, 2009, the Ninth Circuit upheld the immigration court’s decision. Without any analysis of Martinez’s actual claim or the conditions in Guatemala for LGBT people, the Court simply declared him not credible and denied his claim.

NCLR and Immigration Equality filed an amicus brief on April 24, 2009 asking the Ninth Circuit to rehear the case and grant Martinez asylum. However, on September 8, 2009, the Ninth Circuit denied the motion for rehearing. On March 26, 2010, the Supreme Court denied Saul Martinez’s petition to review the case.

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