Supreme Court Decision Recognizes Illegal Migrant’s Gender Pronouns

All nine justices agreed with the opinion.
WASHINGTON, D.C. - APRIL 19, 2018: The U.S. Supreme Court Building in Washington, D.C., is the seat of the Supreme Court of the United States and the Judicial Branch of government. (Photo by Robert Alexander/Getty Images)
Robert Alexander/Getty Images

The Supreme Court issued a decision Thursday in a case dealing with an illegal migrant’s transgender identity that recognizes the migrant’s preferred gender pronouns.

The court overruled a lower court’s decision against Leon Santos-Zacaria, a Guatemalan native and trans-identifying man who goes by Estrella. Santos-Zacaria wants to stay in the U.S. because he says he would be persecuted in Guatemala for his transgender status.

Critics noted that the opinion recognizes Santos-Zacaria’s preferred female pronouns despite the fact he is a biological male.

“Petitioner Leon Santos-Zacaria (who goes by the name Estrella) fled her native Guatemala in her early teens. She has testified that she left that country, and fears returning, because she suffered physical harm and faced death threats as a transgender woman who is attracted to men,” begins the opinion.

The Supreme Court ruled in Santos-Zacaria’s favor on a procedural question, making it easier for a migrant to challenge a Board of Immigration Appeals ruling by getting rid of the requirement that he exhaust administrative remedies first.

“We vacate the portion of the judgment of the Court of Appeals dismissing Santos-Zacaria’s petition for review and remand the case for further proceedings consistent with this opinion,” Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson wrote.

The decision was approved by all nine Supreme Court justices. The opinion was written by Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson and joined by Justices Sonia Sotomayor, John Roberts, Elena Kagan, Amy Coney Barrett, Neil Gorsuch, and Brett Kavanaugh. A concurring opinion was filed by Justice Samuel Alito and joined by Justice Clarence Thomas.

Santos-Zacaria was removed from the U.S. in 2008 after he fled Guatemala, where he reportedly faced physical harm and death threats over his transgender status and same-sex attraction. He returned to the U.S. illegally in 2018 and was apprehended again. A second removal order was issued for him, but he challenged the removal order, appealing to his status as a trans-identifying person.


Critics on social media expressed alarm over the Supreme Court appearing to subtly taking a stand on the contentious debate around gender identity.

“This is not a good thing, though! The highest court in the land should not be using pronouns that are at odds with reality! I’m a whole lot more interested in the Supreme Court getting basic truths right than supposedly countering a narrative of right-wing dominance, actually,” one Twitter user wrote.

The debate over gender ideology has ramped up over the last few years, particularly in the health care and education sectors.

Parents especially have expressed concern about their gender dysphoric children being medically transitioned through hormone treatments and surgeries. “Detransitioners” who medically transitioned as youths have since come out and said publicly that they regret it.

Other parents have sounded the alarm about their children being exposed to the concept of gender identity and transition in school through curricula and school library books.

Now, critics worry that all nine Supreme Court justices have just suggested they are willing to use someone’s preferred pronouns, which could come into play if the Supreme Court hears high-profile cases dealing with gender identity in the future.

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