Showing posts with label Gay Immigration. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Gay Immigration. Show all posts

February 14, 2017

LGBT Persecution Asylum Seekers to U.S.Facing A Tough Fight


People facing anti-LGBT persecution in their home country have been able to seek asylum in the U.S. for almost 25 years, but they face an uphill climb proving it under the U.S. immigration system, advocacy groups say.

Felipe Molina Mendoza, 25, of Durham faces possible deportation to Mexico after a judge denied his asylum request and he lost an appeal at the Board of Immigration Appeals.

Last week, after intervention by U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield, his scheduled deportation was put on hold pending his appeal to the Fourth Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals. He must still appear before immigration officials in Charlotte on Tuesday, Feb 14, however, and now worries he may be sent to a detention center until the appeal is heard.

Molina Mendoza came to the United States when he was 8. He graduated from Riverside High School in Durham but returned to Mexico when he could not afford out-of-state college tuition here.

He tried to re-enter the U.S. in 2013, then again in 2014, when he said he sought asylum on the grounds of anti-gay harassment and threats in Mexico and was allowed to stay while his claim was pending.

In an interview, Molina Mendoza said he went to Mexican police for help after men threw beer bottles at him and his boyfriend and he was threatened with rape.

“They said if I didn’t want to be persecuted, I shouldn’t be acting gay,” he said, explaining why he wants to stay in the U.S. “Next time it might not be glass beer bottles; it might be a bullet.”

Mexico’s Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in 2015. But a study last year by the Transgender Law Center and the Cornell University Law School LGBT Clinic found anti-LGBT violence “remains pervasive through Mexico.” The study focused on transgender women, citing 120 murders of transgender people or people who didn’t fit traditional gender expectations since same-sex marriage was allowed.

“Legal recognition of same-sex couples has increased societal awareness of the LGBT community and made LGBT people much more visible,” the report said. “Ironically, increased awareness of LGBT people appears to have produced significant backlash.”


At one time, U.S. immigration law banned lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people from entering the country on the grounds of “sexual deviation.”

President George H.W. Bush lifted the ban in 1990, and in 1994 Attorney General Janet Reno required immigration officials to recognize persecution based on sexual orientation as grounds for asylum, according to a 2015 report by the Center for American Progress, a progressive think tank in Washington, D.C.

The report cited U.S. Rep. Barney Frank as key to that happening. In its report, analysts Sharita Gruberg and Rachel West quoted the gay congressman as saying, “It was explicitly done by (President) Clinton after the failure of the effort to get gays in the military in part because he recognized the importance of showing he was not only pro LGBT but capable of doing some real things.”

Nearly a quarter century later, however, LGBT refugees seeking asylum face significant hurdles.

People seeking asylum must prove they fear persecution based on race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political organization.

But proving you’re LGBT, especially if you’ve been hiding it for fear of being found out, is not always easy, said Laura Durso, vice president for the LGBT Research and Communications Project, part of the Center for American Progress.

About 80 countries criminalize LGTB people, in some cases punishable by death, Durso said.

“The idea that one is able to be out to friends and family or to have evidence (of a same-sex relationship) it really puts people in a complete bind because of the violence that causes them to flee and hide their identity,” she said.

When they do file for asylum, they go before judges who aren’t trained on LGBT asylum issues, Durso said.

“As a result, their decisions on LGBT asylees can be dangerously arbitrary, biased, or based on a lack of understanding of the serious threats LGBT people face,” she said.

“For example, judges might falsely believe that because Mexico has marriage equality, LGBT people across the country are free from violence – when cases like Felipe de Jesus Molina Mendoza’s prove the opposite is true,” she said.

Jennifer Quigley, of the advocacy group Human Rights First, agreed.

“That’s not something that’s supported across the country,” she said of same-sex-marriage. “It’s similar to here. You’ve made advancements in law; that doesn’t mean you’ve made advancements in society.”

A spokeswoman for the Executive Office for Immigration Review said judges consider asylum claims case by case according to the law, regulations and precedent.

“Immigration judges make a credibility determination ... considering a wide variety of factors including an applicant’s demeanor while testifying, the plausibility of an applicant’s claims, inconsistencies in the applicant’s testimony, or inconsistencies between the applicant’s testimony and any other evidence of record,” spokeswoman Kathryn Mattingly said by email.

“An applicant’s sexual orientation can be grounds for claiming membership in a particular social group for the purpose of claiming asylum,” she said.

Asylum requests

The transgender violence study reported 9,206 asylum applications from Mexican people in 2012 and 463 Mexican applicants being granted asylum that year. Another 1,395 cases were denied, with the rest classified as abandoned, withdrawn or “other.”

Both that study and The Center for American Progress said it is impossible to know how many requests for asylum are made on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity and how those cases fare compared to asylum cases overall.

But analysts Gruberg and West found LGBT people fare better when they have a lawyer, apply for asylum “affirmatively” – meaning they are not already in a deportation proceeding – and when they have not spent time in an immigration detention center like Molina Mendoza has.

As happened when he sought asylum in the U.S. in 2014 after his deportation in 2013, “the very act of coming back puts somebody in detention,” said Durso.

“We’ve essentially branded them a criminal, locked them up in a system that looks like prison,” she said. “There’s a perception that person is a criminal and doesn’t deserve to be granted asylum.”

Schultz: 919-829-8950;

Twitter: @thedurhamnews


October 17, 2016

Germany Receives Gay Immigrants with Safe Shelters

A tall, muscular man walked across the lobby wearing large earrings, generously applied make-up and a light blue dress.

“Hello, it’s nice to meet you,” said Abdel, a transvestite from Iraq.

Welcome to Germany’s first shelter for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transvestite and intersex migrants.

It is hidden away on a quiet, leafy road in Berlin, where dozens of migrants are kept under round-the-clock security to protect them from fellow migrants hostile to homosexuality.

“I wouldn’t want to be in a shelter with straight refugees,” said Bashar Taha, an ethnic Kurd from northern Iraq. “It’s too dangerous. Many people from the Middle East are very homophobic — people get beaten and even killed.”

Stephan Jakel, a therapist and the centre’s manager, said: “Many of our residents are traumatised.”

Their plight highlights the difficulties Germany faces in integrating the 890,000 registered migrants it took in last year, some from places where homosexuality can be punished by death.

Most gay migrants coming to Germany hide their sexuality for fear of being attacked by compatriots, says Jakel. Others face such danger the state of Berlin has qualified them as people with “special reception needs”, along with children, disabled people and pregnant women.

Shocked by the violence, including stabbings, suffered by gay people at the hands of their compatriots in refugee camps, German authorities initially offered separate accommodation in hotels and private apartments but this proved too expensive. Now specifically designed shelters have caught on.

Once at the shelter, new residents get free medical care including, if requested, specialised treatment such as hormone therapy for transsexuals. The shelter, run by Schwulenberatung, Europe’s biggest gay help group, is luxurious compared with facilities in other parts of the country. Ultraliberal Berlin has invested heavily: annual running costs approach £900,000, not including therapy and legal aid.

Security guards, including a veteran of the Berlin nightclub scene, have been chosen with care; only those showing sensitivity to gay issues are accepted. With double bedrooms and spacious common areas fitted with designer furniture, the atmosphere is relaxed, reminiscent of a university hall of residence.

Migrants are offered language lessons. Among the phrases recently scrawled on the blackboard in German one day recently were: “I am gay” and “I want to have sex”. “The first thing they want to do is to start a normal life,” said Jakel with a smile.

Getting a job is not the “first priority” for them, he added. Even so, some of the shelter’s residents have acquired work as DJs and bouncers in gay clubs.

Taha, 25, was a successful make-up artist and pop star in his homeland. He decided to flee after being exposed as a homosexual and receiving threats on social media. “I Googled the situation for gay people in Berlin — and that’s why I came here,” he said.

Since fleeing to Germany, he is no longer in touch with his family. They had always objected to his work and lifestyle as “haram”, forbidden in Arabic.

“My parents don’t accept me as I am,” he said. “But I’m not going to change.”

Refugees at the shelter can join the karate club to learn self-defence. It may serve them well. Even among this community of the persecuted, fights over politics and religion have erupted — residents include Christians, Shi’ite and Sunni Muslims and atheists from countries such as Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan. Some have had to be forcibly evicted for aggression or drug use.

“We’ve set an iron rule: no talk of religion or politics,” said Jakel. “This might be a more open-minded group but in reality we also face the same challenges as any other refugee centre, or rather society as a whole.”

June 8, 2016

In Sweden Two transgender girls risk deportation to Iraq

                                                                          transgender Karwan Sirwan
Transgender girls: Karwan, 22 anni, e Sirwan, 23.

 Transgender Karwan Sirwan
Karwan, 22, and Sirwan, 23.

Sirwan and Karwan are two transgender girls of Kurdish origin have fled from Iraq to seek asylum in the (civilized?) Sweden. But they risk being repatriated to the country of origin, place that will almost certainly condemn to a life of suffering, if not death.

Sirwan runs away from Iraq in 2012. It is pushed by her mother to flee, because for a male born girl is no longer safe to live in Arbil, Iraq's Kurdish city. The same father the threat of death, after being stopped by police for being dressed too "feminine" and forced to admit that he had a relationship with a man turkish. Also, it looks back on a gang rape story born of a kidnapping and repeated violence and harassment by unknown men who simply forced her to enter their car while walking down the street and then being able to rape.

Karwan also had to flee from their family of Arbil. After having participated in a talent show in women's clothes, her family discovered her and reached the television studio of the transmission, threatening to set fire to the local in order to avoid a new exhibition of his daughter. To the shame of having a transgender daughter, the family threatened to kill her, than to accuse her of the death of their mother, failure to an illness at the time. Karwan flees to Sulaymaniyah remaining hidden for three months, then make the trip to Turkey. Once he arrived on Turkish soil, the family of the new contact, reassuring her: this time it was not expected was killed, but only language mutilated and ears.

The two transgender girls, 22 and 23 years old, meet in Turkey after passing tough times like all migrants attempting to reach a European country. From their accommodation on a bench in a park, they decide to leave together for Sweden in September 2015.
Meet a smuggler who asks them € 1,500 to arrive illegally in Greece. Embark and their wrecked boat. While they are pushing in the sea with the few remaining forces to the coast seen four children die drowned.

The two girls make for political asylum for humanitarian reasons once you arrive in Sweden. The request is likely to be rejected, since the European authorities - and, consequently, those Swedes - they judged the northern Iraq as a safe area, so that is not automatically have to collect applications for asylum. Interviewed by, the two young men said they would be very dangerous for them to return to their country of origin, in the face of death threats and violence come from families.

This specific case highlights the commonality of the instances of struggle and ephemeral division that our Western society makes between different conditions: when it comes to LGBTI people, you do not think to migrants; when it comes to work, do not you think the right to health, to name two examples. The recent mobilization fueled by the debate about the inadequate and exclusionary law Cirinnà should teach us how people as such must be respected, help if in trouble and counted as one of us, whatever the conditions they are living. We must teach that alone do not get anything, you have to have the support of other people who have made a path - individual or collective - of self-consciousness and, to reverse roles, we must not fail to actively involve himself in the struggles in other .

The two transgender girls Kurdish are getting a warning: do not expect to be safe, to be better, to be lucky, do not sit on your results. Just nothing to become the last of the last, the fight is not over. Do not abandon us and migrants do not leave, please use the tools of your countries to save us. And finally, even the persecuted - Iraqi Kurds - are not immune from the atrocities: the division of the struggles generates cross-cutting issues.
Translated from French by adamfoxie and Google

May 6, 2016

Gays Looking for Safety Seek Asylum to Save Their Lives


Andrew Nasonov, gay news, Washington Blade, Russia
Andrew Nasonov (Washington Blade photo by Vladyslav Rekhovskyy) 

Michael Namelum has a bounty on his head if he ever returns to Azerbaijan.

The 34-year-old’s father and male relatives have sworn to kill him because he is gay and was once engaged to a man in the United States. And it’s not just an empty threat: the men previously killed an older cousin of his who was suspected of being gay when Namelum was just a child.

His father has even targeted his mother and 16-year-old sister because of his sexual orientation.

“My father found out, and he targeted my mother for producing a gay child. And he blamed her, as if she knew what I was, and didn’t tell him. He tried to burn my mom’s hands. He literally dragged her to the kitchen, turned the stove on, and lit her hands on fire. And my sister came to help her, and that was how they escaped,” Namelum says. “They are hiding in terror because my father could find them at any time. In fact, as we’re talking right now, they might be getting killed.”

Namelum was blackmailed by a police officer who tried to extort money from him. That officer ended up raping and torturing him.
Namelum, a human rights activist, had twice been attacked while in Azerbaijan. Once, in the mid-2000s, he was blackmailed by a police officer who tried to extort money from him. That officer ended up raping and torturing him. In 2011, Namelum was attacked and gang-raped by three men for his activism on HIV/AIDS prevention among men who have sex with men (MSM) and on LGBT rights, including his involvement with a group that supported LGBT Americans abroad in Azerbaijan.

Namelum came to the United States and reunited with a former boyfriend — he had previously lived here for a year in 2006 — and the two began talking about getting married. Then, just weeks before their wedding, they broke up, leaving Namelum in the lurch. 
At the time, Namelum was based in Dallas with his ex-fiance. He knew he couldn’t return home because of the threats against him, so he decided to apply for asylum. But first, he had to get out of Texas — he had been warned that he would be more likely to have his application rejected coming from an anti-gay state. So he moved cross-country to live with friends in Washington, D.C., sleeping on their couch for about a year.

Upon moving to D.C., Namelum began forming ties with fellow asylum seekers and torture survivors. He became involved with both Center Global, a program of The DC Center, and the Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition (TASSC), and applied for asylum. Because government regulations prohibit asylum seekers from even applying to obtain a work permit for six months after they initially apply, he was unable to work, having to rely on charity and limited support from groups like Center Global in the form of gift cards for food and prepaid Metro cards for transportation.

With the help of a pro bono lawyer, Lindsey Wilkes, Namelum was able to expedite his case, having it heard within six months. He calls it a “miracle,” particularly considering that most asylum seekers can wait years before even being granted a hearing to see if they will be granted asylum.

That’s currently the situation facing Michael Ivanov, a 31-year-old asylum seeker from the Crimea region of Ukraine. Ivanov, who was a scientist in his home country, is currently in school because he has not yet been scheduled for a hearing regarding his application, due to a massive backlog in processing applications from those seeking asylum.

Ivanov’s mistreatment began as a child, when he was bullied, harassed and picked on by his classmates and neighbors because they suspected he was gay. When he was 14 or 15, a classmate even threw a lit firework into his backpack, but was never punished for it.

Five men wearing surgical masks descended upon Ivanov and began beating him until he lost consciousness. He was left lying in a puddle of blood until a passerby called an ambulance.
Ivanov, who contracted HIV from an untested blood transfusion in 2010, was also denied medical treatment because of his HIV status. This denial of treatment continued even after a 2012 incident that left him seriously injured and hospitalized. During that incident, Ivanov was contacted by a man named Andrey, who he began corresponding with for about a month. They agreed to meet at a local park one evening, but it turned out to be a set-up: five men wearing surgical masks descended upon Ivanov and began beating him until he lost consciousness. He was left lying in a puddle of blood until a passerby called an ambulance. Ivanov received such poor treatment at the hands of hospital staff that they discharged him even though he still had broken bones, severe lacerations, and damage to his right eye.

Unfortunately, such mistreatment of LGBT people is not uncommon in many regions throughout the world. The recent news of two LGBT rights activists who were hacked to death with machetes in Bangladesh highlights the severity of the threats that many LGBT people face abroad, particularly in countries where homosexuality is criminalized. For many asylum seekers, fleeing to another country, such as the United States, becomes the only viable option if they wish to remain alive.

Daniel Tendai, another asylum seeker, says his involvement with the LGBT group Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ) placed him on the government’s radar as a potential threat to its anti-LGBT stances. But it was an interview that he did while at a U.S. conference, in which he suggested that the United States do more to help the LGBT community in Zimbabwe, that became the turning point.

“I got messages from people telling me that it had gone viral,” says Tendai. “And, to me, that meant that something could get really bad if I tried to go back home. They would be waiting for me.”

Tendai has since been living with a friend in Rockville, Md. while he waits for a pending hearing date to review his application for asylum. He is receiving help from a pro bono lawyer, but realizes it may take years before he is officially granted asylum.

“I want to live a normal life, where I am free and my rights are protected, and I can be who I am.”
“I would want to return to Zimbabwe, if and only if the system changed. But I cannot go to Zimbabwe right now because of the very strict laws [against homosexuality] there,” Tendai says. “I will not be free and I do not know what would happen to me…. I want to live a normal life, where I am free and my rights are protected, and I can be who I am.”

Despite the obstacles that LGBT asylum seekers face upon arriving in the United States, there can be positive outcomes for some. Namelum has since obtained a steady job with an international research institute that focuses on women’s rights, along with private health insurance. He has continued speaking out on behalf of LGBT rights, lobbying Congress on issues from the importance of making the position of Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBTI Persons permanent to speaking up for immigrant transgender women who have been detained in male detention centers. He has even met with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on two separate occasions.

“I am an activist. You guys created a monster,” he says. “I make speeches, I give interviews. Being an activist gives me strength, it gives me power. It helps me to heal…. I feel empowered to stand up for people who are currently being tortured and killed, in Russia, Azerbaijan, Turkey, Iran, Uganda, all over Africa.”

Due to how quickly he was able to obtain a hearing on his asylum status, Namelum is just two months shy of being eligible to apply for a green card, which will make him, in legal terms, a lawful permanent resident of the United States.

“America has become home for a lot of LGBT people who came here, and America saved their lives by providing them shelter and a new home,” says Namelum. “D.C. is my home. This is my country now. And I’m proud to be here, to be alive, and thankful.”

December 8, 2015

Canada’s Immigration and 6 More Reasons of Why an Immigrant Might not be Gay

When the Liberal government announced gay men from Syria will be prioritized for refugee status, we began to look at previous LGBT refugee claims made to Canada’s Refugee Appeals Division (RAD).

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has guidelines for how front-line workers should try to determine the sexual orientation of refugee claimants. These include suggestions like exploring applicants’ experiences of difference or shame instead of asking detailed questions about their sex lives.

But a look at judgments from the RAD shows that immigration officials sometimes don’t follow that advice. Instead, they will often nitpick statements and discredit the testimony of refugees based on unfounded ideas of how sexual orientation works.

We’ve included the judgments from the RAD and the relevant sections, summarized and re-stated for length and clarity, so you can see for yourself what the process can look like — here are six more reasons why some applicants claiming persecution for their sexuality were denied refugee status.  These are all real cases.

1. Because the word “relationship” can be ambiguous 

Canada: So did you have two relationships with women before you left Ghana?

Refugee: No. I’m in a relationship with a woman in Canada now, and I had sexual relationships with women in Ghana, but it wasn’t serious.

Canada: So how many not committed, not serious relationship have you had?

Refugee: I’ve been with three other women. But those weren’t committed.

Canada: But you said before that one of those lasted for three years. How is that not serious?

Refugee: Uhm, it was more casual and I didn’t really have feelings for her? Have you never heard of friends-with-benefits?

Canada: Not a lesbian.
2. You forgot how old your ex was when you met
Canada: When did you first start dating your girlfriend?

Refugee: 2001. We were together for 12 years.

Canada: What was her birth date?

Refugee: I included it in my documents.

Canada: How old was she when you first started dating?

Refugee: I don’t remember exactly how old she was.

Canada: You’re not a lesbian. Real lesbians always remember.
3. You had a secret boyfriend
Canada: So you had a boyfriend while you were in Morocco?

Refugee: Yes, but we tried our best to keep it secret.

Canada: But why would you date someone if you were trying to keep it a secret that you’re gay?

Refugee: Like I said, we tried to keep it a secret.

Canada: I find that highly unlikely.

X (Re), 2014 CanLII 66647 (CA IRB)
Sections 8, 34 

4. The panel misheard you
Refugee: My family elder told me that my uncle was threatening to report me to the police if I went back to Nigeria.

Canada: Your family elder threatened to report you to the police? That’s not what it says in your affidavit.

Refugee: That’s not what I said.

Canada: That’s what I heard.

Refugee: What? No, it was my uncle who was going to report me —

Canada: You’re clearly not gay.

Galogaza v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), 2015 FC 407
Sections 19-22

5. You never went to the police
Canada: So you’re from Croatia eh? I hear that’s where they film Game of Thrones.

Refugee: Uhm, what?

Canada: Did you know that the actor who plays Hodor is gay? Why would they film the show in Croatia if it wasn’t safe for gay people?

Refugee: Actually, it’s pretty unsafe. There was a Pride march in Split in 2011 where 10,000 homophobes attacked 300 marchers and the police didn’t do anything to protect them.

Canada: So why didn’t you go to the police when you felt unsafe?

Refugee: Have you been listening to me?

Canada: Sorry. I don’t believe you.

Galogaza v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), 2015 FC 407
Sections 6-15 

6. Being attacked twice doesn’t count as often
Canada: So you’re a gay Roma man from Slovakia. That must have been tough.

Refugee: Yes. I was physically attacked twice while I was in trade school.

Canada: In the documents you provided, you said that you were “often” beaten up. What do you mean by “beaten up?”

Refugee: Either physically or verbally attacked.

Canada: So were you “beaten up” often or twice?

Refugee: I was physically attacked twice and verbally attacked many more times.

Canada: Seems like a contradiction. You’re probably lying.

Banda v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), 2015 FC 474 (CanLII)
Section 18-21

November 24, 2015

Pres.Obama Busy Allowing Refugee Gay Couples thru Immigration

Gay couple in Florida received notice they no longer face being separated because one of them is not a U.S. citizen. Julian Marsh and Traian Povov’s green card approval was the first such approval ever in the United States at the time.No longer a rare occurrence.

Refugees and asylees from 23 countries can now ask to bring their same-sex partners with them to the U.S., even if they are not legally married.

The State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration in an Oct. 1 letter to Congress notes it will “allow a qualifying individual” to request their same-sex partner receive refugee or asylee status under a provision of the U.S. Refugee Assistance Program known as P-3 that specifically deals with family reunification.

The new provision requires the petitioner to file an affidavit proving he or she has been in a relationship with their same-sex partner for at least a year outside the U.S. before submitting their application. The petitioner also needs to consider “that person to be his/her spouse or life partner, and that relationship is ongoing.”

The petitioner must also prove that “legal marriage” to their partner “was not an obtainable option due to social and/or legal prohibitions.”

Only refugees or asylees in the U.S. who are originally from Afghanistan, Bhutan, Burma, Burundi, Central African Republic, Colombia, Cuba, North Korea, Democratic Republic of Congo, El Salvador, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Iran, Iraq, Mali, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Syria and Uzbekistan can access the P-3 program.

The program allows a family member in the U.S. to apply “for a same-sex spouse if a legal marriage was conducted and documented.” The State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration in its letter to Congress that same-sex marriage “is not legal in the vast majority of refugee-producing and refugee-hosting countries.”

“The legal definition of ‘spouse’ remains unchanged,” State Department spokesperson Elizabeth Trudeau told the Washington Blade on Tuesday. “However, due to the administration’s recognition that marriage is not a legally viable option in many refugees’ countries of origin, we have granted access to the P-3 refugee family reunification process to the same-sex partners of LGBT individuals who do not have legal access to the institution of marriage in their home countries, provided that the refugee’s partner is otherwise admissible.”

Homosexuality criminalized in many P-3 countries

The State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration each year determines the specific refugees and asylum seekers who will be able to take advantage of the P-3 program. This determination is made based on whether a particular nationality “is of special humanitarian concern to the United States for the purpose of family-reunification refugee processing.”

Laws criminalizing homosexuality remain in place in Afghanistan, Bhutan, Burma, Burundi, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Sri Lanka and Uzbekistan.
Homosexuality is punishable by death in Iran, Sudan and portions of Somalia. Reports indicate the Islamic State has executed at least 30 men accused of sodomy in Iraq and Syria.

Anti-LGBT discrimination and violence remain pervasive throughout El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. Independent Cuban LGBT rights advocates with whom the Washington Blade has spoken over the last year say officials on the Communist island routinely harass them.
Maykel González Vivero, an independent Cuban LGBT advocate from the city of Sagua la Grande, told the Blade on Tuesday in an email that he welcomes the new P-3 program rule.
“It implies that the United States is willing to support LGBTI families that, for reasons that are no doubt political, are not recognized by the Cuban state,” he said.
Expanded provision ‘absolutely welcome’

The new rule under the P-3 program took effect against the backdrop of the continued influx of refugees and migrants into Europe from Syria, Iraq and other countries.
Secretary of State John Kerry in September announced the U.S. will accept 85,000 refugees next year and another 100,000 in 2017.

President Obama in the same month said the U.S. will allow at least 10,000 Syrian refugees to resettle in the country in 2016. The San Francisco-based Organization for Refuge, Asylum and Migration has called upon the White House to set aside 500 of these “slots” for those who are fleeing the war-torn country because of anti-LGBT persecution.

ORAM Executive Director Neil Grungras told the Blade on Tuesday during a telephone interview from Israel that the new rule under the P-3 program is “absolutely welcome.”
“It’s really forward thinking,” he said, noting LGBT refugees and asylum seekers are often unable to bring their partners with them to the U.S. “It’s about time.”
Immigration Equality Legal Director Aaron Morris shared a similar sentiment.

“The State Department’s decision to keep permanent partner P-3 refugees together is a cause for celebration because almost no LGBT refugees have access to marriage equality,” he told the Blade on Tuesday.

Advocates: Expand rule to more refugees, asylees

Matthew Corso, chair of Center Global, a program of the D.C. Center for the LGBT Community, noted to the Blade that less than 10 percent of all of the LGBT asylum seekers and refugees who have sought assistance from his group are from P-3 countries.
He said he would like to see the U.S. allow more refugees and asylees to take advantage of the new policy.

“While we are pleased to see the State Department moving the needle on reuniting same sex spouses for refugees and asylees from P-3 countries, it will be interesting to see whether or not USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service) responds in kind to ensure many more LGBTI refugees and asylees from countries such as Uganda, Russia, Jamaica and others not on the P-3 list can be reunited with their loved ones who are still living abroad,” said Corso.
Morris expressed a similar concern.

“Because this rule will help a couple only if both partners have been designated as refugees, we are eager work with federal agencies to extend similar benefits to families where only one partner has been granted refugee status,” he told the Blade. “This is the reality for most LGBT asylees in the U.S., and no one should have to choose between their family and their own safety.”

Andrea Ayala, executive director of Espacio de Mujeres Lesbianas por la Diversidad, an LGBT advocacy group in El Salvador known by the Spanish acronym ESMULES, told the Blade on Tuesday in an email that it would prove “difficult” for couples to prove their relationship to U.S. authorities. González expressed a similar concern, but he still described the new policy as a “step forward.”

“It seems fair to me,” he told the Blade.

October 31, 2015

Pres.Obama Makes the Refugee-Repatriation Program more LGBT Friendly


There are currently more refugees, asylum seekers, and internally displaced persons around the world than at any time since World War II. Less than 1 percent of all refugees will be resettled worldwide, and of more than half of these resettled refugees will come to in the United States. In 2011 President Barack Obama recognized that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender, or LGBT, people who flee persecution continue to face barriers to access refugee protection and assistance. As part of his memorandum on “International Initiatives to Advance the Human Rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Persons,” President Obama directed federal agencies to take steps to protect vulnerable LGBT refugees and asylum seekers.

Despite significant progress toward ensuring that LGBT people have equal access to the U.S. immigration system—including training asylum officers to adjudicate claims that are based on sexual orientation and gender identity—LGBT people continue to face significant barriers to protection in the United States, particularly when it comes to family recognition. Under the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, or INA, asylees and refugees can bring their children who are younger that age 21 and spouses to the United States. In the INA, however, the term spouse is usually interpreted to require a legally recognized marriage. Since only 22 countries have marriage equality, LGBT people who face persecution are in the impossible position of choosing between seeking safety in the United States or remaining in dangerous situations with their loved ones. As Ugandan LGBT rights activist Victor Mukasa has said, “Homophobia separated me from my family, but so has the immigration system that has made it difficult for me to reunite with my family, just because of a document.”

The State Department’s solution for reuniting LGBT refugee families

In 2015, the Council for Global Equality—of which the Center for American Progress is a member—made the fair and equal treatment of same-sex partners of refugees and asylees a top administrative priority.  The U.S. Department of State recently took a major step toward that goal. In its annual report to Congress on refugee program admissions for fiscal year 2016, the State Department announced a more inclusive interpretation of what constitutes a spouse in its Process Priorities, or P-3, program. This expanded interpretation recognizes that the vast majority of refugee-producing and refugee-hosting countries do not have marriage equality. The expanded categories within the P-3 process now allow qualifying resettled refugees and asylees who live in the United States to file an affidavit of relationship, or AOR, for their partners—thereby bypassing the need for a referral from the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, a process that can take years.

As a result of this change, refugees and asylees can file for their same-sex partners to join them in the United States through the P-3 family reunification program for spouses, unmarried children younger than age 21, and parents of qualified refugees and asylees. Because of P-3 program requirements, the expanded categories for family reunification are limited to certain nationalities that are of special humanitarian concern. A CAP analysis of data about LGBT asylum seekers found that 15 percent of the cases in the dataset represented LGBT people among those fleeing humanitarian crises in P-3 priority countries. Subhi Nahas, a Syrian refugee who was resettled in the United States and recently addressed the U.N. Security Council during its first-ever meeting on LGBT rights, is just one example of the many LGBT people who sought protection in the United States.

Remaining barriers to reunification

While the State Department’s new policy will help reunite many LGBT families, it represents just one step on a long road toward greater LGBT inclusivity. Many LGBT refugees and asylees will still be unable to bring their partners to the United States due to the fact only 24 countries currently qualify for P-3 status. The State Department determines the countries on its P-3 list by examining the total number of arrivals per country per calendar year. Significantly, the countries that LGBT people appear to flee most often are not accounted for in the P-3 countries list.

This decision can be explained by at least two reasons. First, the State Department does not collect data about the number of LGBT refugees who are resettled in the United States and as a result is unable to ensure that the countries where the most LGBT refugees come from are represented in the P-3 countries list. Second, the State Department does not take asylees—who arrive in the United States on their own rather than through the resettlement process—into account when determining P-3 countries. U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power estimates that the United States resettles between 75 to 100 LGBT refugees annually—which indicates that a higher proportion of LGBT people come to the United States as asylees rather than refugees. In CAP’s analysis of the countries from which LGBT people fled from 2010 to 2014, Russia and Jamaica consistently topped the list; neither of these countries is on the P-3 list. Uganda and Nigeria—which have atrocious human rights records and abuses of LGBT people—are also missing from the list, despite large numbers of refugees who flee from these countries each year.

There are simple measures that the State Department and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services can take to further promote the reunification of LGBT families. Establishing universal P-3—rather than limiting the provision to certain countries—would open P-3 family reunification to all refugees and asylees, regardless of their country of origin. Another potential way to reunite LGBT families would be to make partners of LGBT refugees and asylees eligible for humanitarian parole. Such eligibility would enable LGBT refugees and asylees to bring their partners to the United States for a limited period of time during which they can marry and extend protected status to their spouses.
While the State Department’s expansion of P-3 eligibility to same-sex partners of refugees and asylees in the United States will help reunite many LGBT families, more can and should be done to ensure that LGBT people who seek protection in the United States are not forced to choose between their safety and living with the ones they love.

March 30, 2015

Egyptian Gay Man Granted Refugee Status by NZ

A gay Egyptian man who was bullied and ostracised in his home nation due to his “appearance” and “demeanour” has been declared a refugee by the New Zealand Immigration and Protection Tribunal.
The man appealed a decision by the Refugee Status Branch denying him refugee status, arguing that he was at risk of being persecuted if he was returned to Egypt, because he is gay. 
The Tribunal decision says his predicament turns on the fact he is gay.
“While the social and religious dictates of Egyptian society make it impossible for him to overtly acknowledge this, he has faced continual harassment and prejudice as a result of looking and behaving in a way that was perceived to be different from the norm,” it reads.
“This created difficulties for him throughout his school years, with both fellow pupils and teachers alike. A paternal uncle convinced his father to send him to a military school to toughen him up. He was perennially bullied and on at least one occasion subjected to a sexual assault from which he escaped before it became significantly more serious than it was. 
“His early efforts to complain about his treatment in general were met with an unsympathetic response. He did not complain further.”
As an adult he worked as a laboratory assistant at a hospital, but left after 18 months due after he was ostracised. He was able to travel thanks to a trust fund, and came to New Zealand in 2005.
“Despite feeling much more comfortable with life in New Zealand, he still maintained a degree of privacy about his personal life. He did not feel the need to hide or deny his sexuality as he had in Egypt but, if asked about it, simply tended to divert the question,” the decision reads.
In 2012 he married a New Zealand citizen in exchange for money, something the Tribunal says doesn’t contradict his claim he is gay, but “simply reflects an ill-advised (and dishonest) attempt to try to remain in New Zealand”.
He is now in a relationship with a man and says he would be ostracised by his family if he had to return to Egypt, and it would be impossible to live there independently and safely. 
“While he has survived in the past by hiding his sexuality as best he can, he is at an age where this would be increasingly difficult. This is particularly so because for the past 10 years, while he has lived in New Zealand, he has become accustomed to not having to suppress his fundamental identity,” the decision reads.
The Tribunal has upheld the appeal and granted the man refugee status, saying it has taken into account evidence the Refugee Status Branch didn’t have when it made its initial decision, including clear evidence he is gay.
It says while there are no specific laws criminalizing homosexuality in Egypt, the authorities tend to target the gay community under the guise of public morality laws, which they use to justify making arrests and pursuing prosecutions.
The Tribunal says the man has a well-founded fear of being persecuted in Egypt.

April 22, 2014

Gay Man Seeks Green Card After His American Husband Dies


An Australian man widowed by his American husband of more than three decades made a renewed pitch Monday for a green card after the Obama administration eased policies on gay marriage.

Anthony Sullivan, 72, asked federal immigration authorities in Los Angeles to reopen a 1975 petition filed by his late husband Richard Adams so Sullivan can be awarded residency as the surviving spouse of a U.S. citizen, immigration attorney Lavi Soloway said.
The request came decades after the couple sued and lost an early effort to win immigration benefits for same-sex married couples, and less than a year after the Obama administration started issuing green cards to gay couples who marry. Adams died in 2012 in the couple’s Hollywood home.

"It doesn't matter how much time has passed and it doesn't matter how long it took to figure it out," Soloway said. “He and Richard sustained a constitutional injury for 40 years, and that should be corrected."

Claire Nicholson, a spokeswoman for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, declined to comment on the case.
The agency that oversees immigration benefits began issuing green cards to married gay couples last year after a Supreme Court ruling struck down a law that prohibited the federal government from recognizing married same-sex couples.
Since then, Soloway said he has represented more than 100 couples seeking immigration benefits related to marriage, including those whose American spouse died before they got green cards.

The difference in Sullivan's case is that his marriage predates the law, and the reason given for denying the couple's petition was simple "bigotry and discrimination," Soloway said.
Sullivan and Adams met in Los Angeles in 1971. They wed in 1975 after hearing about a county clerk in Boulder, Colo., who was giving marriage licenses to gay couples and headed there to get one.

The men applied for a green card for Sullivan but were denied. After the courts shot down their appeal, they left the country and stayed with friends in Europe in the mid-1980s but soon returned to Southern California where they lived until Adams died, Soloway said.
Sullivan, who overstayed his visa, would have celebrated his 39th wedding anniversary on Monday.

Clela Rorex, the former Boulder clerk, said she is amazed that issues surrounding gay marriage are still not resolved. She issued a marriage license to a first gay couple in 1975 after they were denied by a clerk in nearby, more conservative Colorado Springs, and the local district attorney said the law didn't bar her from doing so.
"I really want to live long enough to see marriage equality across the country and not a piecemeal thing among the states," said Rorex, who resigned after 2 1/2 years because of opposition to her decision.
Associated Press writer Colleen Slevin in Denver contributed to this report

November 26, 2013

Gay Couples Celebrate Green Cards After looonng Waits

NYC PAPERS OUT. Social media use restricted to low res file max 184 x 128 pixels and 72 dpiSUSAN WATTS/NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

Santiago Ortiz (left) and Pablo Garcia, showing his green card. Garcia, 53, spent two 
decades as an undocumented immigrant in Queens to be with his husband,
 Santiago Ortiz, a U.S. citizen.

When an immigration officer recently told Pablo Garcia he had been approved for a green card, scenes from the Venezuela-born playwright’s life flashed before his eyes.
“I saw when we came here, when we decided that I would stay here without documents, when I began at university, when my mother died, when my father died, everything. In one second, it was so hard,” he said.
Garcia, 53, spent two decades as an undocumented immigrant in Elmhurst, Queens, after deciding to overstay a visa to be with his husband, Santiago Ortiz, a U.S. citizen.
For most of their long relationship, Ortiz, 57, a retired school psychologist, was unable to sponsor Garcia — and being unable to leave the U.S. and return meant Garcia missed both of his parents’ funerals.
Their situation changed in June, when the Supreme Court struck down a federal law against gay marriage. Months later, some of the first same-sex New York City couples — including Garcia and Ortiz — have now been granted immigration benefits like permanent residency. Many gay and lesbian U.S. citizens have waited for decades to be able to sponsor their immigrant spouses. Even as New York and other states passed laws allowing gay marriage, the federal Defense of Marriage Act barred the government from granting any visas based on the relationship.
Harlem couple Heather Morgan and Maria del Mar Verdugo texted this photo to friends and family letting them know Verdugo's green card had arrived.COURTESY HEATHER MORGAN

Harlem couple Heather Morgan and Maria del Mar Verdugo texted this photo to friends and family letting them know Verdugo's green card had arrived.

A week after June’s high court decision striking down DOMA, then-Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano directed U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services officials to review petitions from a same-sex spouse in the same way they would a straight couple’s bid. As long as a couple was married in a state or foreign country that allows same-sex marriages, it does not matter for USCIS’ purposes if they live in a state that does not.
The first same-sex green card, according to lawyers who specialize in these cases, went to a Florida man and his Bulgarian-born spouse in late June. Since then, couples across the country have been approved.
In New York City, a group of couples — including Garcia and Ortiz — who had put in failed green card bids before the law changed, and became part of a class action suit challenging DOMA, are just now getting green cards in the mail. The agency immediately reopened their cases after the law changed. USCIS has not been keeping statistics on same-sex petitions, so it is unclear how many have been granted.
When Garcia told his lawyer, Tom Plummer, of the advocacy group Immigration Equality, that his green card arrived on Nov. 1, Plummer was overwhelmed.
“Pablo sent a picture of his green card, and I wanted to wallpaper my bedroom with it,” said Plummer, who has represented a series of same-sex couples since before the law changed.
“It’s incredible. I got chills every time they told a client family they were approved. These families have been so resilient for so many years,” he said.
Steven Eng and Neal Stone with Neal's newly issued green card at their home in Jackson Heights on Nov. 16.CHRISTIE M FARRIELLA FOR NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

Steven Eng and Neal Stone with Neal's newly issued green card at their home in Jackson Heights on Nov. 16.

For Jackson Heights, Queens, couple Steven Eng and Neal Stone, the green card that arrived in the mail Nov. 15 brings new freedoms. Eng, a U.S. citizen, successfully sponsored Canadian-born Stone, who had been living and working in the U.S. using a series of employer-based visas.
“That was the first time I could do anything in the 12 years that we have been together to help him be by my side in this country,” said Eng, 42, a voice and speech professor at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.
Stone, 41, an urban planner, is now no longer tied to a single employer — and is looking forward to crossing the U.S.-Canada border without worrying about not being able to return.
“We can just follow our interests and have a little more fun,” he said.
Harlem couple Heather Morgan and Maria del Mar Verdugo prepared carefully for their USCIS interview earlier this month.
“We weren’t really nervous, we were really just excited,” said Morgan, a U.S. citizen who sponsored her Spanish-born wife, Verdugo, 44. “I thought it was going to be a little bit like ‘The Newlywed Game,’ where someone is trying to trip you up a little bit, where someone is going to sequester me and ask me, ‘Does Mar like mustard or ketchup on her hamburgers?’ And see if our answers matched up,” said Morgan, 37, a nonprofit marketing director.
In the end, the officer’s questions were much more straightforward. The card came in the mail on Nov. 18.
“We opened the mailbox and the green card was there. We were so happy,” said Verdugo.

October 23, 2013

Kuwait Proposed to Have Medical Test to bar Migrants Deemed to be Gay

Nepalese migrant workers arrive at the Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu on September 27, 2013. If the the GCC approves a Kuwaiti proposal, migrant workers seeking employment in Gulf countries will undergo mandatory gender tests.
Nepalese migrant workers arrive at the Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu on September 27, 2013. If the the GCC approves a Kuwaiti proposal, migrant workers seeking employment in Gulf countries will undergo mandatory gender tests. 

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