Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Immigration reform debate brings up issue of political asylum for LGBT people

Debate over immigration reform (and the unwillingness of the Senate to approve round 1) may indeed affect GLBT immigrants. Today, July 10, 2007, page A06, Pamela Constable has a story in The Washington Post, “Persecuted Gays Seek Refuge in the U.S.: Foreigners’ Abuse Increasingly Seen as Grounds for Asylum.” Link is here.

In 1994, President Clinton’s Attorney General Janet Reno (herself from Miami, a background that had given her considerable knowledge of Cuba) had ordered that an asylum case involving a gay Cuban refugee be viewed as legal precedent. I’ll add that in 1980, when I was living in Dallas (and before AIDS had emerged as a public issue), Cuban refugees had been seen as a political issue in the gay community, as the local gay churches (including MCC, then on Reagan in Oak Lawn) encouraged people to take refugees in. I even thought about it and took a course in Spanish down town (the refugees were refugiados cubanos). It turned out that sponsored needed to be able to stay home from work to look after them.

The story maintains that generally, to win a political asylum case, an immigrant must prove (within one year) that gays are singled out for unusual oppression by government. But some cases are winnable if the country in question has widespread political corruption that leads to de facto persecution, as is the case with Brazil (documented in a recent Vanity Fair issue) or Kosovo (that protects gays in theory but not practice). Persecution by family culture generally will not make a case winnable, although there may be exceptions. Many Muslim countries and many poorer countries in the Third World have moral cultures in which procreation is believed (partly as a result of religion) to be mandatory and where “blood loyalty” and “family honor” are absolute concepts.

The book Damages, by Bazhe (iUniverse, 2003) is a monumental, harrowing autobiographical story of a gay immigrant, saddled with eldercare responsibilities, from the Balkans. Review.

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