Monday, February 13, 2017

"Particular social group" and "political opinion" in asylum law, and LGBTQ people

Following up on a post I wrote on my International Issues blog yesterday, Sunday, February 12, 2017 about the “Particular Social Group” component of asylum seeking, it’s natural to wonder if right-wing cabinet choices, especially Attorney General Jeff Sessions, could deliberately undermine or eliminate the practice of often considering homosexuals a particular social group in asylum cases.

 Today I’ll follow up on a that and on a post Feb. 8.  

If someone were hosting such an asylum seeker, that could presumably lead to denial and illegal status and possible deportation, and a moral dilemma for hosts as to breaking the law.

The general impression from reading the statutes (as in yesterday’s posts) is that the Attorney General or other officials are not supposed to make any judgment like this based on some personal religious or closely held belief.

Could there be legitimate foreign policy reasons for undermining the PSG concept?  It sounds far-fetched.  But in the case of Russia, and Trump’s proclaimed desire to let Putin help Trump defeat ISIS in Syria (however unwise, given what has happened in Aleppo) it could be argued, perhaps, that American citizens should not assist immigrants (who might otherwise be forced to return) just to protect a foreign country’s policy on social issues, especially homosexuals, or perhaps even women as a whole.  (Russia seems poised to pass a law reducing wives’ access to legal measures after domestic violence.)   I’ve heard this said to me personally.  There is the “take care of your own” first idea.

It could be argued that “homosexuals” are not a class as such but simply professing a desired lifestyle path (rather than staying in a “closet” after returning and living a straight life of traditional marriage and kids).  But then it might be possible for the asylee to use the (imputed) “political opinion” prong of asylum definition (rather than PSG).

Donald Trump himself has not shown personal animosity to gays (or trans).  This could partly be the result of positive experiences on his “Apprentice” program.  Indeed, he seems to enjoy the support of people ranging from Peter Thiel (who could be very positive in jobs building in tech and in areas like domestic national security, for example, or infrastructure) to Milo Yiannopoulos (whose statements and stage performances are not as inflammatory as the combative far Left – and even Twitter --  makes them out to be).  But he has certainly made many appointments (most of all Sessions) with rather frightening records on LGBTQ issues, and in many cases attitudes that seem racist as well.  Furthermore, Trump’s obsession with Muslims as a group sets a frightening precedent (ironically, the “Jews” of today).

In any case, no change in PSG policy should put an asylee in a position of returning to certain persecution, violence, imprisonment, or even death.  There are asylum seekers who would face immediate physical danger or imprisonment if returned by deportation.  Any change in policy that creates this danger should be met with litigation.

Second picture: Placard from Freddie's Beach Bar, for openly gay secretary of the Army Eric Fanning. 

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