Sunday, October 23, 2016

Would social media trail alone provide a legitimate reason for an LGBT asylum seeker to fear persecution back home?

What if someone had come to the US and lived a totally “straight” life in an anti-gay home country, like Nigeria or Russia, and then had a visa expire, when, in the meantime, the person had “come out” in social media in the U.S.?  In this circumstance would the US government recognize this as a legitimate asylum claim?  Does the person have to have been persecuted as gay in the home country before coming here?

The question sounds important because of the importance of social media and “online reputation”, especially as search engines can unearth it.  If the person went back home, he might be persecuted over authorities finding his social media posts.

If the INS or immigration judge would not regard such a claim as valid,  then there would be a legitimate question as to whether a private party should host such an asylum seeker.

The question also sounds relevant to LGBT US citizens who travel to anti-gay countries (maybe for work) and have a large social media trail.

Another variation of this problem occurs if a non-gay person criticizes his home government (say, Russia's Valdimir Putin) in a conspicuous way online, and then fears persecution if he or she returns.  Could that be grounds for asylum (that he or she did not follow online laws of home country)?  For gay people, you could look at this from "identity politics" grounds (which I don't like) or First Amendment concerns (which I do support)

The issue could obviously also come up with transgender.

(Correlated post, "BillBoushka" blog, Oct. 22.)

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