Sunday, August 19, 2007

On political asylum, a warning

Just before I left for Colombia I sat down with Diego Senior, the NYC correspondent for Colombia's Caracol radio, to discuss political asylum due to fear of persecution based on sexual orientation. In the interview I spoke of several cases in which I have been involved (in assessing a case, working with legal service providers and lawyers to provide information on specific countries or in translating materials or at the asylum hearing).

A few things made it into the interview including a warning to those who might think that it is easy to be granted political asylum in this country particularly if the person has little if any documentation of persecution or if they lie about past experiences (the interview has since been picked by the Spanish-language news agency EFE which led to a reporter tracking me down in Bogota for an article that appears in this week's Cambio).

This comes to mind after reading a post today on Arthur Leonard's blog on a gay man from Peru who lived in Bolivia as an adult and then moved to the United States where he finally requested political asylum claiming he feared to be sent back.

The case reads like a primer on what not to do when applying for asylum:

1. There is a one-year window from his/her arrival in which a person can solicit political asylum in the United States (unless the person can prove special circumstances that might have kept him from applying during that first year). The man entered the United States in 2001 but waited until 2003 to submit the asylum application.

2. The man did not provide evidence for any of the alleged discrimination either while living in Peru or Bolivia and provided conflicting testimony about one of the incidents. Sometimes cases are won without specific evidence but any evidence that is submitted obviously strengthens a case and if the case is weak from the beginning any contradictions in the testimony can be damaging.

Even if true, the courts noted, the claims of discrimination presented did not rise to a level where they proved that the man would be tortured or persecuted if sent back home.

No surprise, then, that an Immigration Judge first threw out the asylum claim based on the man's failure to apply within a year of entering the country and that, on appeal and seeking "withholding of removal," the Board of Immigration Appeals and 11th Circuit Court of Appeals both rejected his appeal and, thus, his right to stay in the United States.

I just wish more people who think that applying for political asylum is easy would read the outcome of cases like these.

To read more details about this specific case:
Thanks Mad Professah! You are right - I should have listed some resources:
  • Immigration Equality can be found here
  • The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission can be found here


Mad Professah said...

Hey Andres

Good to see you back. Thanks for providing details on asylum based on sexual orientation though you could have linked to IGLHRC's or Immigration Equality's work in the area.

People should recall to that the one year time limit on asyum claims is a results of Bill Clinton's 1996 "immigration reform" law.

yocahuna said...

I'm an asylee from Jamaica and have put some information together at Naturally, it focuses on Jamaica/US conditions, but it's open to input for other situations.