Asylum Applications by Immigrants Facing Persecution at Home Because They’re Perceived to Be Gay or Lesbian

LGBTQ+ people face many serious challenges. LGBTQ+ people in countries outside the U.S. often face especially dire risks, as being “outed” (or even just failing to conform to traditional gender norms) may place a person at risk of beatings, whippings, or even violent death. For those folks — both those who are LGBTQ+ or even those who are perceived to be — asylum may be a viable option. Achieving a favorable result in your asylum application is often an intricate and complicated process and one where it’s well worth your while to have an experienced Maryland asylum lawyer on your side.

In discrimination law, there exists something called “perceptive discrimination.” This refers to discrimination against workers (or job candidates) because they are perceived to be a member of a protected class. Discrimination because someone is an actual member of a protected group is illegal, but discrimination imposed because the employer believed the worker/applicant was a member of a protected class is just as illegal, even if the target, in fact, wasn’t a member of that group.

One place where perceptive discrimination comes up with some frequency is sexual orientation discrimination. The law recognizes that workers may not be punished because they’re gay — or because a decision-maker thought they were gay. Both situations are wrong, regardless of the target’s actual orientation.

Recently, courts have come to grapple with something similar within the setting of immigration law and applications for asylum: the reality that a person who is labeled as “gay” by the majority of people in their home country may be in serious — or even grave — danger, regardless of whether they’re gay or straight.

One recent example of this is a case from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which covers federal matters in California and several other western states. R.C.A., the applicant, was a Guatemalan woman who had begun dressing “in men’s clothing in order to find work.” Subsequently, the townspeople around her decided she was a lesbian (even though she was not) and threatened to burn her, whip her, and kill her due to their perceptions regarding her sexuality.

That, according to an asylum officer, was good enough to establish a “credible fear of persecution.” According to the appeals court, an applicant like R.C.A. had a viable claim for asylum based on the dangers she faced because others in her home country perceived her to be a lesbian.

The Importance of the ‘Perception of the Persecutor’

In making these sorts of asylum arguments, you have to establish that your risk of persecution flows from your race, religion, nationality, political opinions, or membership in a “particular social group.” The 9th Circuit judge who wrote the concurring opinion noted that the Board of Immigration Appeals has previously “emphasized the importance of the ‘perception of the persecutor’ in asylum claims that involve persecution on account of imputed protected characteristics.” The BIA, according to the judge, should officially declare “people perceived to be gay” as its own recognized “particular social group.”

Statistics show that refugees with attorney representation during the asylum process experience success six more times often than those who go unrepresented. For your legal advocacy needs, rely on our team of experienced Maryland asylum attorneys at Anthony A. Fatemi, LLC. We have the skill and know-how to provide you with the effective asylum application process assistance you need. Contact us today at 301-519-2801 or via our online form to set up your consultation.

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