Asylum is a form of humanitarian relief granted to refugees who apply for asylum from within the United States. Asylum may be granted to an individual who has suffered past persecution or has a well-founded fear of being persecuted, in their home country, based on their race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group. If you are a foreign national, and you fear persecution because you are lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender, or another sexual orientation or gender identity- this may be considered membership in a particular social group, and you may qualify for asylum.
What is a Social Group?
In applying for asylum, an applicant can describe or define their social group. The group must share an immutable characteristic that the applicant either cannot change or is so fundamental to who they are that they should not be required to change. In the case of LGBTQ issues, the persecution can be due to an actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.
Proving Social Group
It can be difficult to prove social group, particularly with LGBTQ claims. How does one prove that they are gay or lesbian? How does one prove that they truly fear persecution, particularly when they are thousands of miles from their country of origin?
Potential evidence may include the following:
- Marriage or civil-union certificate to a same-sex partner;
- Proof of gender reassignment;
- Proof of membership with certain organizations advocating for gay rights;
- Affidavits from friends and family;
- Affidavits from religious persons
However, in many cases none of this evidence exists and/or the individual may be in the ‘closet’ in their country of origin, meaning their closest loved ones are unaware of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Even if an applicant does not have ‘direct’ evidence that they are part of the LGBTQ community, knowledge and evidence of the prejudices and challenges for LGBTQ people in the country of origin can be helpful.
Demonstrating that Persecution is tied to LGBTQ identity
Once you demonstrate that you are a member of the LGBTQ community, you must show that the persecution was on account of your membership in this group. You should provide a detailed account of what has happened to you in the past, including any persecution, harassment, discrimination, or oppression that you have suffered-or anyone that you know has suffered. If you suffered persecution in the past, you must articulate, in detail, why you believe that the persecution suffered was tied to your LGBTQ identity. Even if it’s obvious to you, you have to lay it out in painstaking detail for the asylum officer or the judge. Include names, dates, locations, and as much detail as possible.
Additionally, a knowledgeable attorney can help an applicant compile country conditions for LGBTQ people in their country of origin. All statements and testimonies must be consistent. Many times the most critical factor in asylum cases is witness credibility. It is imperative that the asylum officer or judge believe your narrative and the best way to accomplish that is to be consistent, detailed, and honest.
If you fear persecution in your home country and are interested in seeking asylum in the United States, you should contact a knowledgeable immigration attorney immediately. Our attorneys at Landerholm Immigration, APC, are experienced and dedicated to asylum law. Please feel free to call us at 510-488-1020 to see how we can help.