Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Coming to the U.S. to Escape Homophobia

Today's Boston Globe has an article about foreigners seeking asylum in the United States to escape homophobia, and it's impossible to read Brazilian Genesio Oliveira's story without getting angry. Laws in this country need to be changed so that gays and lesbians can sponsor their spouses for legal U.S. residency the same as heterosexuals. That this wasn't done years ago (and probably won't happen anytime soon) is shameful. And for asylum-seekers without American partners, the issue here is the same as in Canada -- how do you prove you're gay, and how do you prove your life is in danger if you're sent back home? From the article:

Offering a haven for gays and lesbians is an emerging field of law in the United States and around the world, lawyers and advocates say, awakening foreigners to the option to live in the United States that was previously unknown. But the practice is raising concerns, as critics cite the potential for fraud and advocates worry that possible homophobia or lack of international experience might lead some judges and government officials to send foreigners back to dangerous lands.

In a 2003 case, an immigration judge in California denied asylum to a Mexican national, saying it wasn't obvious the man was gay. The man appealed and won asylum last year.

There is fraud all over the place when it comes to immigration. People are still allowed to immigrate. According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services spokesman Bill Wright, the government doesn't keep statistics on how many gays and lesbians are granted asylum. So far, no one has suggested that there's an epidemic of scheming heterosexuals masquerading as frightened gays and lesbians in search of U.S. residency. So why do I have a sinking feeling that this is something Fox News numskulls will eventually blow way out of proportion, claiming that it somehow damages America? They need a new "War on Christmas"-esque stunt, and seeing as they love to scream about both homosexuality and immigration, this could prove as tantalizing as a loofah or falafel to Bill O'Reilly.

One thing to be relieved about: No one in the article was quoted as saying anything as stupid as Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary of the United Kingdom, who believes that gays are safe in Iran. (Never mind that by her own admission, gays don't feel safe enough in Britain to report hate crimes to the police.) On the other hand, I'm sure we'll hear plenty of the Jacqui Smith response as gay asylum becomes a bigger issue in the United States.

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