LGBT Community Gains Acceptance in U.S. But Many Countries Lag Behind

The stories below are based off real client experiences. However, all names and specific details have been altered as a matter of privacy and confidentiality.

In June, the Supreme Court held that gay marriage is a legal right protected by the U.S. Constitution. This was the culmination of decades of changing attitudes in U.S. society toward the LGBT community. Although some people are still fighting against equality in the U.S., a solid majority of Americans believe in equal treatment toward the LGBT community. Unfortunately, many countries outside the U.S. have not made the same legal or cultural movements toward acceptance and equality. For example, in Mexico, some states and cities have passed legal protections for LGBT rights, but the cultural attitudes and discrimination toward the LGBT community have not changed, has evidenced by Patricia’s story.

Patricia was born in Mexico. She knew at a young age she was gay. Her family, especially her father, did not accept her true identity. She struggled for years trying to conform to societal expectations of how women should dress and act. No matter how hard she tried to wear dresses and act like a women, she never felt happy. As a young adult she finally found the courage to share her identity with others. She accepted her true identity and began dressing and acting in a way that made her happy. She began dating other women in public. Because of this, she became a target for violence and discrimination. She was continually harassed for her appearance and behavior. She had trouble finding work because of discrimination from bosses and employees. On one occasion, while she was at a house party, police arrested her because of a made-up complaint from a bigoted neighbor. On the way to the police station, the officers drove her to an empty field and beat her with their batons and kicked her until she became unconscious because of her identity, because she looked, spoke, dressed and acted like a gay women. She eventually fled for the U.S. to avoid the violence and discrimination.

Fortunately, Patricia had relief in the U.S. from being sent back to Mexico. She could apply for asylum or withholding of removal. Under these forms of relief, a person will be allowed to stay in the U.S. if they can prove they will be persecuted on account of their identity, including race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or in Patricia’s case, membership in a  particular social group. Ultimately, Patricia was granted withholding of removal based on her LGBT identity. In Mexico, she would be forced to conceal her identity or be a target for further violence and discrimination because of lingering societal and cultural discrimination and violence against the LGBT community. Sadly, in many countries Patricia’s story is a normal occurrence, not an exception. Many countries do not provide any legal protection or rights to members of the LGBT community. In some countries, particularly in Africa, Middle East and some parts of Asia, LGBT behavior is criminalized and subject to severe punishment.  People from these countries continue to hide their identity for fear of discrimination, harm or even death. Fortunately, the U.S. provides a way for these people to come to and remain in the U.S. where both the law and most of society will accept them for their true identity.

DISCLAIMER: Nothing in this blog should be construed as legal advice. If you are in removal proceedings or need legal advice on your immigration case, please contact an immigration attorney.

Judge Sends a Message With Withholding of Removal Ruling

Sharma-Crawford, a firm specializing in immigration law, recently won a significant victory in a pro bono withholding of removal case. When the judge granted our client’s withholding of removal, he also sent a message to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that it should protect its named witnesses in federal criminal cases.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) operates like any other law enforcement agency in that it uses informants to substantiate cases. In exchange for their testimony, informants or witnesses are offered work cards in order to remain in the U.S. The relationship between informants and Immigration is much like at-will employment. The work cards represent the informant’s pay, and once their “job” of providing testimony is done, so is the benefit of their work card.

In this case, the client was a named witness for the DHS in a federal criminal case. Because he was a named witness, he received threats against this life and his family was victimized in their home country. In spite of these conditions and despite the fact they had promised the informant more work cards; DHS failed to act when the client attempted to reenter the U.S. with expired documents and was turned away.

Long story short, the judge was aghast at this lack of witness protection and sent a message via his withholding of removal. A withholding of removal is when an immigrant is ordered removed from the U.S. but that order is withheld because he or she would be persecuted in their home country. The message to DHS was that this client was their informant, he was in danger and they have a responsibility to protect him even after the federal case ended.

Our client is able to remain in the U.S. now with a work card, renewable annually. As his immigration lawyers, we were able to convince the judge that he fell into one of the five groups eligible for asylum (race, religion, nationality, political opinion and group membership) and his fear of persecution in his home country was reasonable. The client was considered part of a social group (informants) and in danger of persecution since he was a named witness.

This case was victorious and significant for two reasons. One, the judge did the “right” thing in withholding our client’s removal. More than likely, the ruling saved his life. Two, our client supplied his immigration lawyer with the relevant information we required to represent him. He did so simply, honestly and without exaggeration. His statements remained unchanged the first time and every time after that including at trial.

Considering the real risk for retaliation against witnesses, the judge’s response and actions are encouraging. DHS should heed this recent ruling by following through on its promises of work cards, and thus protection, since these immigrants have little else by way of defense.

ICE has never made an official admission of using undocumented immigrants as informants. Yet it’s common practice. These informants give authorities information they need to build and prosecute criminal cases from human and drug trafficking to arms smuggling and money laundering.

All the while immigrant informants are putting their lives at risk in hopes of being rewarded with legal status—that is rarely granted. The number of illegal informants is unknown, but believed far higher than the number of visas that lead to a green card. When law enforcement agencies are using undocumented immigrants to build their cases and make communities safer, shouldn’t those informants earn the right to live within them versus being sent back to their home countries where they’ll be in jeopardy?

Sharma-Crawford, Attorneys at Law is a firm deeply experienced in the complexities of immigration law. Whether you are facing criminal or civil litigation in state, federal or immigration court – the caring professionals at Sharma-Crawford can help you navigate through the complex legal system. For more information, please call (913) 385-9821 or visit The choice of a lawyer is an important decision and should not be based solely on advertisements. The information contained in this article is general information and should not be considered legal counsel.