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.