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WP Sobs: US Asylum Now Harder For Gays

From those public health mavens at the Washington Post:

Mexican resident Mercedes Espinoza, 65, holds onto her son Fernando Legy, 26, of San Diego, during a recent visit to the U.S. Legy, who is HIV positive and gay, is seeking political asylum fearing persecution in Mexico.

As Latin Nations Treat Gays Better, Asylum Is Elusive

By Ceci Connolly
Tuesday, August 12, 2008; A03

SAN DIEGO — Quietly over the past 14 years, gay men and lesbians from Mexico have sought — and received — political asylum in the United States based on their sexual orientation and the argument that the culture of “machismo” in their country has sometimes put homosexuals there in danger.

But as Mexico and other Latin American countries begin to liberalize laws regarding homosexuality, hold gay pride events and expand treatment for people with AIDS, it is becoming increasingly difficult to win such cases, say asylum applicants, U.S. lawyers and Latino activists.

For a time, it seemed like it was a slam-dunk if you were gay, from Mexico and filed for asylum in the United States,” said Arthur S. Leonard, a professor at New York Law School. “But there’s been a turning point. The gay rights movement has started to make progress in Mexico, and it’s a little harder to show” that asylum is warranted, he said.

The subtle, unofficial shift in immigration policy has significant public health implications, say leaders throughout the region who view asylum as a path to better treatment of people with HIV. Though many applaud the progress on gay rights and AIDS care, they caution that it may take decades to reverse deeply ingrained attitudes toward homosexuality that are closely connected to the spread of HIV in the region.

Figures for asylum decisions are unavailable, but immigration lawyers hazard a guess that in the past, dozens were granted every year to gay Mexicans. The Department of Homeland Security does not track asylum by categories such as religious affiliation or sexual orientation. But Leonard and other experts report that applications by gay men and lesbians from throughout Latin America are encountering more hurdles.

Last fall, U.S. circuit courts rejected asylum requests by two gay Mexican men, and a recent policy requires that every asylum request from Mexico undergo a separate review by homeland security officials in Washington. Those developments have raised alarm in immigrant-heavy communities in San Diego and elsewhere.

Officials at the Department of Homeland Security, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said there has been no policy change regarding asylum eligibility for gay men and lesbians

No group in Mexico has been hit harder by AIDS than men who have sex with men — and nothing has done more to fuel the epidemic than homophobia, said Jorge Saavedra, chief of Mexico’s AIDS programs. In the nation where the International AIDS Conference convened last week, gay men are 109 times as likely to contract HIV as the general population, he said.

Across Latin America, men who engage in homosexual sex are 33 times as likely to be infected with HIV, according to a report released at the conference by the Foundation for AIDS Research, known as AmFAR.

“People think the homophobia is under control, which is not true,” Saavedra said. “Homophobia in Mexico is really high.”

Saavedra, who is openly gay and HIV-positive, has a unique perspective on the situation in Mexico. As a government official, he points to achievements, particularly Mexico’s low overall infection rate of 0.3 percent of the population. But because the country routinely experiences medication shortages, discrimination and violence against gays, some still need asylum, he said.

It was not until the 1990s that sexual orientation was even considered a reason for political asylum. But in 1994, then-Attorney General Janet Reno issued an order allowing homosexuals to gain asylum if they could demonstrate that they faced persecution because of their sexual orientation. Many of the early applicants came from Latin America, with its conservative, strongly Catholic, macho culture. They were men such as Fernando Legy, an unemployed 26-year-old seeking asylum in San Diego.

While growing up in the state of Mexicali, Legy said he was raped by male friends of a brother-in-law. By the time he was a teenager, Legy and his boyfriend were often arrested by police who demanded money or insisted they perform sex acts on men in the jail, he said.

“It was like a show to them,” he said. When an employer gave him a random blood test and discovered he had HIV, Legy lost his job. At one point, he was so depressed that he tried to drink a mix of toxic chemicals. But the bitter brew burned his mouth.

“I kind of hide here in the United States because the men who raped me have made threats,” he said, noting that two are involved in drug trafficking. “I’m afraid to go back.”

Between 1995 and 2006, about 1,200 Mexicans were killed because of their sexual orientation, according to estimates by the Mexican gay rights group Letra S. Two years ago, after Mexico City enacted same-sex civil union laws, many — including U.S. immigration and asylum officials — expected life to improve for Mexico’s gay community, said Alejandro Brito, editor of the Letra S magazine.

“Instead, this has provoked aggressions by some in the society and especially some police,” he said. “It would be a terrible shame to close this door to asylum.” …

Reporting for this article was supported by the Project for International Health Journalism Fellowship, a part of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation’s Media Fellowships Program.

Ever notice how many federal programs we never hear a peep about until there is some threat they might be discontinued

Quietly over the past 14 years, gay men and lesbians from Mexico have sought — and received — political asylum in the United States based on their sexual orientation and the argument that the culture of “machismo” in their country has sometimes put homosexuals there in danger.

Who among us had ever heard of this “political asylum” before?

It was not until the 1990s that sexual orientation was even considered a reason for political asylum. But in 1994, then-Attorney General Janet Reno issued an order allowing homosexuals to gain asylum if they could demonstrate that they faced persecution because of their sexual orientation

Janet Reno — of course. Political asylum for homosexuals, but not for those fleeing Fidel Castro.

No group in Mexico has been hit harder by AIDS than men who have sex with men — and nothing has done more to fuel the epidemic than homophobia, said Jorge Saavedra, chief of Mexico’s AIDS programs.

Ah yes. Who can argue with logic like that?

It should also be noted that this article is part of a series the Washington Post calls:

Of course what this article and the whole series is really about is getting everyone in the world with AIDS to come to the US to get treated for “free” — courtesy of the US taxpayer.

(A motive made even more clear in the Post’s accompanying nine page “slideshow.”)

Which of course would also enrich the Henry J. Kaiser HMOs around the country.

This article was posted by Steve on Tuesday, August 12th, 2008. Comments are currently closed.

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