Tennessee residents will likely be aware that thousands of Central American migrants have entered the United States in recent months hoping to be granted asylum. Some of these migrants are LGBT couples who are fleeing persecution and violence in countries where they are not permitted to marry or enter into civil unions. These couples are usually separated when they make their petitions for asylum because U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services policy only allows couples to remain together while they wait for a hearing if they can produce a civil union or marriage certificate.
This separation can have profound consequences if LGBT couples are sent to detention centers in different states as asylum claim approval rates vary widely. In Colorado, almost one in four petitions for asylum is successful. In Louisiana, asylum claims are denied more than 90% of the time. Another problem that LGBT asylum seekers face is homophobic abuse and violence in immigration detention centers.
Media outlets recently covered the story of two Honduran LGBT men who were separated at the San Ysidro port of entry in California. One of the men was placed with a Colorado woman who sponsors asylum seekers. The other was sent to an immigration detention center in Louisiana where he was threatened and abused because of his sexual orientation. However, his asylum claim was approved in November, and he has reunited with his partner. The couples plan to marry as soon as they are able to.
Asylum claims are granted when migrants can convince immigration judges that their fears of persecution based on their race, religion, sexual orientation or political opinions are genuine and credible. Attorneys with experience in asylum cases may help migrants to prepare for their hearings and gather the kind of evidence that immigration judges may find convincing. Attorneys may also explain the other paths available to those who wish to begin new lives in America.