Asylum is a protection granted to political refugees who are present inside the US. It is granted based on a number of possible grounds. In the past, people in LGBTQ communities have not been able to easily seek asylum in the US if their persecution was based on gender identity or sexuality. However, this has been slowly changing in the last 20 years.
Who Can Qualify for Asylum?
Those who seek asylum must demonstrate that they have suffered and will suffer severe persecution if forced to return to their home country. The persecution must be based on a set of protected grounds. The protected grounds are:
- Political opinion
- Membership in a particular social group (PSG)
Membership in a PSG must be based on a characteristic that cannot or should not change. However, being part of a PSG is often not enough to prove that someone deserves asylum. It must be part of a nexus with one of the other grounds. For instance, a gay man in Ghana, who has suffered severe abuse from his community due to his sexual preference may qualify. Additionally, homosexuality is illegal in Ghana, and his government will not protect him from persecution.
LQBTQ Cases in the US
The matter of Toboso-Alfonso in 1994 paved the way for the LGBTQ community. It helped to expand the definition of what constitutes a PSG. This case added sexual orientation to the definition. Although, several years would pass before people who suffered persecution based on their gender identity would be recognized. Cases involving LGBTQ members are few and far between because social graces in this area have evolved recently. However, in a remarkable turn of events in May 2019, 10 transgendered women won their asylum cases.
The women made the harrowing journey through Central America to the US. When they arrived at the border they were sent to detention centers in Texas. These women were able to receive representation and eventually win their cases. However, they had been traveling with many asylum seekers. Of that group, many were denied. Regardless, it is important to note that PSG has an evolving definition with promising avenues.
It is essential that anyone who is seeking asylum seek legal council. Asylum is a difficult area of immigration law and you only get one chance to make your case.