Asylum & Immigration
Gay, HIV-Positive Man from Pakistan Seeks Refuge in the United States
LGBT, HIV/AIDS, and Immigrant-Rights Organizations Submit Brief in Support of His Asylum Claim
(Falls Church, VA, August 4, 2008)—Today, the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and Heartland Alliance’s National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) filed an amicus brief with the Board of Immigration Appeals in Falls Church, Virginia on behalf of a number of other lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT), HIV/AIDS, and immigrant-rights organizations in support of a gay Pakistani man with HIV who is seeking asylum in the United States.
S.K. is a gay Pakistani man seeking asylum and withholding of removal because he fears persecution based on his sexual orientation and HIV status. Under Pakistani law, being gay is punishable by death and LGBT people are forced to live in secrecy and constant fear of exposure.
The Immigration Judge ignored the serious risk of persecution that S.K. faces and denied his application for asylum. The judge held that S.K., who has HIV, and was in a committed relationship with a man in Minnesota, could avoid persecution by hiding his sexual orientation, marrying a woman, and having children. The Board of Immigration Appeals originally upheld the Immigration Judge’s decision and is now reviewing the case a second time.
“No one should have to live in fear that just by being themselves they could be punished with prison or death by their own government,” said Shannon Price Minter, Legal Director of NCLR. According to the amicus brief filed today, the Immigration Judge also failed to recognize that S.K.’s traumatizing diagnosis of HIV that had progressed to AIDS understandably delayed his filing.
“In addition to the many difficulties he was already facing, S.K. was diagnosed with HIV and AIDS, and the understandable psychological and physical difficulties he experienced immediately following that diagnosis delayed his filing for asylum,” explains Claudia Valenzuela, supervising attorney for the National Immigrant Justice Center’s Detention Project, a program of Chicago-based Heartland Alliance. “Our country’s asylum laws were written to take into account situations like S.K.’s, in which individuals’ circumstances may change long after they arrive in the United States and make them subject to renewed danger in their home country.”
S.K. appealed those initial rulings to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. After reading briefs submitted to the Eighth Circuit by S.K. and NCLR, the government took the unusual step of requesting that the case be remanded back to the Board of Immigration Appeals so that the Board could clarify its decision. NCLR worked with a number of other LGBT, HIV/AIDS, and immigrant-rights groups including the National Immigrant Justice Center, Immigration Equality, the ACLU, AIDS Legal Council of Chicago, and International Association of Physicians in AIDS Care to submit a joint amicus brief in support of S.K. to the Board of Immigration Appeals on July 31, 2008.
The National Center for Lesbian Rights is a national legal organization committed to advancing the civil and human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and their families through litigation, public policy advocacy, and public education.
The National Immigrant Justice Center, a partner of Heartland Alliance for Human Needs and Human Rights, is dedicated to ensuring human rights protections and access to justice for all immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers. NIJC’s National Asylum Project on Sexual Minorities works to secure protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) and HIV-positive individuals who are victims of persecution in their home countries because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.