Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Banned at the Border

It's now getting a lot harder to get political asylum in the United States if you're gay and from Latin America. Although there is still widespread violence against gays, and men with HIV are often stigmatized, the gay rights movement had made some inroads-- particularly in places like Mexico. Those meager advances in queer rights now seem to be hurting the odds of Mexican gays and lesbians being granted protection in the U.S.

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...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.