This story published last week in the Pittsburgh-Post Gazette gives us some insight into the asylum process in the US especially as it relates to illegal aliens coming across our Mexican border and declaring themselves gay and persecuted. We see how legal clinics, NGOs and refugee contractors work to get as many granted asylum as they can.
Also, the article answers one of my questions—-where are all these detainees being housed? Turns out that some police departments rent bed space to the feds.
I still have one big question plaguing me—how do we know someone isn’t pretending to be gay just to get into the US?
Pittsburgh-Post Gazette (emphasis mine):
A gay man last month became one of the first Russian citizens granted asylum in the United States since their home country adopted a ban against gay “propaganda.”
The man was granted asylum Nov. 20 by a U.S. Immigration Court judge in York, Pa., thanks to the efforts of a team of students working with Villanova University School of Law’s Clinic for Asylum, Refugee and Emigrant Services, or CARES.
He took a “vacation” to Cuba then made his way to the Mexican border! If he was so persecuted, why didn’t he ask for asylum in Cuba. It looks like the Cuban government is in on the scheme though because they clearly let him leave for Mexico (and did not send him back to Russia).
The Russian, whose name was redacted from court documents, took advantage of the visa reciprocity between Russia and Cuba, taking a “vacation” to Cuba. From there he made it to Mexico and then used the compass on his phone to cross the Rio Grande into the United States, where he was picked up by border patrol in June. He immediately sought asylum.
The man ended up in the York County detention facility and the case was referred to CARES, which is directed by law professor Michele Pistone.
Since the mid-1990s, the York County jail has rented out space to the United States to house immigrant detainees. Early on, it became clear the detainees were too far from legal assistance, Ms. Pistone said. So the Pennsylvania Immigration Resource Center was set up right down the road. PIRC offers detainees seminars on their rights and the Russian refugee attended one such seminar and was connected with CARES, Ms. Pistone said.
Being in “jail” can actually speed up the asylum process:
While it may have been a traumatic experience for the Russian refugee, Ms. Pistone said being in jail may have sped up the asylum process. Ms. Pistone said the backlog for a hearing in immigration courts for those not in jail can be two years.
Ms. Pistone’s client, meanwhile, had his hearing less than six months from when he entered the country.
50 more such cases! All gay Russian cases pending in courts?
Ms. Majkut (a law student) worked with Immigration Equality and the Heartland Alliance National Immigrant Justice Center for research on this case. She said those organizations have seen an influx of gay Russians calling with questions about asylum as well as the number of Russians defensively seeking asylum, meaning they are already detained and are facing adversarial proceedings.
Ms. Majkut said those organizations have upwards of 50 cases similar to her client’s that are pending in immigration court.
Now that the Russian gay man has received asylum, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (a federal refugee contractor) has stepped in to get him his “benefits” (welfare goodies)! Coincidentally, when I went to the refugee pow-wow in Lancaster, PA last June I sat in on one session involving HIAS’s leading work with gay “refugees.”
The client has been working with the immigration-focused public interest firm HIAS Pennsylvania to get benefits the government pays to refugees. He has since found an apartment and is looking for work, Ms. Pistone said.
Photo is here along with Ms Pistone’s bio. Oh geez, I see she went to Malta in 2006. I wonder if she was ‘helpful’ in making Malta a gateway for African refugees to the US because it began about that time? See our entire ‘Malta’ archive by clicking here.