Wednesday, October 15, 2003
Group Files Amicus Brief on Behalf of Gay Immigrant
From Staff and Wire Service Reports
A gay rights group said yesterday it is urging the Board of Immigration Appeals to grant asylum to a man who is living in the Southland and claims he faced severe anti-gay persecution in Mexico.
Jorge Soto Vega, a 34-year-old originally from Tuxpan, Mexico, was detained and beaten by Mexican police who threatened to kill him if they saw him again, according to the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund. He faced harassment and violence from an early age, said the group’s Fred Shank.
A Los Angeles immigration judge ruled in January that Vega must return to Mexico, even though the jurist found his testimony credible, Shank said.
Lambda Legal said Vega’s application for asylum was rejected because the judge found that Vega could keep his sexual orientation hidden if he chose.
The group’s amicus brief quotes the immigration judge who ruled on Vega’s application as saying the man would not be persecuted if he “returned to Mexico in some other community” and that “it would not be obvious that he would be homosexual unless he made that...obvious himself.” The brief was filed Friday with the Board of Immigration Appeals in Washington, D.C., senior counsel Jon Davidson of Lambda Legal’s Western Regional Office said.
The brief argues:
“This specious reasoning fundamentally controverts the essential premise of entitlement to asylum and wrongly blames the victim for his persecution. By imposing on Respondent an obligation to hide or change his conduct in order to avoid persecution—an obligation not imposed on those who have sought asylum based on other characteristics, such as religion or political belief—the Immigration Court improperly demanded that Respondent alter aspects of the very characteristic that, when persecuted on that basis, entitles him to asylum in the first place. Furthermore, the Immigration Court’s conclusion that Mr. Soto Vega could achieve this misrepresentation about who he is was not supported by reasonable, substantial and probative evidence, and therefore cannot be sustained.”
Lambda Legal and the Lesbian and Gay Immigration Rights Task Force argue that Mexican law enforcement and others in the country assault and harass gay people.
The two groups also contend that Vega’s rights would be violated if he was forced to behave differently in order to hide his sexual orientation.
“Asylum doesn’t hinge on whether people can hide their religion or political beliefs or race or sexual orientation—it’s decided on whether they face persecution based on those factors, and Jorge Soto Vega clearly does,” Davidson said.
Vega has lived in Los Angeles for 15 years, running a flower and interior design shop with his partner, who is an American citizen, the groups said.
Copyright 2003, Metropolitan News Company