USCIS and Immigration Equality have joined forces to create a new training module for asylum adjudicators called “Guidance for Adjudicating Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) Refugee and Asylum Claims.” According to Immigration Equality, the new module “instructs asylum officers on substantive aspects of the law and highlights the unique difficulties that LGBTI claimants may experience in articulating their claims for asylum.” A few highlights from the module:
- Helpful definitions, and appropriately sensitive questions, for officers to use, including specific instructions about questions to avoid, such as those related to specific sexual practices;
- LGBTI-specific examples of harm that may constitute persecution, including: laws criminalizing same-sex sexual activity in an applicant’s home country; forced medical or psychiatric treatment intended to “cure” an applicant’s sexual orientation; forced marriage to an opposite-gender spouse; severe economic harm; and beatings or other physical abuse;
- Instructions for analyzing complex issues, for example, that a former opposite-gender marriage does not mean an applicant is not lesbian or gay; that LGBTI applicants are not required to meet pre-conceived stereotypes or “look gay;” and that cultural norms within the LGBTI community in an applicant’s home country may differ from those in the U.S.; and
- A non-exhaustive list of possible one-year filing deadline exceptions (which make it difficult to pursue asylum after one year of presence in the United States), including: recently “coming out” as LGBTI; recent steps to transition from birth gender to corrected gender; a recent HIV diagnosis; post-traumatic stress disorder; or severe family opposition to an applicant’s identity.
I am particularly happy to see some (though, in my opinion, not enough) guidance about the one-year filing deadline (see page 47 of the module). Most likely, the reason for the sparse guidance is that there is not much BIA case law on this issue (note to BIA–publish more cases!). In my experience–and I am not alone–the one year deadline is a particular problem in LGBTI cases.
Overall, the module seems like a valuable resource for adjudicators and advocates. Congratulations to Immigration Equality and USCIS on a job well done.