Asylum Claims Difficult to Win

The Burog-Perez decision is one of three recent cases in which federal appeals courts rejected gay asylum applicants.

 On April 12, the same federal appellate court, the 9th Circuit, rejected an asylum claim on behalf of Elena Andreasian and her parents, Rafael and Lianna. Elena “came out” as a lesbian after the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) had already turned down an asylum petition by Rafael on behalf of himself, his wife and his daughter. They petitioned for reconsideration, arguing that as a lesbian Elena would face persecution in Armenia, but were turned down by the BIA, on the ground that they had not documented any change in circumstances in Armenia that would justify reopening their case.

 “The fact that Ellen revealed she is a lesbian may be a change in personal circumstances,” wrote the court, but “it is not, however, a change in circumstances in Armenia. Although she presents evidence of the lack of acceptance of lesbians and enforcement of anti-sodomy laws in Armenia, she offers no evidence that lesbians are being persecuted, or that the situation is worse now than it was several years ago.”

 The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, in Richmond, Virginia, decided another such case on April 15. The court’s unpublished decision lacks any factual information, merely stating that Amadeu T. Pereira-Lima had failed to persuade the BIA of “a well-founded fear of future persecution in Brazil on account of his homosexuality,” and that the court would not overturn that administrative determination unless presented with evidence “so compelling that no reasonable fact finder could fail to find the requisite fear of persecution.”

This does not necessarily mean that there is no possibility of success for gay asylum applicants from Brazil. At a gay rights conference at Harvard University on April 23, Mauricio Oliveira, a young Brazilian, spoke about his successful U.S. asylum application, and the particular persecution he suffered in Brazil that provided the basis for winning asylum in his case. It was clear from his account that it is crucially important for lesbians, gay men and transgender people from abroad who find themselves in the U.S. and are seeking asylum to expeditiously find competent legal counsel who are particularly knowledgeable about gay persecution issues since the intricacies of presenting these cases are many and the time in which to file petitions is very short. Anybody seeking assistance in locating counsel should contact Immigration Equality, formerly known as the Lesbian and Gay Immigration Rights Task Force, at 212 818 9639, or by e-mail through their website at

– Arthur S. Leonard

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