Kenyan Gay Woman Wins U.S. Asylum

(Cleveland, Ohio  —  March 11, 2014) Marisela J. Marquez (Chela), attorney at Margaret W. Wong & Associates, Co., LPA in Cleveland, Ohio, was pleased to tell her client this week that the client had won asylum in the United States.

The Kenyan woman, a nun for years in her home country, came to the US on a student visa.  Shortly after her arrival, she befriended a priest, and for the first time in her life felt safe enough to affirm her homosexual orientation.  She felt that returning home was impossible due to probable persecution.  So she turned to the U.S., seeking asylum without delay.

“My client did everything right,” Chela said.  “After beginning her studies here, she quickly became aware of her situation, and her choices.  She acted quickly, reaching out to our firm to discuss her options and we were able to file her I-589 application for asylum before her legal status expired.”  A timely application for asylum must be filed within one year of arrival to the United States, with few limited exceptions.  Failing to file within one year is a bar to obtaining asylum in the United States.  “So many people wait for a variety of reasons, mostly out of fear of coming forward.  While it never is too late, the case becomes immensely more difficult when expiration dates pass.”

Ms. Marquez can tell about many clients who waited until the last minute.  In these cases, attorneys must move very swiftly, filing last minute appeals, often racing against time, finding themselves challenged to build a robust argument with ample evidence to support it.  The process is so much easier when the client starts the process as soon as she knows her plight.  This helps the attorney build a careful, solid case.  The asylee, in particular, is often rewarded for her foresight.

The deciding factor in the case, however, was Chela’s establishing a pattern of persecution of homosexuals in Kenya. Ms. Marquez said, “Kenya has a clear and well-documented history of homosexual persecution.”  Kenyan religious and political leaders routinely blame societal or fiscal woes on homosexuals, and human rights groups and think tanks studying homosexual attitudes find Kenya to be one of the most non-accepting societies in the world.  Also, acts of violence, severance of employment, and familial shunning of homosexuals all have high rates of incidence in Kenya.

Another obstacle in this case was the client’s lack of evidence to support her claimed sexual orientation.  Ms. Marquez explained, “The BIA has recognized sexual orientation as a particular social group.  However, the applicant must establish his/her membership in that group.  When the applicant has neither come out to anyone nor ever had a homosexual relationship, it becomes difficult.”  Luckily, her client made for a very credible witness on her own behalf and was thoroughly prepared to answer the difficult questions posed by the asylum officer.

“It’s not always easy to win these cases,” Chela concluded, “And this was by no means an easy case.  But it could have been more difficult if my client had not reached out for our help as soon as she had.  She’s highly credible, and a good woman.  It’s too bad she can’t have a normal life at home, but it’s wonderful that the U.S. respects her human rights.”

Marisela J. Marquez, Esq.,

Margaret W. Wong, Esq., President and Managing Partner,

Margaret W. Wong & Associates, Co., LPA.   ●  216-566-9908

3150 Chester Avenue, Cleveland, Ohio 44118