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Chapter Stern 29 Reading

WGSS 1124 Chapter Notes - Chapter Stern 29 Reading: The Asylum

Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies
Course Code
WGSS 1124
Debanuj Dasgupta
Stern 29 Reading

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October 8, 2017
Lionel Cantu Jr. served as an expert witness in five cases regarding Mexican men who left
their country on the basis of persecution for sexual orientation
Legally and historically in the US, asylum for gay petitioners is complex
o Split between a long held pattern of pathologizing and othering G/L people, and
providing a safe haven for those persecuted
They were historically excluded from entry on the basis of concerns for morality, public
health, and political affiliation
o Though it was outlawed from immigration law in 1990, structural discrimination
still affects g/l people
Asylum has been technically available to people fleeing persecution on account of 1 of 5
o Race
o Religion
o Nationality
o Political opinion
o Membership in a particular social group
The question was where do gays fit under these criteria
The INS (immigration and naturalization services) failed to recognize g/l people as
“members of a particular social group”
o The move toward officially recognizing them began in 1986, when a Houston
immigration judge barred the INS from deporting Fidel Armando Toboso-Alfonso,
a gay man, based on the concern that he would be persecuted for being a
o Granted asylum to a Brazilian man in 1993, Marcelo Tenorio
o The Toboso-Alfonso case was later regarded as precedent in 1994 and affirmed that
g/l people are part of a social group for asylum purposes
o Provided Clinton a way to show his support for LGBT rights, and to champion
human rights in Latin America
While sexual orientation has now been recognized as evidence of membership of a social
group, asylum is still hard to attain
o From 1994-7, only 60/1000 people were granted asylum
To gain asylum, gays and lesbians must convincingly establish that they are actually gay
and have been persecuted for this
Social groups are defined as:
o Being comprised by those who share a “common, immutable characteristic” that is
either “innate” or arises from “shared past experience”
The characteristic must be one members of the group cannot change or is
so fundamental to their indiv.. identities that they shouldn’t be required to
change it
This is used to prove that the indiv.. is eligible for asylum, and to prevent false claims of
homosexuality to gain asylum
For a Mexican asylum petitioner to prove that they’re immutably gay, and have been
previously persecuted for it, is an undertaking fraught with contradictions
o Anth.. research from the 70s and 80s argue that gay identity in the mainstream US
sense did not exist in Mexico
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