A gay man who faced antigay persecution in his native Mexico must be granted asylum in the United States, argued the gay rights group Lambda Legal in a brief filed with a federal appeals court on Tuesday. Jorge Soto Vega, a 35-year-old man from Tuxpan, Mexico, was rejected for asylum by an immigration judge last year, who said he didn't seem gay and could hide his sexual orientation to avoid persecution.
Lambda claims that Vega faced severe harassment and violence from the community and his family from an early age. He was detained and beaten severely by police, who threatened to kill him if they saw him again because, according to them, they wanted to get rid of gay people. Last year a Southern California immigration judge ruled that there was credible evidence that Vega had been persecuted in Mexico because of his sexual orientation, but the judge rejected his application for asylum in the United States. Lambda Legal, which supported Vega's unsuccessful effort to reverse that ruling at the Board of Immigration Appeals last year, is now representing Vega in an appeal to the ninth U.S. circuit court of appeals in San Francisco. The 56-page brief asks the federal appeals court to reverse the immigration judge's ruling and order federal officials to process Vega's asylum application.
"People are granted asylum in the U.S. because they face persecution in their home countries based on religion, political beliefs, sexual orientation, gender, and other factors that are part of their basic identity," said Jon Davidson, senior counsel for Lambda's Western regional office and the lead attorney on the case. "We grant people asylum in America because their countries have told them they have to change who they are in order to be safe. The basic premise of asylum is in question when an immigration judge recognizes that a man is being persecuted and sends him back to the country telling him to disguise the very characteristic that leads to persecution and makes him eligible for asylum. The immigration judge's ruling is deeply disturbing and misguided, and we intend to secure asylum for Jorge Soto Vega."