Although the Caribbean has been heralded as one of the most beautiful destinations on earth, in recent times it has also gained a reputation for its pervasive homophobic tendencies. Jamaica, one of the largest islands in the region, has gained widespread infamy for the country’s continued persecution of its homosexual community. The sodomy laws in the country reinforce these homophobic practices, and have the effect of criminalizing homosexuality as an identity. Additionally, known participation in the island’s only gay rights organization, the Jamaica Forum for Lesbians of All”Sexual and Gays (J”FLAG) is tantamount to an invitation for violent acts. For these reasons, J”FLAG is forced to operate in secrecy.

The Immigrant Protection Unit recently received a referral from Immigration Equality for a Jamaican man who was seeking asylum based on his membership in J”FLAG. The client had experienced police persecution in the past because of his sexual identity, and he was fearful of future persecution. IPU staff attorney Meeta A. Patel, working in collaboration with Virginia Goggin of NYLAG’s LGBT Project was able to help this individual to obtain status as an asylee. Although the client had left U.S and returned to Jamaica on several occasions” which often casts doubt in the eyes of asylum officers as to whether or not the individual seeking asylum is truly fearful of persecution in their country of origin NYLAG’s attorneys were able to demonstrate that their client had legally compelling reasons for returning to Jamaica despite his fear, and that he had to change his appearance in order to return and leave safely.

The client’s approval for asylum means that he has now received legal permission to work in the United States, the right to obtain a U.S. social security number, and will be eligible to apply for legal permanent residency.