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Client Flees Persecution Based on Sexual Orientation, Wins Asylum in United States

by Ariana Javidi May 3, 2019

No one should be persecuted for who they are. But, growing up in the Caribbean LGBTQ+, Sam* had never known any other reality. Now, thanks to the hard work of attorneys at Venable LLP, Sam is finally free to be himself.

Some Caribbean countries are infamous for the pervasive violence and human rights violations inflicted against their LGBTQ+ communities, and Sam faced homophobia and harassment based on his sexual orientation his entire life. So, he tried to hide his sexuality, fearing the potentially deadly repercussions that would come with being outed.

But when Sam’s phone was stolen, his sexual orientation was no longer secret, and he was blackmailed and threatened. When Sam reported the attack to the police, they didn’t take him seriously. Not only did they refuse to investigate, they fined Sam for using foul language when he protested their inaction looking into the hate crime. Afraid for his life, Sam fled the Caribbean, seeking refuge in the United States.

Getting asylum is never an easy task, and the road to immigration relief has become more difficult by the day under the current federal administration. In this environment, it becomes even more important when individuals like Sam are referred by a community organization to the City Bar Justice Center (CBJC), which leverages the expertise and generosity of pro bono attorneys to serve those in need. CBJC fortunately was able to connect Sam with an amazing team of pro bono attorneys from Venable LLP -Teresa Biviano, David Katz, Edmund O’Toole, Sandy Schlesinger, Chelsea Stevens, and Tiffany Williams – who took on his case. Their tireless commitment and expertise helped Sam navigate the complicated legal process of applying for asylum with greater confidence. Although some asylum clients wait years to have their cases adjudicated, Sam was fortunate enough to find out in less than a year that his application for asylum was granted. CBJC joins in celebrating with Sam and his pro bono attorney heroes, and applauds Venable LLP’s commitment to pro bono and public service.

For Sam, the asylum win, made possible by the service of his pro bono lawyers, changed his life. Reflecting on a conversation with him after the win, David Katz, one of Sam’s pro bono attorneys, said, “It was almost like speaking to a different person… he has a level of confidence and happiness he didn’t have before.”

For the first time, Sam doesn’t have to hide his sexual orientation, and can be himself without fear of harm.

*Sam is a pseudonym to protect client privacy.

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