Our clients inspire us every day. Meet a few of them.
Denise’s story: From asylum seeker to proud spokesperson
Denise is a transgender woman from Trinidad who fled to the United States in 2004 after being brutally assaulted by homophobic people and humiliated by the police. For years, she suffered from untreated post-traumatic stress disorder and has seen her health deteriorate, suffering four separate heart attacks. Denise first learned about Immigration Equality in 2011 when she found us at a pride event. At the time, she could only whisper the words, “I’m undocumented.” We accepted her case into our asylum program shortly after.
Over the next three and a half years, Denise struggled with destitution and depression. She was discriminated against and fired from one job after the other for being transgender. At the height of her despair, she was forced to live on a subway platform for a month.
To make matters worse, Denise’s asylum application was denied and she was put into removal proceedings. She almost gave up. With our help, she continued fighting and we filed an appeal on her behalf. Denise moved to Baltimore where a friend offered her a place to stay. Her asylum appeal was transferred to Baltimore, causing more delays in her case. After more than five years in search of asylum, an immigration judge granted Denise asylum in October 2014.
Fernanda’s story: On thin ICE
Fernanda was forced to flee her home in Honduras after she was raped and beaten by transphobic community members. When she arrived in the United States, though, she found herself in danger yet again. She was placed in solitary confinement at a male detention facility. After two agonizing months, she was released, but the government is still actively trying to deport her back to the violence in Honduras. Immigration Equality is proud to represent Fernanda in her fight for safety and freedom, and inspired by her remarkable resilience and activism in support of transgender people. We are working to ensure that LGBTQ individuals who are forced to flee violence and persecution, aren’t subjected to similar fear and discrimination here in the U.S.
Darion & Brenton’s story: Freedom to Love
Imagine the pain of hiding your love for your partner and of living in constant fear in your own home. For Darion and Brenton, this was the reality back home in Jamaica. Married in New York City in 2011, the two men were forced to keep their marriage and love a secret from their families and neighbors when they returned to Jamaica to avoid violence and persecution. When they began receiving death threats, the couple fled to the US, knowing that staying in Jamaica would be a deadly option. Earlier this year, the legal team at Immigration Equality secured Darion and Brenton’s permanent safety here in America in winning their case for asylum. No one should face death or violence because of who they are or who they love, and we will continue working to ensure that couples like Darion and Brenton have the freedom to live and love safely and openly.
Immigration Equality supports clients from every corner of the globe, representing a diverse group of cultures, beliefs, and backgrounds. Our clients are brave, resilient, and proud!
As demand for our legal services increases, our legal team is facing an unprecedented number of open cases. Historically, Jamaica has been the source of the largest number of clients – with Mexico trailing closely behind. In 2013, when Russia passed its “anti-gay propaganda” law, we immediately experienced a sharp increase in calls from that country. Now, the number of Russian clients has eclipsed the number of Mexican clients.
Over the last 20 years, the largest percentage of our clients has come from the Caribbean and Latin America, but, as conditions deteriorate for LGBTQ and HIV-positive people around the world, the number of individuals reaching out to us from Russia, the Middle East, and Sub-Saharan Africa has increased.
“I’m very, very appreciative for what Immigration Equality has done for my life… I love this country, I love America… if it wasn’t for America, I wouldn’t be standing here alive.”
−Benjamin, asylum winner from Ghana
Benjamin is a 37-year-old Ghanaian man who is living with HIV. In Ghana, his family misunderstood HIV so severely that they poisoned his older brother to death after he began to show signs of AIDS. When Benjamin started to get sick too, he fled for his life. Benjamin went to many organizations to ask for help. Everyone turned him away and he began to despair. Then, he found Immigration Equality.
Because of you, we were able to help Benjamin secure asylum! This summer, we were also there to watch Benjamin become a U.S. citizen and register to vote. Securing asylum has changed Benjamin’s entire life. Today, he is healthy, and happy, and grateful.
Your contribution ensures that every LGBTQ and HIV-positive immigrant fleeing violence and persecution has a fair opportunity to stay safe and stay connected to the resources they need to thrive.
“Boris” is a gay man from Russia. When he was a child, his parents forced him to undergo conversion therapy “to cure” his sexual orientation. As a young man, he was viciously attacked by homophobes. But when he went to the police, they refused to help him because Russia had recently passed anti-gay propaganda laws. In 2013, he learned that he was living with HIV. Fearing that his life was in even greater danger, “Boris” fled Russia for the U.S.
“Boris” immediately found Immigration Equality and we secured asylum for him in April 2016.
“I feel so relieved. In America there are a large number of opportunities. It is up to me now to seize them! Thank goodness for Immigration Equality.”
−Boris, asylum winner from Russia
“Marie” and her husband are Nigerians who are both living with HIV. For many years, they kept their HIV status secret. But then one day, “Marie’s” husband became ill. Because HIV was lethally stigmatized in their village, “Marie” feared that her family would be attacked and killed. Finding no other options, “Marie” hid her three oldest children with extended family and fled Nigeria with her husband – their youngest son in “Marie’s” arms.
With Immigration Equality’s help, “Marie” was granted asylum in May. Support us so that we have the resources to petition for her remaining children in Nigeria to be reunited with their family!