Our clients inspire us every day. Meet a few of them.
In March 2017, Denis Davydov — a gay Russian asylum seeker living with HIV — was thrown into immigration detention for 46 days after a short backpacking trip to the U.S. Virgin Islands. After two court hearings in April, and with the support of the press and influential Members of Congress, we were able to secure Denis’s release.
While we celebrated Denis’s freedom, he never should have been detained in the first place. We are currently challenging the system that targeted Denis in the courts, while still fighting to secure Denis’s asylum.
Donrodge came to Immigration Equality after experiencing a lifetime of violence and persecution in Jamaica. Watch sample footage of his story, which will be featured in the upcoming documentary, SEEKING REFUGE, by Tina DiFeliciantonio and Jane C. Wagner.
Donrodge is a gay man from Jamaica. Donrodge came to Immigration Equality in 2014, and Aaron helped secure his asylum. With the security of his asylum status, Donrodge moved into his own apartment and is studying to get into nursing school. Now, Immigration Equality is helping Donrodge to apply for his green card.
Donrodge now feels happy and safe and wants to be an advocate for others who are fighting for the freedom to live openly. It is important for him to share his story. Even though it was sometimes hard, he agreed to do so in a documentary film called Seeking Refuge coming out soon.
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. She now has her green card and is very happy to have a job she loves and to pay her taxes!
Edafe Okporo is a gay refugee from Nigeria who was recently granted asylum in the United States.
When Edafe arrived in the U.S., he immediately asked immigration agents for help and for asylum at the airport. Because of this, they detained Edafe at the Elizabeth detention center in New Jersey for over five months. While he was detained, he found out about Immigration Equality and called us for help. Immigration Equality secured a free attorney for Edafe from the law firm Debevoise and Plimpton LLP, who represented him and helped to win his asylum case.
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.
Cecily & Carla
U.S. Naval officer Lt. Cecily Ripley was in a flight training program when she took a vacation to St. Maarten and met the love of her life, Carla Francisco, at a hangout popular with locals. They began a long-distance relationship after Cecily returned to the U.S. “We took time to get to know each other. I went to the Caribbean a lot. Every time wasn’t perfect. But…you just never give up,” said Cecily. “We just grew into each other,” added Carla.
They wanted to be together, but because Carla had overstayed her prior admission to the U. S. when she was a teenager, she needed a waiver to return to the country. At the same time, the couple couldn’t marry in St. Maarten because that nation does not recognize marriage equality. With few other options, Cecily and Carla married by proxy.
As an added pressure, Cecily was waiting for her active duty deployment orders and knew she would be sent overseas soon. The couple reached out to Immigration Equality for help. We stepped in to expedite the approval of their waiver and their spousal petition. We advocated for them both with the Departments of State and Homeland Security, and with Cecily’s member of Congress.
The waiver and petition were approved. Today, the couple lives in Florida near Cecily’s naval base.
“We’ve been apart so long, we’re trying to do so much right now because we know I’m going back to sea in a few months,” said Cecily. Together, they are raising Cecily’s two young children and are planning to grow their family in the near future. “We have my two sons… we hope to have a child together as well.”
Darion & Brenton
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.
Living with HIV
“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!
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.
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.