A gay immigrant argues compellingly before a federal appeals court about the anti-gay persecution in his home country.
Nearly four years into his detention, Damion Bromfield has finally won legal sympathy for himself and other gay immigrants who fear persecution if returned to countries hostile to gays.
The ruling from the federal appeals court granting Bromfield another chance to argue for political asylum sets a strong and supportive precedent for other gay immigrants arguing for asylum or to not be removed from the U.S. based on fear of persecution.
Bromfield is a Jamaican being held at the Northwest Detention Center. He served less than a year in jail for misdemeanor sex-related charges involving an underage partner.
Authorities then moved to have him deported but Bromfield argued compellingly for political asylum, pointing to anti-gay laws and a pattern of violence in Jamaica. Mob attacks, shootings and a social culture that encourages violence against gays is the norm in Jamaica.
Gays on the island can be subjected to 10 years imprisonment. This is not an antiquated holdover from earlier days; the island's prime minister recently upheld the law's intent.
Yet, Bromfield's pleas were rebuffed by an immigration judge and the Board of Immigration Appeals.
The appropriate response comes via a panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. In a decision that underscored Jamaican's homophobic laws — and underscored violence there as targeted, rather than random, as prosecutors argued — the panel sided with Bromfield.
The result is not automatic citizenship but a granting of protections agreed to under the international Convention Against Torture. Bromfield and others who can prove persecution in their home country cannot be sent back while the threat exists.
This approach has precedent. Instability and violence in Indonesia once allowed immigrants from that country to apply for special asylum. Once the country stabilized, the extra protection was removed.
Jamaica should improve its human-rights record. Until then, Bromfield and other gay Jamaicans who fear persecution should be able to qualify for protection.
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
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