Last month the New York Times, in what we described as a “whopping piece of anecdotal theorizing,” insisted gay foreigners trying to secure asylum in the United States were being advised to camp things up in an attempt to really show immigration officials just how gay they were. Make-up and heels on a gay man? How could he not get gay bashed back home in Nigeria? Except according to representatives from Immigration Equality and Human Rights First, the newspaper’s claims were, like most of its Sunday Styles section, a haphazard dose of invented trends that don’t actually exist.
In a letter to the Times, the two groups say “the article is not consistent with our experience in several ways.”
Each year, Immigration Equality and Human Rights First provide legal representation to hundreds of asylum seekers, and our legal team and pro bono lawyers win safe haven for most of these individuals.
In our experience, however, it is exceedingly rare for asylum seekers — whose families and home countries often stigmatize gay and transgender people — to present themselves falsely as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender to immigration officials. We have not seen an emerging trend of straight individuals claiming to be gay for immigration purposes.
Indeed, asylum seekers undergo rigorous evaluation by immigration officials to ensure that their claims are authentic. Nor have we seen a “new hurdle” for L.G.B.T. asylum seekers having to prove that they are “socially visible.” While there have been a few cases where adjudicators have demonstrated a bias in L.G.B.T. cases, we have found that most United States officials do their jobs, and verify claims made in asylum applications while respecting an individual’s identity as an L.G.B.T. person.
In sum: U.S. immigration officials are generally respectable people, according to immigration groups that work with them regularly, and the Times once again proved that made up news is generally sexier than the actual version of events.