Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Legal resident hold on deportation. Could happen to you?

The deportation of a gay Jamaican immigrant, who argues that he would face persecution in his home country, has been put on hold.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered an immigration judge in Seattle to reconsider the case of Damion Bromfield, who has been detained for nearly four years at a Tacoma detention center. Bromfield argues his life would be in danger if he were sent back to Jamaica because of widespread homophobia from individuals and the government.

The 30-year-old man is trying to stop his deportation based on an asylum request.

Bromfield, a green card holder, entered the country legally 15 years ago. He came out here as a gay man. Four years ago, he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor sex-related charge involving an underage gay partner. He served less than a year in jail, according to court documents.

He was later picked up by immigration officials, who began deportation proceedings.

Legal permanent residents can be subject to deportation if convicted of a crime, said Matt Adams, legal director of the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, which represented Bromfield before the appellate court.

"For our client, (the court's opinion) pretty much makes it that he'll be able to stay in the United States," Adams said Wednesday.

Adams added that the ruling sets a precedent for individuals who fear persecution in their home country for their sexual identity.

"We have an obligation to not put them in that danger," he said.

The appellate court's opinion, written by Judge Betty B. Fletcher and issued earlier this week, says the immigration judge who oversaw Bromfield's case should have taken into consideration a report by the U.S. State Department that violence against homosexuals was pervasive in Jamaica.

The report was presented by Bromfield as evidence of the persecution he would face in Jamaica.

Immigration Judge Kenneth Josephson had held that violence in Jamaica was random.

Susan Eastwood, a spokeswoman for the Executive Office for Immigration Review, which handles immigration court cases, declined to comment to The Associated Press.

In a 2006 report on Human Rights Practices, the State Department lists crimes against homosexuals in Jamaica, including a case where a mob allegedly chased a gay man off a pier who later drowned. The case, the report stated, was not investigated.

"Homosexual men were hesitant to report incidents against them because of fear for their physical well-being. Human rights NGOs (nongovernment organizations) and government entities agreed that brutality against homosexuals, both by police and private citizens, was widespread in the community," the report states

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