Monday, November 02, 2009

Jamaicans Seek Asylum

For weeks, Nathaniel Cunningham and his boyfriend secretly lived together in rural Jamaica. They showed no affection in public and rarely spoke to their neighbors.

Then one morning, Cunningham picked up a local newspaper with a front-page story under the headline, "Homosexual Prostitutes Move into Residential Neighborhood." His address was listed.

For days afterward, Cunningham said an angry mob gathered on his lawn hurling rocks and bricks and calling them "batty boys"- a Jamaican slang term for gay. Eventually, the pair grabbed what they could and fled on foot. Cunningham said neither he nor his boyfriend were prostitutes-the slur was an example of the abuse gay men face in Jamaica.

The story was one of many that Cunningham recently shared with a federal immigration judge in his successful bid to win asylum in the US. And it's similar to other stories cited by asylum seekers who are using US immigration courts to argue that their sexual orientation makes it too dangerous to return home.

Until recently, those grounds have been rarely used. But now immigrant and gay activists say more asylum seekers from Latin America and the caribbean are citing sexual orientation as reasons for seeking asylum.

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