Asylum Based on Sexual Orientation and Fear of Persecution

In 1980 the United States Congress enacted the Refugee Act in order to establish asylum procedures that would correspond with international treaty obligations. In the U.S., applicants request asylum through the Immigration and Naturalization Service. The first case of a gay male refugee to be considered under the 1980 Act was the Matter of Tobos-Alfonso. On February 3, 1986, Immigration Judge Robert Brown agreed not to send Fidel Armando-Alfanso back to Cuba based on his membership of a particular social group (homosexuals) who experienced and feared persecution by the Cuban Government. On March 12, 1990, the Board of Immigration Appeals upheld the decision. On June 16, 1994, Attorney General Janet Reno ordered this decision to be a legal precedent binding on Immigration Judges and the Asylum Office.

Preparing Sexual Orientation-based Asylum Claims: A Handbook for Advocates and Asylum-Seekers was published by Heartland Alliance in collaboration with the Midwest Human Rights Partnership for Sexual Orientation and the Lesbian and Gay Immigration Rights Task Force. According to LGIRTF this publication is the only comprehensive publication that assists attorneys and asylum-seekers in all aspects of their preparation of sexual orientation-based asylum claims. To learn more about the publication and how to order a copy please visit,