Friday, 11 March 2011

Event: national call-in on American LGBT asylum and refuge law

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Source: National LGBT Bar Association

For decades, immigrants have requested asylum by the United States from their home countries due to political strife, economic hardship, or social injustice. With regards to LGBT individuals in many communities abroad it is mortally dangerous to be open with their lifestyle therefore political asylum is critical.

On Wednesday, March 16, the National LGBT Bar Association, in partnership with Immigration Equality, will host a national call-in to discuss developments in the field of LGBT immigration and asylum seekers. It will be led by Justin Connor, with speakers Victoria Neilson, Legal Director at Immigration Equality, Scott Titshaw, Assistant Professor of Law at Mercer University, and Chad Ellsworth, Associate at Fragomen, Del Rey, Bernsen and Loewy, LLP.

United States asylum law is derived from international agreements written after World War II. With the large influx of migrants from other countries, the U.S. wrote an internationally universal standard that would outline who would be considered as a refugee. Since then, however, courts have needed to expand such definition and circumstances that would consider one who might need asylum. In 1994, Attorney General Janet Reno declared the Matter of Toboso-Alfonso case as precedent, which was pivotal for helping to categorize homosexual men and women as a “particular social group”—which, as explained in the Refugee Act of 1980, is a possible definition for a refugee into the United States. Now in the U.S., as it pertains to the 36,000 binational same-sex marriages, asylum law is a very important issue when it comes to the Federal government recognizing LGBT unions and granting protection.


Justin Connor is in-house counsel to a telecommunications company based in McLean, Virginia, where he handles transactional/corporate law, dispute resolution, regulatory, M+A and corporate governance issues. Justin also worked in private practice in Washington and Dubai, and practiced for several years at the Federal Communications Commission, before he won a Fulbright fellowship to Lebanon in 2004. From a client’s perspective, Justin has learned first-hand about LGBT immigration and asylum law, because his partner is Syrian and recently won his own asylum case in the United States.


Victoria Neilson is the Legal Director at Immigration Equality. She runs the organization's pro bono asylum project and provides technical assistance and mentoring on LGBT and HIV immigration issues to attorneys around the country. She is the primary author of The LGBT/HIV Asylum Manual, a comprehensive guide for attorneys. Victoria is member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association and former chair of the New York City Bar Association’s Committee on AIDS. She was a 2009 recipient of the LGBT Law Association of Greater New York (Le-Gal) Community Vision award.

Professor Scott Titshaw has a scholarship at Mercer University Walter F. George School of Law that focuses on immigration, comparative law and issues concerning sexual minorities. He teaches Property, Real Estate Transactions, International Business Transactions and Sexuality and the Law. Professor Titshaw was an adjunct professor at the University of Georgia School of Law and practiced immigration and transactional law with Arnall Golden Gregory LLP in Atlanta. He clerked with U.S. District Court Judge Adrian Duplantier in New Orleans, and served as a legal translator with Germany’s Federal Constitutional Court (Bundesverfassungsgericht) in Karlsruhe, Germany.

Chad Ellsworth is an associate with Fragomen, Del Rey, Bernsen and Loewy, LLP. His practice focuses on the representation of individual and business clients on a wide variety of corporate immigration and related employment matters. Chad has advised human resource personnel, managers, executives and professionals and multinational corporations on immigration matters and prepared their nonimmigrant and immigrant visa petitions and applications. He has experience writing policies for, and training human resource employees, recruiters and managers on immigration laws and procedures including Form I-9, Social Security Administration’s “No-Match” Letter, Employment Standards Administration Wage and Hour Division Labor Condition Application investigations and related immigration workforce enforcement and compliance issues. He is a member of the firm’s Corporate Compliance Group. Chad also handles LGBT asylum cases on a pro bono basis.

The National LGBT Bar Association is a national association of lawyers, judges and other legal professionals, law students, activists, and affiliated LGBT legal organizations. The association promotes justice in and through the legal profession for the LGBT community in all its diversity.
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