The gay, HIV-positive asylum seeker, Denis Davydov has returned to San Jose, Calif., after 46 days of detention in Krome Detention Center in Miami. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents detained Davydov for overstaying his entry visa, despite his pending asylum status. His case has now been transferred to California, but his next court date remains unknown.
In Russia, Davydov had no access to HIV medicine for years. Others harassed him for being gay. He said, “I do not even want to think about what would happen to me, if I were sent back there.” In Krome, he again found dehumanizing conditions. “The guards called us by a number and our country of origin, like we were not even human beings. I was just 'Russia XYZ’,” Davydov reported.
Davydov came to the U.S. in September 2014 and applied for asylum in June 2015. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) granted the 30-year-old Russian “pending asylum status.” This status allows him to stay in the U.S. even if his visa would expire, while USCIS evaluates his asylum claim.
People seeking asylum have to stay within the U.S. until their case is resolved. In early March, Davydov travelled to the U.S. Virgin Islands to go backpacking.
When on March 13 he tried to board his flight home to San Jose, Calif., CBP agents detained Davydov in Saint Thomas, USVI. At that time, he had physical documentation of his pending asylum status from the USCIS. The CBP charged Davydov with “overstaying his visa,” but USCIS had granted him permission to stay in the U.S. while his case was pending. People with pending asylum status frequently “overstay” their visa. According to Immigration Equality (IE), the CBP agents had no legal grounds for detention as Davydov’s asylum case was still pending.
It is not clear what caused CBP to detain Davydov. Jackie Yodashkin of IE, reported that, prior to Davydov’s detention, CBP agents had not found his HIV meds. They also did not find gay porn or other gay “indicators.” Yodashkin indicated that Davydov speaks with an accent.
While Davydov could get his HIV meds at Krome, he developed a thrush-like condition. The doctor-on-duty told Davydov that he would have to see a specialist. After waiting six hours to see that specialist, he still received no medical treatment. The thrush-like condition has since cleared up.
Yodashkin said that IE currently represents 56 LGBT Russians seeking asylum in the U.S. Jamaica, Mexico, and Russia produce the largest numbers of asylum seekers in the U.S. Russian requests for asylum increased after 2013 when Russia passed its anti-LGBT propaganda law.
An unknown number of global migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers are LGBT or live with HIV. IE has secured asylum in the U.S. for 950 people as of May 2017. All are either LGBT or live with the HIV infection. IE currently has another 680 clients seeking asylum. These 680 current clients either are LGBT or live with HIV. Conditions in Chechnya only increase the importance of LGBT and HIV refugee rights.
For information about Russian LGBT immigrants, visit the Facebook page of RUSA LGBT.
For more information on Immigration Equality, please visit http://www.immigrationequality.org/
Follow Sean McShee on Twitter @SeanMcShee