Stories of Pride

In honor of Pride Month we are sharing the journeys of some of our LGBTQ+ clients who have fled persecution and violence for the relative safety of the United States. Their journeys to safety would not be possible without our lifesaving asylum system. 

Read their stories below. 

Andrey from Russia

As a young gay man in Russia, Andrey tried to hide his sexual orientation to avoid harm. Still, he was repeatedly attacked and threatened by homophobic strangers, and the police refused to help him. Andrey fled to the US where he has been able to marry a man and become a green card holder. 

 “Human Rights First became my guiding light on my journey to becoming a permanent resident. With their legal expertise and compassionate assistance, I found hope, strength, and the courage to navigate the complex immigration process. Thanks to Human Rights First, I am now not only a resident but also a proud member of a community that celebrates diversity and equality.”

 David from Venezuela

As an active member of an opposition party and a gay man, David was subjected to slurs, threats, and physical attacks by government agents in Venezuela. He fled to save his life in 2016 and had to start from scratch in the US. Thanks to the help and work of his pro bono attorneys from Latham & Watkins, David was granted asylum and filed his green card application. Today, David is a Fordham Law School graduate, and he is happy and safe in NYC!

 “Now that I’m here, I’m able to be who I am without fearing of losing my life or being harmed.” 

 Juan from Columbia

Juan was a well-known LGBTQ activist and advocate for land rights for people displaced by a paramilitary group in Columbia. He received death threats from the paramilitary group on account of his political activism and his sexual orientation. Juan identifies as gay and lived with his partner, also an activist, at the time. The same paramilitary group murdered other activists with impunity. Fearing for his life, Juan fled to the U.S. in 2014. He sought asylum with the help of a pro bono team from Sheppard Mullin but due to endless adjudication delays, was granted asylee status just last year. 

 “With a heavy heart I left my country, but I have found happiness and peace in the U.S. Nowadays, I have the freedom to be myself without the fear of being murdered.”

C from El Salvador

C, a Salvadoran transgender woman, was only 17 when she fled to the US in 1996. In El Salvador, she had been perceived as a gay man and attacked by family members, community members, and gangs. It took C a long time to get gender-affirming care as well as help with her immigration status. It was only in 2018, after C had started hormone therapy, that Human Rights First helped her file for asylum. Today, C is a happy green card holder.

 Saul from Columbia

In Colombia, Saul was a renowned hair stylist and LGBTQ+ activist who served as the president of a non-profit organization that advocates for LGBTQ+ people and people living with HIV. Saul’s public leadership role, which included many televised and radio interviews, made him well-known – both as an activist and a gay man. In response to his advocacy work, Saul received death threats from a commander of a paramilitary group and had to flee to save his life. HRF and a pro bono team from Sheppard Mullin helped Saul win asylum, obtain a green card, and finally reunify with his daughter in the U.S. Saul continues his advocacy work here.

Anton from Russia

In his youth in Russia, Anton—a bisexual man—was often assumed to be gay and beaten by homophobic strangers. As an adult, Anton attended many peaceful pro-democracy and anti-Putin protests. At one protest, police brutally attacked and arrested Anton. He was convicted of false charges. When Anton fought for an investigation of the police officers who had attacked him, Russian state agents came to his home to threaten him. Anton and his wife fled to the US in 2014. Here, Anton has continued to be an active critic of the Russian government, including protesting against Russian invasion of Ukraine and providing humanitarian aid to Ukrainians.  He and his wife now have two US citizen daughters. In May 2023, Anton and his wife were finally granted asylum.

“I am so grateful to our pro bono lawyers at Sheppard Mullin and to Human Rights First for their help and support in my successful asylum application and immigration court hearing. Thank you for making a difference in my and my family’s life.”

Y from Algeria

Y is a transgender woman who survived horrendous amount of verbal, physical and sexual abuse in Algeria. Transphobic community members repeatedly assaulted her. Instead of protecting her, the police targeted and arbitrarily arrested her and other transgender people. Y fled to the US in 2016 and ended up in a detention center for men. HRF helped her to secure asylum and eventually a lawful permanent resident status.

Denis from Russia

Denis is a non-binary person from Russia. They were repeatedly targeted by people who assumed they were gay. On one occasion, Denis was beaten at a park, and when the police arrived, they detained Denis whom they called a “monster” instead of the attackers. Denis fled soon after. Once in the US, Denis became involved in LGBTQ advocacy work here and found many ways to live an expressive life. HRF helped Denis obtain asylum and, more recently, a green card.

 “Thank you Human Rights First for your tremendous support and guidance during my asylum process. You found the perfect words to bedazzle my spirits!”


Published on June 5, 2024


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