From silence to safety

Published: April 16, 2013

If Khalil is forced to return to his native Jordan, he says he’ll have a choice: go back into the closet, or risk imprisonment or death because of his sexual orientation.

Fortunately, Khalil recently won a reprieve from an immigration judge in Dallas, who denied his application for asylum but granted him a waiver of removal from the U.S.

Khalil is one of 44,170 people who applied for asylum last year — and one of 63 from Jordan. The U.S. Department of Justice doesn’t track how many are LGBT. However, Khalil’s case exposes a major problem for gay and lesbian asylum seekers: They must apply within one year of arriving in the U.S., but for many, it takes much longer before they come out.

“I appreciate the freedom of speech,” Khalil said outside the Earle Cabell Federal Building in downtown Dallas. “People take it for granted. I left family, friends, career, education for my freedom of speech and to be who I am.”

While Judge Richard R. Ozmun’s order allows Khalil to stay, it does not allow him to seek a green card, which he could get if it weren’t for the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

He can apply for a work permit, return to school, get a driver’s license and remain with his partner, Alex. But he won’t see his parents or have a path to citizenship.

Khalil’s last name is being withheld to protect his identity because he fears possible reprisals.

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