An immigration judge this week let stand a deportation order for Jose “Ivan” Nuñez Martinez of Chester County who was arrested while applying for a green card in Philadelphia.
Martinez has been detained in York, Pennsylvania, since his January arrest at U.S. Customs and Immigration offices where he was interviewing for a green card with his husband, Paul Frame, an American citizen.
Martinez, who fled his home in Michoacán, Mexico, and at least twice crossed the border into the United States illegally, was deported to Mexico in 2010. And when he was arrested in January, his illegal re-entry led to a removal order that made him ineligible to post bail. He has no other criminal background.
His attorney, Audrey Allen, asked Immigration Judge Kuyomars Golparvar at the York Detention Center to withhold the deportation order on the grounds that Martinez faces danger in Mexico because he is gay.
Nielan Barnes, who has given expert testimony in more than 100 asylum cases involving the Mexican LGBTQ community, agreed with that assessment.
Though Martinez was not technically seeking asylum, Barnes said, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ recent directives to prioritize cases in which immigrants seek protection from a government rather than individuals have had an effect.
“The recent legislative mandate by Sessions is that private actors do not constitute enough persecution to grant asylum,” said Barnes, a sociology professor at California State University, Long Beach.
Mexico continues to be a violent place for queer people,she said, even though it has added laws protecting same-sex couples.
“Mexico is legislatively one of the more progressive Latin American countries,” said Barnes. “It does have laws on the books that protect sexual minorities. But Mexico has had a very difficult time in enforcing and enacting these laws and legislation,” she said. “Research that I and human rights watch groups have done shows there is a growing conservative backlash against recent landmark cases in the Mexican Supreme Court.”
Golparvar, who was appointed by former U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch in 2016, said there wasn’t enough proof that Martinez would suffer in Mexico.
According to independent data that monitored of asylum decisions from 2012 to 2017, immigration judges in York’s detention center have rejected more than 80 percent of asylum claims.
Martinez’s family has not decided whether to appeal the judge’s decision, but did file a petition in federal court in May, claiming Martinez was unlawfully detained. A decision on that is still pending.