Jones Day secures deferral of removal for gay Jamaican national
On May 10, 2016, an Immigration Judge granted Jones Day’s client, R.D., deferral of removal under the Convention Against Torture. R.D. is a gay man in his 30’s who was severely beaten and disowned as a child by his mother in Jamaica because he is gay. When he emigrated to the U.S. as a child, he obtained permanent legal resident status, which he held until his conviction. Before R.D. even arrived in the U.S., his father who had arranged for his son to live with him died tragically, so R.D. lived instead with his stepmother and her children. When he was a teenager, however, his Jamaican stepmother discovered that he is gay and sent him away to live with another relative, never to return to live with her or his siblings again. Jamaican culture is openly discriminatory toward LGBT people, and conditions in Jamaica are dangerous and deadly where gay men are concerned. Jamaican police do nothing to prevent or punish beatings, stabbings, or worse, murders, like the savage beating of an openly gay man that our client witnessed when he returned to Kingston for a visit at fourteen years of age.
Eventually, after graduating high school, R.D. made his way to another state and took various jobs. In his 20’s, he got into some trouble with drugs and ended up in prison for distributing, which under immigration law was deemed an aggravated felony. As is often the case with U.S. Immigration Customs and Enforcement, when R.D. was paroled, ICE initiated deportation proceedings and transferred him from the state prison to a detention facility (very much like a prison) in another state. When R.D. was brought before an immigration judge to determine why he should not be deported, since his conviction effectively negated his legal permanent resident status, R.D. did not know that his sexual identity could serve as a basis to defer his removal to Jamaica. An immigration judge ordered him deported, without asking if he feared removal to Jamaica for any reason, and his time for appeal expired.
Enter National Immigrant Justice Center ("NIJC") lawyers and its “know your rights” sessions with detainees. Once NIJC visited his facility and learned of his situation, they reached out to Jones Day to see if we would file a "Motion to Reopen" the proceedings on an expedited basis before the immigration judge to argue why the client’s deportation to Jamaica should be deferred. Our lawyers then took over, filed and won the motion to reopen and effectively got the client a new trial.
Ten weeks after beginning our representation, and after full-day visits to and many phone calls with the client in the detention facility out of state, finding and preparing witnesses for hearing, and many submissions to the immigration court later, Jones Day lawyers were set for trial. On May 3, 2016, after securing two family members from NY to come to testify on the client’s behalf, our junior associate conducted a crisp and incisive direct examination of the client (who unfortunately as a detainee had to appear by video conference and could not sit in the courtroom with his examining lawyer). Despite this disability, through our new lawyer’s fine examination, R.D. told his story in his very credible way, as did his sibling and uncle.
The government attorney cross-examined our client and the other witnesses, but stipulated to our well-credentialed expert on Jamaican country conditions, and at trial agreed that the expert’s opinions set forth in the affidavit our lawyers had earlier submitted on Jamaican country conditions would not be disputed. The judge then stated that she found no issue with credibility, and that our client was entitled to relief under the Convention Against Torture. She entered an order deferring removal to Jamaica and stated that he should be released immediately. Jones Day and NIJC are still working to obtain his release from ICE custody, which should be effected shortly.