A Manatt team including Michelle Ceralvo, Barry Lee, Sirena Castillo and Alexandra McCown successfully represented a Nigerian asylum seeker—referred to as RL—who fled his home country following physical violence and abuse, harassment, and threats of imprisonment made against him for his sexual orientation before the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
In its brief to USCIS, the Manatt team detailed RL’s experiences from childhood to adulthood of repeated incidents of violence and persecution from his own family, community and even the police due to his sexual orientation, resulting in physical and emotional trauma that he is still experiencing today. Same-sex relationships are criminalized in Nigeria under the Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Act, which broadly convicts anyone from supporting or entering into a same-sex relationship to up to 14 years of imprisonment. After a family member caught RL with his boyfriend and threatened to send him to law enforcement, RL was forced to flee Nigeria for fear of his safety.
In support of RL’s asylum application, the Manatt team secured a medical forensic evaluation for RL, which was conducted by a UCSF physician through UCSF’s Human Rights Clinic. The doctor’s evaluation found that the “physical, verbal and sexual ill treatment that took place in Nigeria based on his sexual orientation as a gay man – by nearly every social institution in his life – his family, Muslim religion, college and police – from childhood to the present. . . . revealed significant physical and mental impact that persists today.”
RL waited over six years for an interview, which was scheduled after the Manatt team filed a request to expedite his interview. RL was granted asylum to remain in the U.S. to continue his work in the technology field and finally begin a new chapter of his life. The case was referred to Manatt by long time pro bono partner Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area in 2016.