A Manatt team successfully secured asylum for an LGBTQIA+ man from Burkina Faso after an eight-year process before the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The asylum seeker—referred to as MZ—concealed his sexual orientation until he came to the U.S. on a student visa, at which point he applied for asylum in order to remain in the country and live openly and safely as an LGBTQIA+ man.
Although Burkina Faso law does not expressly criminalize LGBTQIA+ status or conduct, queer Burkinabes are commonly subjected to violence as well as discrimination in housing, employment and health care access. In Manatt’s brief to the USCIS, the team described MZ’s personal experiences with anti-LGBTQIA+ animus—including witnessing an act of mob violence—and compiled reports documenting the plight of LGBTQIA+ people in Burkina Faso.
After applying for asylum, MZ waited more than seven years for the USCIS to schedule his asylum interview. Eight months following that interview, MZ was granted asylum and can now remain in the U.S., living without fear of persecution because of his sexual orientation. Since arriving, MZ completed his undergraduate degree and started a family of his own. He now works in social services.
MZ’s case was referred to Manatt by long time pro bono partner Immigration Equality in 2015. The Manatt team representing MZ included Julian Polaris and Alexandra McCown.