A federal appeals court has blocked the deportation of a Ugandan woman who was seeking asylum because she was persecuted in her homeland for being a lesbian, sending her case back to the Board of Immigration Appeals for further proceedings.
A three-judge panel of the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals said the BIA misapplied the law and overstepped its authority in the case of Olivia Nabulwala, who sought asylum after the U.S. government tried to deport her for overstaying her visitor's visa.
According to Nabulwala, while she was in Uganda her father became very angry and an aunt physically abused her when she came out to her family while she was in high school. She said she needed hospitalization overnight after a mob attacked a meeting of a lesbian rights group she belonged to while she was attending university in Uganda, and on another occasion two relatives arranged for her to be raped by a stranger. She came to the U.S. in 2001.
Courts have established that homosexuals can qualify for asylum because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution, the 8th Circuit panel noted.
But the immigration judge in Bloomington who handled Nabulwala's case, Joseph Dierkes, denied her application, even though he found her story "generally credible" and said he did not doubt she suffered in Uganda because of her orientation, reports AP.
The 8th Circuit panel said both the immigration judge and the BIA, which upheld the judge's decision, had misapplied the applicable laws and procedures. It also said the BIA had made findings of fact that it lacked the legal authority to make. The panel ordered the BIA to revisit the case.