Village Voice 05.10.2017 : Page 28

30 May 10 -May 16, 2017 VILLAGE VOICE.com Cirandou and Pierre in their apartment in the Bronx the table. “We just were bawling. We were shaking. I was upset, because here it is, happening to me again. I was worried for my partner, because he’s never expe-rienced anything like that.” An American friend explained to Kevin the process of requesting asylum for the reason of sexual orientation and told him he would likely be eligible. “He said, ‘You like Kevin’s among LGBT refugees still grappling with their sexual identity. “We have clients within our LGBT community who have experienced a lot of harm growing up, and they come here and it’s still a struggle for them,” she says. “They might still be in the closet here because they’re living with family members or people from their own community. Loubna: ‘This is where I want my children to be. Of course they will always know about Syria.’ don’t have to live like that anymore, you know,’ ” Kevin recalls. “ ‘We can apply for asylum, and that will take care of it.’ I was like, ‘What are you talking about? I’ve never heard of asylum for being gay.’ He told me more about it, and I started re-searching it. It was a scary thought: Is that something that I really want to do? Do I want to come out like that?” Kim, of the Immigrant Justice Project, explains that she often sees uncertainty They’re replicating those systems of op-pression that they were fleeing from, and it sometimes takes them longer to be able to be in a place where they feel safe and able to navigate what can be a really diffi-cult asylum process.” In Kevin’s case, despite discourage-ment from family members who worried what people back home would think if it got out that he had admitted in legal doc-uments to being gay, the decision to apply for asylum, when it came, was a huge re-lief. “When I looked at how I’ve lived all my life, having this secret, having to live in fear, it just came down to ‘I’m going to take a chance,’ ” he says. Kevin was granted asylum in Septem-ber of 2015. He now lives in Brooklyn and works at the Anti-Violence Project, an advocacy program run by the Gay Men’s Health Crisis. In a number of ways, Kev-in’s is an asylum success story: He is now safe, he no longer has to live with a secret, and he is finding a niche in New York, working with the same organization that helped get him on his feet when he first arrived. At his bright, bustling office in the financial district, Kevin seems relaxed. “When I come here, I know I’m going to work as me, and I don’t have to worry,” Kevin says, his eyes bright with tears, which are quickly smiled away. “That’s all we want: to just breathe, to live with-out having to think about it.” But even in these promising circum-stances, there is a major absence. Kevin’s partner, still in the Caribbean, is in the process of applying for asylum. Kevin wor-ries for his safety, and the current political atmosphere is compounding his nerves. “This administration is certainly look-ing to make asylum harder to get,” Kim says, pointing out that the new adminis-tration has further impeded an already overburdened, inefficient system. She notes that the administration’s aggres-sive rhetoric on the dangers posed by immigrants is not supported by any statistics or studies. Those statistics — or the absence thereof — may be small comfort for those already building a life in New York. Loubna awaits the results of a vetting process that’s likely to take at least eigh-teen months, with approval far from cer-tain. For someone who has been rootless and vulnerable for years, it is a painful feeling: to have escaped indescribable suffering and made a life, and yet to know it could be stolen from her at any time. “When you flee a war and you come here with this huge package of shit in your brain and in your heart, it’s nice to find a place where you can settle down,” Loubna says. “This is where I want my children to be. Of course, they will always know about Syria, and at some point, hopefully, if the war stops, I will take them back. But I do want them to be raised in a place where they can grow. And I have grown so much since I came here. “That is why I feel like, if my asylum application gets rejected, I will be heart-broken.”

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