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Filipino Man Spared Deportation as He’s Gay
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On Wednesday, a unanimous three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a decision by the Board of Immigration Appeals to deport Dennis Vitug. A citizen of the Philippines, Vitug’s deportation was ordered when the resident of southern California was sentenced for drug possession. However, the federal appeals court found Vitug might be persecuted back in Philippines for being gay, and stopped his deportation.

Evidence presented at court showed that Vitug had been beaten and robbed five times while in Philippines, harassed and threatened by law enforcement and denied work due to his sexual orientation and because he was perceived as effeminate.

  
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Writing on behalf of the court, Judge Harry Pregerson observed, “No reasonable fact finder could conclude that the harm Vitug suffered did not rise to the level of persecution.”

Vitug, who had moved to the United States in 1999 had overstayed his tourist visa and continued to work in different occupations including work as a designer for a Sharman Oaks hotel and as a shipping clerk. He also studied fashion design.

He became addicted to meth in 2001, obtained drug counseling, but his habits kept relapsing leading to repeated arrests. He was diagnosed with HIV in 2005, and shortly after relapsed into meth abuse, following which he was sentenced to one year in state prison.

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The Department of Homeland Security wanted to deport him, but was stopped by an immigration judge who held that Vitug may face persecution and torture if he returned to Philippines. The department appealed the decision to the immigration board, and the board opined that Vitug hadn’t been able to establish a probability of torture or that the Philippines government wouldn’t protect him.

On Wednesday, the 9th Circuit agreed with the board’s findings that Vitug had failed to prove that he would face torture, but that he had presented sufficient evidence to show that he would suffer discrimination. The panel observed that there were established precedents that prevented gay immigrants from being deported if there was a probability of persecution based on sexual-orientation.





 

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