A bisexual Russian man was just denied American asylum by an Oregon judge. Despite coming from Russia after being threatened with a knife over his bisexuality, Judge Richard Zanfardino refused his request for safe harbor in the United States. But it’s his reasoning that’s particularly baffling — Judge Richard Zanfardino says that since the man had secret homosexual relationships and was fine, he didn’t have to worry.
The Portland Mercury reported on the bisexual Russian man’s case. The article describes how Dmitri (a pseudonym) came to the United States. After Dmitri’s work supervisor started overworking and abusing employees, Dmitri reported him, but the company ignored his complaints. Then the supervisor went to the police about Dmitri.
Last November, two policemen attempted to get Dmitri to come with them, but he refused. Two days later, a man approached Dmitri with a knife and told him the police knew he was bisexual — and told him he would soon be killed. To avoid being murdered, Dmitri made his way to America (an arduous journey through France, Cuba then Mexico), thinking he’d be safe. But instead he’s spent the last six months in a Tacoma, Washington, prison.
He recently went before Judge Zanfardino, a Portland-based judge, who appeared by teleconference. Though LGBT Russians often have a good chance to be granted U.S. asylum — particularly with the news of anti-gay purges in Chechnya, a Russian republic, at the forefront of many judges’ minds — this judge is known for denying asylum claims, only approving 16% over the last decade.
True to his reputation, Zanfardino refused Dmitri’s claim. But his reasoning is downright idiotic: Even though there was a clear, direct threat on Dmitri’s life, Zanfardino wrote in his decision, “While [Dmitri] claimed homosexuality is illegal in Russia … the law [in Russia] does not criminalize an individual for being homosexual but instead criminalizes speech considered pro-LGBTI.”
Dmitri’s attorney has since filed an appeal. That process will take up to a year, and if the appeal is denied, the attorney will take the case to federal court. While his case works its way through the system, Dmitri will remain in prison in Tacoma, where he’s been learning English.
Has Judge Richard Zanfardino condemned this bisexual Russian man to death? What do you think?
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