Trump Policies Snag First HIV-Positive Gay Asylum Seeker
by Hank Trout
Denis Davydov, a native of Magnitogorsk, Russia, came to the United States from Moscow in September 2014 on a six-month tourist visa. He has been living and working in San Jose, California, since then, as he completes the process for obtaining political asylum in the U.S. He never suspected when he flew to the U.S. Virgin Islands on March 6, 2017, for a weeklong vacation that he would be detained at the Krome Service Processing Center in Miami, Florida, upon his return on March 13.
Denis has now been detained for more than a month—he spent his thirtieth birthday in the ICE detention center.
Denis’s is no ordinary detention case. Denis is an HIV-positive gay man, a member of rights group RUSA LGBT, who has followed every rule and regulation regarding applications for political asylum. According to RUSA LGBT, “Denis has complied with all USCIS guidelines and filed for an affirmative asylum within a one-year deadline. He was awaiting his asylum interview, had a valid employment authorization and A-number, and had no criminal record.”
His is the first detention of an HIV-positive gay asylum-seeker under the new, draconian Trump Administration policies on immigration. His detention is especially heinous because it threatens his health as an HIV-positive man.
The reasons Denis is seeking political asylum in the U.S. are very clear. Ever since the Russian parliament, the Duma, passed a vehemently anti-LGBT law in 2013, Russia’s LGBT community has faced the threat and the actuality of physical violence from gangs of vigilantes and skinheads—even members of the Duma themselves have appeared at anti-LGBT rallies and engaged in the violence!
According to the Global Forum on MSM & HIV (MSMGF), “Earlier this month [April 2017], the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta reported that over 100 men suspected of being gay have been arbitrarily detained and tortured in the southern Russian republic of Chechnya. Three deaths have been reported, and the Russian LGBT Network and other sources on the ground continue to report about detainees being coerced to reveal the identities of other gay and bisexual men.”
The MSMGF went on to say, “Gay men who are released from detention [are] at risk of so-called ‘honor killings’ by family members, while local authorities deny the existence of gay people and national authorities are indifferent. Journalists who broke the story at Novaya Gazeta have even been threatened by local religious leaders. Despite statements of condemnation from five experts at the United Nations Human Rights Council and several foreign ministries including the United States, Canada, the European Union and others, no action has been taken to end the abuse.”
Obtaining asylum for Russian LGBT seekers should be an easy no-brainer.
In Denis’s case, it is a nightmare.
When his six-month tourist visa expired, Denis—upon the advice of immigration and asylum attorneys—waited two months before applying for asylum. THIS IS STANDARD OPERATING PROCEDURE. Asylum seekers are advised to let their tourist visas expire before applying for asylum. The law requires only that the asylum seeker apply within one year of the expiration of his visa. Although that means the seeker has been in the country “illegally” for that period, that supposed transgression is always forgiven and overlooked as soon as the asylum seeker applies. Denis began the asylum process two months after his visa expired. He has obeyed all the rules and followed all requirements to the letter of the law.
According to Trump’s ICE officials, Denis was detained in Florida due to a visa violation because he applied for political asylum after his visa has expired – which, again, is STANDARD OPERATING PROCEDURE, outlined by ICE itself and in effect for many years, for asylum seekers. Denis’s detention is clearly unlawful and is a direct result of the current administration’s anti-immigrant policies.
This unlawful detention puts Denis’s health at great risk. Nina Long at RUSA LGBT told me that she spoke with Denis a couple weeks ago and that he was indeed getting his HIV medications. However, since then, he has developed a fungal infection (possibly thrush) and has not been able to receive medication for it. This lack of medical treatment is unconscionable!
Moreover, as a gay foreigner housed in a “common area” detention center with no privacy at all, Denis faces taunting and physical danger from other detainees. Ms. Long told me that Denis has already been subjected to homophobic slurs. While admittedly such treatment pales when compared to beatings and “honor killings,” still it is utterly inexcusable and immoral.
For more information on this horrible injustice to this member of the worldwide LGBT community, please contact one or more of the following organizations.
To find out how you can help and for more information, log on to:
Free Denis Davydov Facebook page:
The Global Forum on MSM & HIV
Hank Trout is an Editor At Large at A&U. Follow him on Twitter @HankTroutWriter.