Natasha’s Asylum Story: Finding Refuge and New Beginnings
By Rosa Mitsumasu Scotti, Development Manager
Natasha* is a Russian citizen who was recently granted asylum in the U.S. She escaped violence and persecution based on her membership in the LGBTQ community -- she identifies as a lesbian. In Russia, Natasha was physically harmed, threatened, arrested, and separated from her partner.
Shortly after turning 18 years-old, Natasha realized that she was a lesbian, and fell in love with her best friend Tanya*. They started a relationship but kept it secret to protect themselves. Once she was admitted to the University, she was introduced to a group of LGBTQ community members who attempted to organize an LGBTQ parade. However, the police halted the parade by intimidating and threatening anyone who participated.
In the following years, Natasha and her friends had several violent encounters with the local community, including the nationalist student groups, skinheads, university staff, the police, and even her neighbors. She was violently attacked several times, and at one point, her father told her to leave their home because he was embarrassed of her. Natasha moved in with Tanya with her mother’s support.
Another incident included how the police stormed into Natasha’s apartment and destroyed her belongings. They arrested Natasha and took her to the police station where she was detained, interrogated, threatened, assaulted, and raped. Eventually, Natasha arrived to the U.S. with a visa, but then her visa and Russian passport expired. Afraid of returning to Russia and the violent homophobic attacks, Natasha stayed in the U.S. During this time, Natasha also faced serious health problems.
In the Fall of 2017, Natasha was referred to Casa Cornelia Law Center for legal services. With the support of volunteer translator Elena Brandstein, and under the supervision of senior litigation attorney, Arwa Zakir Kakavand, Volunteer Attorney Aaron Ray Giron took Natasha’s case, and applied for asylum on her behalf. The application was successfully granted without appeal. Now Natasha is waiting for a work permit so she can live an independent and safe life in the United States.
Casa Cornelia Law Center is incredibly grateful to everyone who contributed to the success of this case. Our work continues.
* Names have been changed to protect confidentiality.
"Natasha and her friends had several violent encounters with the local community, including the nationalist student groups, skinheads, university staff, the police, and even her neighbors"