Photo of Tsion Gurmu

Tsion Gurmu

  • Hosted by African Services Committee
  • Sponsored by Equal Justice Works Text-to-Give
  • Service location New York, New York
  • Law school New York University School of Law
  • Issue area Immigrant Populations
  • Fellowship class year 2015
  • Program Design Your Own Fellowship

The Project

Tsion provided comprehensive legal representation for LGBT African immigrants fleeing anti-homosexuality legislation in their home countries, with a focus on individuals also affected by HIV/AIDS.

LGBT Africans are fleeing their homes due to the expansion of anti-homosexuality laws, which have fueled explosions of violence and rhetoric touting homophobia as cultural resistance to neocolonialism. Currently, 38 African countries have enacted laws criminalizing homosexuality. The number of asylum-seeking LGBT Africans is escalating due to these laws. African LGBT immigrants are particularly vulnerable because language and cultural barriers make it difficult to access service providers or disclose intimate aspects of their identity, particularly before the asylum filing deadline. They are also left outside of the African immigrant communities’ interpersonal and “mutual aid” networks. African LGBT immigrants are thus closed off to legal remedies due to the residual effects of the persecution that make them eligible for asylum. This project aimed to create a systematic response to meet the legal needs of LGBT Africans resettling in the US through a novel partnership with an African attorney and the largest African-focused service provider in the US.

Fellowship Highlights

  • Represented LGBT African and Caribbean immigrants in affirmative and defensive asylum proceedings
  • Established relationships with African-focused service providers and associations, and provided immigration trainings that specifically included sexual orientation-based asylum
  • Developed a support and advocacy group, which provides clients with a unique opportunity to share experiences and support fellow members of the LGBT African Diaspora community in a safe and confidential space.


Persecuted and marginalized: Black LGBTQ immigrants face unique challenges

Tsion Gurmu ’15, OUTLaw Alumna of the Year, channels her own harrowing immigration experience into her advocacy work

Forbes 30 Under 30 2018: Law & Policy

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