When the ruling was passed in December, two men from northwest India who had spent more than six months in an Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention center in El Paso, Texas, waiting for a judge to decide on their petition for asylum found their case on the fast tract, reports buzzfeed.com.
It was a culmination of a yearlong journey across more than 10 countries to reach the United States.
They had left India after death threats from their family and being targeted for police abuse because of their sexual orientation, though at the time the law criminalizing same-sex relationships was suspended by a lower court ruling.
But on reaching the country that they expected to protect their rights, they wound up in a facility that felt exactly like prison.
The U.S. released them from detention only when they formally became criminals at home.
A U.S. judge granted the pair asylum on December 20 based on their experience of police abuse and threats from their families to kill them if they returned.
They were worried that speaking to buzzfeed.com could lead the U.S. government to retaliate by arresting or deporting them, though their lawyers have assured them this isn’t possible. However, they spoke on conditions of anonymity.
The couple is from a small city about a four-hour drive to the northwest of Delhi. One now 28, is the son of a construction contractor and his partner, now 25, is trained as a dancer.
They fled from their home to Chandigarh city where they lived and told neighbors they were brothers, but their affection for each other was too obvious that their neighbors saw through their cover after a couple of months.
When they were discovered, one said, they were “beaten many times,” so “we are trying to change address many times in Chandigarh; first, two, three months in this address, then after three months other address.”
They also recounted how once a mob turned on them and held them until police came, who took them to a remote part of town where they “did sexual abuse.” When it was over, an officer put a gun to their heads and threatened to execute them if they told anyone what happened.
“We thought we have only just one chance: only suicide,” but a best friend gave them another idea. “He told us to go to the United States … because the United States has very good protection for homosexuals,” he said.
The friend, a businessman, even offered to help pay for their escape. He didn’t have enough money to get them directly to the United States, but he could get them away from the reach of Indian police and their families.
So they first went to Cyprus and bought a ticket to Ecuador (via connections in Dubai, Brazil, and Colombia) to reach Mexico.
As they walked across the bridge towards the U.S. on June 8, 2013, a year after they had left India, they thought their ordeal was over.
But when they told border agents they were seeking asylum because of their relationship, they said they were publicly mocked and outed to other detainees.
“You are homosexuals — who’s the husband and who’s the wife?” the U.S. border guards teased. They were then separated and taken to a detention center.
The couple’s case came before an immigration judge on December 20, nine days after the Indian Supreme Court upheld the country’s sodomy law and the U.S. judge ruled in their favor.