SAN FRANCISCO -- A gay Filipino immigrant who had been ordered deported won a reprieve from a federal appeals court Wednesday on the grounds he would be persecuted for his sexual orientation if sent back to the Philippines.
Dennis Vitug, 37, who has been working in Los Angeles County, has struggled for years with an addiction to methamphetamine, the U.S. 9thCircuit Court of Appeals said. An immigration appeals panel eventually ordered him removed from the country as a result of convictions for drug possession.
While in the Philippines, Vitug was beaten and robbed five times because he was perceived to be effeminate, harassed and threatened by police and denied work because of his sexual orientation, the 9thCircuit said.
“No reasonable fact finder could conclude that the harm Vitug suffered did not rise to the level of persecution,” wrote Judge Harry Pregerson, appointed by former President Carter and joined in the ruling by Judges William A. Fletcher, a Clinton appointee, and Jacqueline H. Nguyen, an Obama appointee.
Vitug moved to the United States in 1999 and overstayed his tourist visa, the court said. He worked as an assistant designer for a Sherman Oaks hotel and as a shipping clerk and studied fashion design.
The court said Vitug sought counseling for his drug addiction but relapsed after being diagnosed with HIV in 2005.
In overturning an immigration judge’s decision to bar Vitug’s deportation, a federal immigration appeals board failed to show “there is any less violence against gay men or that police have become more responsive to reports of antigay hate crimes” in the Philippines since Vitug relocated, the panel concluded.