August 12, 2013


By Arturo P. Garcia

Los Angeles—“ This is a landmark case that involved, for the first time, a Filipino Gay that can be used as precedent for gay immigrants to gain reprieve from deportation on the grounds that they would be persecuted for their sexual orientation if sent back to their home country”

This was the statement of Atty. Brad W.Selling , a partner at Manatt, Phelps and Phillips,LLP that handled the case of Dennis Vitug when he was interviewed by TRIBUNE –USA at their office at 11355 W. Olympic Blvd, Los Angeles yesterday, August 12, 2013.

The landmark Vitug Case is about a Filipino gay man who is also an HIV AIDS victim whose case was unanimously overturned by US 9th Court of Appeals of Northern California last July 24, 2013.

The three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously overturned a decision by the Board of Immigration Appeals to deport Dennis Vitug, 37, a Southern Californian who was ordered removed after being sentenced to prison for drug possession.

The 9th Court of Appeals Decision

According to the CA Decision, “No reasonable fact finder could conclude that the harm Vitug suffered did not rise to the level of persecution,” wrote Judge Harry Pregerson, who was appointed by formerPresident Jimmy Carter . He was joined in the ruling by Judges William A. Fletcher, a Bill 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.
In 2001, he became addicted to crystal methamphetamine Although he obtained drug counseling, he repeatedly relapsed and was arrested several times. After being diagnosed with HIV in 2005, Vitug relapsed again and was sentenced to a year in state prison, the court said.

According to Selling, “ The Department of Homeland Security tried to deport him, but an immigration judge said Vitug would probably be persecuted and tortured if returned to the Philippines.
The department appealed that decision to the immigration board, which said Vitug had failed to prove that he would be in danger if returned to the Philippines or that the government there would be unwilling to protect him.”

Vitug’s 5 ½ years Case

Selling narrated to the TRIBUNE-USA . “ This led to the law firm to appeal the case to the 9th circuit. It took another two years for the Appeals Court to decide on the case.”
He also commended Vitug for ably representing and depending himself in the immigration court. Adding, “ Although it took him and us more than five years, in the end what is important is he is now free.”

The TRIBUNE-USA also learned that the 9th Circuit agreed that Vitug had not proved he would face torture, but said he had presented sufficient evidence to show he would suffer discrimination if returned to his homeland.

The panel said there was established law that bars deportation of gay immigrants on the grounds that they would be persecuted for their sexual orientation. The 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.

Selling, Vitug’s lawyer, said his client “ has been out of detention for the immigration jail since 2008 and may stay in the United States and work but still needs to find “a basis” for changing his immigration status. ”


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>