U.S. man fights for refugee status in Costa Rica

May 18, 2016
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A 45-year-old U.S. man who has been living in Costa Rica since 2009 has filed for asylum in the country because he says he fears for his life should he be sent back to the United States.

Bill Perry’s case, which is currently under appeal through the Immigration Administration Court, began when he was detained at his apartment in downtown San José on April 6 and put into an immigration detention center in Hatillo, where he remains.

According to the initial, April 29 resolution from Immigration denying a refugee visa for Perry, the man’s request was based on his assertion that he suffered harassment from authorities in his home state of Indiana, including from a state police master trooper.

Perry wrote in a letter from the detention center: “At the prison (sic) I made it clear I wanted to apply for refugee/asylum in Costa Rica due to the fact I have been on the run for my life from police corruption in the United States for over seven years.”

Perry told The Tico Times he was involved in a small-town conflict with police, who he said harassed him over a girl he was dating at the time.

To gain asylum in Costa Rica, one must prove persecution based on race, religion, nationality, gender, membership in a certain social group, or political opinion. The initial ruling from the Immigration Administration denying Perry’s request stated that “it’s not possible to determine a causal link between this situation and any of the stated grounds.”

Perry’s attorney, Germán Solano, said it would be difficult for Perry to obtain asylum in Costa Rica based on any of the above categories. Plus, Perry was in Costa Rica illegally when he applied.

In a phone call Monday from the immigration detention center in Hatillo, Perry said he should qualify for asylum based on political grounds.

“This is political what is happening to me,” he said. “The thing between the judges and police back home is all political.”

Solano said if Perry loses his appeal through the Immigration Administration Court, he could get deported to the U.S.

Jonathan Mora, the director of the Hatillo immigration detention center, said an anonymous complaint led to Perry’s detention in April.

Court documents appear to indicate that authorities were suspicious of the timing of Perry’s asylum request, which came after he was picked up.

“It calls to our attention that the applicant made this request for asylum once he was apprehended for being found in the country illegally,” the initial Immigration Administration ruling read.

Perry said he has been suffering from depression and suicidal thoughts during his stay in the detention center, but claimed that repeated requests for a psychiatric evaluation and for attention for other medical emergencies have gone unanswered.

Detention center director Mora said officials have responded to all of Perry’s medical needs. Mora also noted that the U.S. citizen has lodged a “high number” of medical complaints and that all checkups and tests carried out have indicated that Perry is healthy.

The detention center usually does not hold people for more than 30 days, but Mora said that Perry, who will spend his 42nd day in the center on Wednesday, remains detained because of the asylum appeal.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Embassy said she could not comment on Perry’s specific case due to the U.S. Privacy Act.

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