Asylum seekers in California who cross the border with a partner in hopes of avoiding persecution for being gay may face separation once they arrive in the United States. The problem is that only married couples are guaranteed to be kept together during processing and while waiting for a case to be heard. However, many gay couples arrive from countries where same-sex marriage is illegal.

This was the case for two men who came to the United States from Honduras. They often faced harassment on the street for being gay as well as getting threatening messages on Facebook from strangers. The men finally decided to seek asylum and traveled by bus to the Mexican border, unaware that they would be separated on arrival. One man was sent to Colorado and the other to Louisiana. They faced the possibility of never seeing one another again. Colorado’s rate of approving asylum applications is 22%, but in Louisiana, it’s under 10%.

The man in Colorado was released to live with a retired teacher who had volunteered to house asylum seekers. However, the man in Louisiana waited several more weeks before he was granted asylum and the two men could be reunited. Other LGBT asylum seekers have similar stories and report mistreatment while being detained.

The process of seeking asylum is complex. People generally must demonstrate that they are facing persecution on certain grounds, such as race or membership in a certain group. They have to convince a judge that they’ll be in danger if they are returned to their home country. Immigration law is complex and changes rapidly, so people who are seeking asylum or want to immigrate under another law may want to consult an attorney. Some immigrants may eligible to live in the U.S. due to family relationships or an employment offer.