I have applied for asylum and, given the nature of my persecution claim, I would be much more comfortable discussing my situation with a female asylum officer and interpreter. Would it be possible to make this request to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)? What if my case is referred to Immigration Court? Will I be able to request a female Immigration Judge (IJ)?
The USCIS Asylum Gender Guidelines state that requests for a gender-specific asylum officer (either male or female) should be honored as long as resources of the asylum office permit it. As such, in the vast majority of cases, an affirmative asylum applicant’s request for an asylum officer of a particular gender will be honored by USCIS. You should submit your request well in advance of your interview date – ideally, at the time you make your application. Although you will need to bring your own translator to an asylum interview, USCIS sometimes contracts their own translators to monitor hearings. If you would prefer to have a translator of a certain gender present, you should also make that request as soon as you can.
Unfortunately, there is no corresponding rule for Immigration Court proceedings. This means if your application to USCIS is denied and you are placed into removal proceedings in Immigration Court, the IJ who is assigned to handle your case is “luck of the draw.” You will not be able to change the IJ assigned to your case simply because he or she is of the opposite gender. In addition, you will not be able to request an interpreter of a certain gender for your asylum hearing.