No Pride without Asylum

Monday, June 28, 2021

Today, the #WelcomeWithDignity campaign called on the White House to honor Pride month and repeal all barriers to life-saving protections for LGBTQI+ people seeking asylum. LGBTQI+ led organizations, refugees, asylees, and their advocates responded:

“I am alive today and able to advocate for the rights of LGBTQI+ people seeking protection because of our nation’s asylum system,” said Bilal Askaryar, communications coordinator for the #WelcomeWithDignity Campaign. “Had my family been turned away when we sought asylum decades ago, I would most likely be dead as a gay man in Afghanistan. Today, our nation isn’t living up to our ideals and turning vulnerable trans, queer, and other refugees back to danger by upholding barriers to asylum such as Title 42 for political purposes. It is time for the Biden administration to remove the barriers to asylum trans, queer, and other people seeking asylum face and give everyone due process during their asylum proceedings regardless of who they love, or who they are–that is, after all, what asylum is about.”  

“LGBTQ+ people seeking asylum encounter tremendous hardships on their journey to the U.S. border, where they are at heightened risk of violence, exploitation, and discriminatory treatment,” said Kate Jastram, Policy & Advocacy Director at the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies (CGRS). “The United States should be a safe haven for LGBTQ+ refugees, but our policies continue to punish them for seeking protection. The Biden administration’s shameful use of Title 42 exposes asylum seekers to grave dangers in northern Mexico, where LGBTQ+ migrants have been kidnapped and assaulted. This Pride Month we urge the administration to end the inhumanity of Title 42 and treat all refugees with dignity and fairness.”

“On June 1st, President Biden issued a statement committing to defend the rights of all LGBTQ+ individuals. Yet he has upheld Trump administration policies that block LGBTQ people fleeing violence in other countries from accessing life-saving protections in the US. As a queer, non-binary person, I can’t imagine fleeing the kinds of violence I have seen only to find that the US asylum system was closed to me. It is time to end this hypocrisy and, at a minimum, overturn title 42 and allow people who reach US borders to apply for asylum.” said Kathryn Johnson, Development and Advocacy Partner with Comunidad Maya Pixan Ixim

“One of the most satisfying parts of Immigration Equality’s work is marching at Pride and celebrating alongside our clients. Given the oppression against LGBTQ people in their countries of origin, Pride is often the first time they have safely gathered in a queer space. They see the United States as a place to regain safety and dignity,” said Bridget Crawford, Legal Director at Immigration Equality. “Expelling LGBTQ asylum seekers under Title 42 and returning them to grave danger before being afforded an opportunity to pursue protection is shameful. The government cannot truly embrace Pride until it stops the illegal and inhuman policy of expelling LGBTQ refugees back to harm.”

“Navigating asylum processes can be difficult for anyone, but for LGBTQ+ asylum seekers there exist additional unique barriers. We know that LGBTQ+ people, especially transgender women, can face high risks of discrimination not only in their home countries but also in detention centers here in the United States. Stories like one of Roxsana Hernández, a transgender woman from Honduras who died while in detention, remind us that we need to put an end to barriers like Title 42, and instead welcome people seeking asylum with open arms” said Basma Alawee campaign manager for We Are All America. “As asylum and refugee leaders, we must ensure that we are standing in solidarity with everyone in our community and that we work to end the obstacles in place for all asylum seekers.”

“We cannot as a nation celebrate PRIDE month while U.S. immigration policy barriers like Title 42 deny LGBTQIA+ migrants their right to asylum. We cannot celebrate LGBTQIA+ rights in the U.S. when ICE and CBP turn a blind eye to discriminatory treatment transgender immigrants face from officials and other detainees. The Biden administration must end endangering the lives of LGBTQ asylum seekers by ending Title 42 and re-imagining how we welcome asylum-seeking LGBTQ migrants with dignity within all phases of the immigration system,” said Joyce Noche, Legal Services Director,  Immigrant Defenders Law Center.

“LGBTQIA+ asylum seekers and refugees face additional dangers on the road to safety,” said Meredith Owen, Director of Policy and Advocacy for Church World Service. “Forced from their homes, and many times ostracized from their fellow migrants, they face violence and persecution at every turn. A compassionate immigration system, one that removes barriers instead of erecting them, is often the last chance for this particularly vulnerable group to build lives free from fear. In the month of Pride, I can think of no better commitment the Biden administration can make than to end the harmful and unnecessary “Title 42” expulsions at our borders. Until this discriminatory and unlawful policy is removed, LGBTQIA+ people will be forced to remain in danger.”

“The Biden Administration’s welcome focus on protecting the rights of the LGBTQI+ community globally should also mean that LGBTQI+ people fleeing targeted violence in their home countries have access to asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border” stated Daniella Burgi-Palomino, Co-director of the Latin America Working Group (LAWG). “We urge President Biden to remove all barriers to asylum, including ending the Title 42 border order. Only then will the United States really be a refuge for so many people fleeing persecution with nowhere else to turn.  And the U.S. government should also protect the rights of LGBTQI+ persons, including addressing police abuses, discrimination, and the lack of investigation of attacks against them, as a crucial part of its strategy to address root causes of migration from Central America.”

“LGBTQIA+ refugees and asylum seekers face unique vulnerabilities, with fewer paths to safety, and often relying upon protection systems and services that are not designed to protect them,” said Nili Sarit Yossinger, Executive Director for Refugee Congress. “We appreciate the Biden administration’s stated commitment to combat transphobia and intolerance, hold foreign governments accountable for these practices, and to protect vulnerable LGBTQIA+ refugees and asylum seekers. The first step towards fulfilling this is ending the injurious and unnecessary Title 42, and we strongly urge the administration to do so immediately. It is time for the US to build our communities as spaces of welcome.”

“As Americans across the country celebrate PRIDE month, we must also confront the ongoing U.S. immigration policies that put LGBT refugees and migrants at risk,” said Eleanor Acer, Senior Director of Refugee Protection at Human Rights First. “The Biden administration continues to use Title 42 to expel refugees fleeing persecution due to their sexuality and gender identity to danger in Mexico or back to the countries they fled, where they face attacks, discrimination, and escalating violence. If not turned away, they often face additional risks of harm in U.S. immigration detention. The Biden administration’s welcome commitment to protecting LGBT rights must be reflected in its immigration practices. This PRIDE month, we urge the Biden administration to end Title 42 for all refugees, restart asylum, and welcome, with dignity, people seeking safety into the U.S.”

“All too often, people seeking asylum in the US are unjustly denied their rights and sent back to the very places they have fled,” said Noah Gottschalk, Global Policy Lead for Oxfam America. “LGBTQIA+ people are disproportionately affected, putting them in danger of greater violence and even death. While we must address the root causes of gender-based violence and persecution throughout the world, the people facing this danger have the right to seek asylum and find safety elsewhere. Nobody should have to live in fear just because of who they are and who they love.”