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What’s Next? LGBT Asylum Conference Call

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On 29 November 2016, LGBT-FAN hosted a conference call on the possible implications of a Trump presidency for immigrant and LGBT rights, and other, related issues that could potentially impact our diverse community.

 

The conversation was led by Sharita Gruberg (Center for American Progress), Beni DeDieu Luzau (LGBTI Caucus of the Refugee Congress), Thomas ‘TJ’ Rogers (Freedom House, Detroit and LGBT-FAN), Eric Scharf (Center Global and LGBT-FAN), and Siobhán McGuirk (Georgetown University and LGBT-FAN), with contributions from an array of callers including immigration attorneys, asylum seekers and asylees, and other advocates for LGBT asylum seekers’ rights.

You can listen to the call below. We have also provided a recap and elaboration of the key points that arose during the call. Click on the embedded links to access further information and resources mentioned.

Trump’s Policies and Our Response

Reflections on the “What’s Next? The Election, Asylum & LGBT Rights” call, by Siobhán McGuirk

Sharita opened the call with some “good news”: a recent CAP poll found that a large majority of voters, both Republican and Democrat, support a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants in the United States. A majority of voters also support anti-discrimination laws that would protect LGBTQ people. These finding implies that, despite Trump’s very clear anti-immigrant stance, and his appointees’ anti-LGBTQ rights position, the general public may yet reject efforts to implement discriminatory and anti-immigrant policies.

Trump has however made a number of statements that we must continue to be wary about. He has promised to deport two to three million immigrants with criminal records, even though far fewer people are subject to deportation under current law. Given this stated position, together with Trump’s approach to “law and order”, targeting and criminalization of immigrants, and particularly people of color, is likely to increase. Trump appointee’s enthusiasm for the First Amendment Protection Act, which would allow individuals and businesses to discriminate against LGBTQ individuals, is also cause for concern.
With regards to the asylum system, speakers noted that a lack of funding, trained staff, and resources has caused a significant backlog in asylum claim processing over recent years, creating long waits for interviews. It is still unclear if Trump will make further cuts or, alternatively, increase funding in his efforts to reduce the backlog. Moreover, it is difficult to know which would be the more positive outcome: a boost in resources may speed up processing, but efficiency is not necessarily positive if claims are rushed through, officers are inadequately trained, or pressure is applied to increase rejections.

As outlined by The New York Times, Trump’s policy positions regarding visa applications, “visa overstays”, and Muslim immigrants are also likely to impact potential asylum seekers. All are worth monitoring closely over the coming months and years. This article, published at The Asylumist, covers some other potential changes and extensions to asylum system we could see under Trump. Immigration Equality has also offered its take on the impending administration, while Truth Out have produced an overview complete with tips for people engaged in the immigrant rights movement.

On the LGBT-FAN call, Luzau called for advocates to take urgent action across a broad range of social justice issues. He encouraged people concerned about the Trump Presidency to act in defense of all people, including but not limited to LGBT asylum seekers and refugees, even while ensuring that those voices are heard loud and clear within the movement–especially given the lack of funding and support that our communities often face. Pooling resources, building alliances between organizations, and being ready to help and work with people from diverse backgrounds is more pressing a need than ever. Established NGOs must be ready to listen and put their support behind, rather than presuming to speak for, directly-impacted people.

Over the course of the call, a few key tips for people filing asylum claims emerged:

  • Keep informed. Application forms, fees and processes often change without much warning or publicity. Always using the most recent / accurate forms and instructions available on the official U.S. government website.
  • Find out as much as you can about the process, keep talking to your attorney if you have one, and try to keep up to date with any changes to the system. We recommend following The Asylumist, the National Immigrant Justice Center, which has excellent advice and resources, and the LGBT-FAN Twitter and Facebook feeds.
  • Prepare your case as if the least sympathetic judge will hear it.
  • Triple-check that you are following the correct process, and sending the right documents to the right places, in order to reduce chances of delay.
  • Think two or three steps ahead in the process: After you submit your case, what comes next? If your case is denied, how can you appeal the decision? When can you apply for your EAD? etc.
  • Contact your local elected officials, such as Senators and Congresspeople, or ask a trusted friend to do so on your behalf, if you encounter delays in processing or other barriers to accessing your rights.
  • Know your rights, as workers and as asylum seekers. Everyone inside the U.S. has legal rights and labor protections, including people without documents. Women Step Forward provides a useful overview of these rights (relevant to all genders).
  • Be aware that any criminal charges are now more likely than ever to harm your case, and that we will likely see immigrants specifically targeted for increased policing. Talk to an attorney if you have ever had a negative interaction with law enforcement officials in the United States.
  • Stay positive! The journey through the asylum system is long–maybe even longer than President Trump’s time in the White House.

Advocates, including asylum seekers and asylees, attorneys and NGO workers, researchers, supporters and community group volunteers, can take further actions to support others:

  • Keep informed, using the tips and links shared above.
  • Act local I: if you are not already engaged with an organization supporting LGBTQ asylum seekers, asylees and refugees, reach out to a local group and ask how you can help.
  • Act local II: Donald Trump is only one of thousands of elected officials. You can contact, and lobby many others to protect immigrants and LGBTQ people’s rights, and to improve funding for services that refugees and asylum seekers rely upon. This includes affordable housing, healthcare access, educational support, social services, and so on, as well as funding for resettlement agencies and an increase in trained asylum officers and judges to process claims fairly and in a timely manner. Support local Sanctuary City and Sanctuary Campus movements.
  • Act national. Join forces with people and groups working on overlapping issues, including Black Lives Matter and Detention Watch, for example.

LGBT-FAN will be following up on the issues raised on this call over the coming weeks, months and years. Watch this space for more information. Many thanks to all those who contributed to our call.

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