Today, TITLE 42 ends as migrants converge on the U.S. Southern Border, waiting for their right to claim asylum. Short of Congress acting to reform our law, we are now saddled with Trump era Biden Asylum Bans, by way of policy, and not a solution but rather an onerous impingement on asylum obligations and rights. Yesterday the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) released a new asylum ban that will deny many forcibly displaced LGBTI LGBTQI+ refugees, seeking safety and protection, access to claim asylum in the United States of America. My comments focus on LGBTQI+ Africans - while all are detrimentally impacted. The new rule follows the end of the Title 42 policy, which was used to summarily expel asylum seekers to Mexico or to their country of persecution without the opportunity to apply for asylum in the United States. Rather than fully restoring these rights, this new policy is effectively a ban that asserts additional hurdles, and seems to follow the Trump era asylum bans that were repeatedly struck down in the courts.
Here are the barriers to asylum impacting LGBTI people from African countries who have undertaken unimaginably horrendous journeys to reach the border, traversing continents, through jungles, defying death: 1. They are expected to first seek asylum in a transit country, which has many prohibitive factors to include language barriers, not understanding the policy and its prerequisites, and when it comes to transit countries, most either discriminate, persecute or criminalize LGBTI people, are notoriously dangerous for LGBTQI+ people, and therefore most do not even try and apply for asylum out of extreme fear;
2. Expected to wait in Mexico – where LGBTQ refugees are routinely brutalized – for an appointment with immigration officials through a ridiculously inaccessible mobile app, where often such refugees do not have access or
3. Expected to access the U.S. through one of limited parole programs that are unavailable to refugees from most countries, and inaccessible to poor people;
4. Expedited removals hurt LGBTQI+ people. Many are traumatized and terrified of authority and the uniforms that they associate with much of the brutalization they have experienced that caused them to flee their countries. These asylum seekers need extra care - to safely flush out their claims and help them assert their credible fear, under the social group LGBTI. Many are afraid to come out which is integral to their claims- and so fast turnaround to expedite removal can be particularly prejudicial to LGBTI Africans.
All this denies the most important aspect of an African LGBTI person's claim - applies regardless of how strong the claim. So by way of one of many examples, the Ethiopian lesbian who African Human Rights Coalition assisted some years back to accomplish asylum in the U.S.: This lesbian who had a 4th grade education, poor English, no Spanish - fled her home country because she was being repeatedly raped by an uncle, weekend after weekend, under the notion that her sexuality could be corrected through this violent act. She had no ability to acquire visa or a pathway and with the help of a well wisher managed an air ticket and entry to a South American country. She made her way through several countries, jungle, a path fraught with much danger, defying death, to reach the U.S. southern border. She declared herself to border patrol upon entry into the U.S., detained, paroled and finally receiving asylum under a case that very strongly warranted asylum. Under the new policy, this refugee would likely have been denied.
This young woman would have been sent back to transit countries where she would have faced the threat of violence or death.
Melanie Nathan, ED of African Human Rights Coalition notes: "Today marks a bitter sweet day for LGBTQI+ refugees from African countries either already having reached the U.S. Southern Border or headed to the border through perilous journeys. The Good news is that Title 42 is lifted, and the bad news is that the new Biden ASYLUM Policy effectively bans a core amount of refugees from seeking asylum.
This is extremely impactful and onerous for LGBTI Africans, among the most marginalized of all.
The Biden administration is turning its back on all LGBTI refugees with this policy. It disregards the enormous lengths undertaken by Africa's criminalized, demonized and persecuted LGBTQI community to reach safety.
The paths for Africa's LGBTQI community, fleeing 'Kill the Gays' Bills and more, are minimal and now may be none. Over 30 African countries criminalize LGBTQI+. If they cross a border to a transit country in Africa and elsewhere, they are further criminalized with few to no durable solutions, yet this could bar their claims.
Biden and his administration do nothing but provide lip service to what is now clearly a feigned concern for LGBTI people in forced displacement. This policy will send these LGBT refugees back into harm. We believe this ban goes contrary to our law and will be fought in the courts while many languish and are sent to their death. This ban is an horrendous denial of our obligations as a nation. It will cause LGBTQI+ refugees who have very strong asylum claims, who would otherwise have been granted asylum, to be sent back to countries where they will suffer serious harms and even be killed. This is inhumane and Biden has turned his back on the global criminalized LGBTQI+ community. We ask where is the Biden's special LGBTQI+ envoy's statement?"