By Melanie Nathan, Feb 24, 2023.
February 24, 2023.
Dear President Biden,
My maternal grandmother Rose Shamis was orphaned as a little girl during the Ukrainian Pogroms, 1919, when the United States refused emigration to our Jewish family, sending them to imminent death. My great-grandmother, Feiga was given a ” Sophie’s choice” when a South African philanthropist was able to rescue 2 of her 12 children, my gran Rose and uncle Mannie, who were sent to live their childhood’s so far away, an unknown land, at the Johannesburg Jewish Orphanage. Granny Rose never saw her mommy again. After I immigrated to the United States I founded African Human Rights Coalition. We work with LGBTQ+ Africans who have been brutally persecuted, many fleeing death, by criminalizing laws, all deemed Satanic and abominations to their governments, friends, and even their own families. Thousands are forcibly displaced across Africa with very few pipelines and pathways, especially because so many countries in Africa fail as protection countries due to the same anti-homosexuality laws and societal demonization, giving license to rape, beatings, disappearances, the mob attacks, resulting in trauma, injury, and death.
We as LGBTQI community, here in America are their only family, a crucial path with few solutions. Now comes your BAN, closing down and complicating the very little we have! There is no escaping the fact that your policy serves to BAN! Included in our advocacy and humanitarian work is our country conditions expert witness testimony for African LGBTQI+ asylum seekers, where we elucidate the severity of the anti-LGBTI climate in over 20 African countries. For those arriving at our shores, airports and borders, the task has been all but impossible, fraught with danger and death defying. The BAN shuts down critical pathways. I cannot imagine what the 24 year old Ethiopian lesbian, who escaped weekend after weekend, of so called “corrective rapes,” torture, endured for over two years, at the hands of a an uncle, intended to “turn her straight,”- and after harrowing journey through continents, being turned away at the Mexican/U.S. border because she did not make an appointment, through use of technology, such being impossible given her fourth grade education and language limitations. Such is the real case of a young woman who arrived, alone, after enduring an onerous and death defying 8 month journey through South and Central America to reach the United States, her only hope, where she was detained and ultimately granted asylum. The desperation and few paths for LGBTQI people simply cannot be taken away or further complicated, because people like this young woman will die. There are so many more and we need more solutions, not less paths! This comment is by no means exhaustive of that which could be said about the impact of your BAN!
Your Ban will kill LGBTQI people from Africa.
I have chosen to limit my reflection as many of our colleagues weigh in too, to ensure America does its duty for freedom and the observance of basic human rights, for all fleeing brutality and persecution. Please President Biden, do not BAN our community or anyone seeking their right to asylum, in such cruel fashion or at all. Many are en route as I write this, unaware that their harrowing journey and only path will only result in being turned away, to certain death. Things in Africa are getting worse, not better for gay people, such as in Uganda and Ghana and Nigeria and Tanzania and Cameroon, to name a few.
President Biden, lives are at stake: Please avert the repetition of America’s cruel history that served to destroy people and families such as mine.
Kind regards, Melanie Nathan Executive Director African Human Rights Coalition nathan@africanHRC.org