What you can do to help LGBT Asylum Seekers – PLEASE SIGN THE CRITICAL PETITION BELOW
By Melanie Nathan, January 6, 2014.
Faith Network Capitol Hill Briefing on Asylum as LGBT Persecution Escalates | LGBT-FAN and the LGBT Congressional Caucus address needs of LGBT asylum seekers
On January 8th, there will be a Faith Network Capitol Hill Briefing on Asylum as LGBT persecution around the world escalates.
With persecution of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people escalating in Russia, Uganda and other countries, the newly established LGBT Faith and Asylum Network (LGBT-FAN) is working with the LGBT Congressional Caucus to provide a briefing on the needs of asylum seekers who flee to the U.S. seeking safety. The briefing is Thursday, January 8, 2014, at 1 p.m. and features experts in the field.
• Mark Takano, US House Representative from the 41stCongressional LGBT Equality Caucus.
• Mark Hetfield is the President & CEO of HIAS (Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society), an international NGO and voluntary resettlement agency that reaches out to LGBT and other immigrants seeking safety. Previously he served with the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.
• Asylum seeker from Africa (name withheld for reasons of confidentiality)
• Royce Murray is director of policy for Heartland Alliance’s National Immigrant Justice Center. She was formerly with the Center for Global Development, the World Bank’s Nordic Trust Fund and Human Rights First.
• Rochelle Fortier Nwadibia*, an international human rights attorney renowned for litigating Mohamed v. Gonzales re: Female Genital Mutilation; she represents refugees and immigrants before US administrative and appellate courts and the Department of Homeland Security. She is also the Legal Director for PCI Justice.
• Representative of the LGBT Asylum Support Task Force, a program of Hadwen Park Congregational Church which provides direct support to LGBT asylum seekers in Worcester, MA.
• Max Niedzwiecki is coordinator of LGBT-FAN. He previously served as Executive Director of the Southeast Asia Resource Action Center, a national refugee community organization, and Integrity USA which focuses on creating welcome in the Episcopal Church.
WHAT: Briefing of staff and advocates on people in the United States who are seeking asylum due to persecution of LGBT people. Policy focus is on the one-year filing deadline for asylum applications, alternatives to immigration detention, and the “bed quota” which mandates that 34,000 detention facility beds be filled nightly.
WHEN: Wednesday, January 8, 2014, at 1 p.m.
WHERE: Rayburn House Office Building 2103
WHY: LGBT people who flee homophobic and transphobic persecution in their home country expect to find safety in the US but often face more hardships when they arrive. They are not allowed to work or access government assistance programs. Many become homeless while their claim is pending. Language barriers, race and ongoing discrimination can leave them in despair.
Co-Sponsors: Center Global, a program of the DC Center for the LGBT Community, Daylight Consulting Group, Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) Human Rights Campaign Foundation, Integrity USA, LGBT Asylum Support Task Force, Metropolitan Community Churches, Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto, ReconcilingWorks: Lutherans for Full Participation, PCI Justice, St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, United Church of Christ Coalition for LGBT Concerns, Unitarian Universalist Association United Nations Office, and Unitarian Universalist Association
*Note: The group, Private Courts International, (known as PCI-Justice) of which I am Executive Director and a co-founder with one of the speakers Rochelle Fortier Nwadibia, Legal Director, is a co-sponsor of this briefing. We will be reporting further during the course of the week.
NOTE the Imperative Message that will be delivered and sign your support please:
Petition: Honor the Human Rights of LGBT Asylum Seekers in the U.S.
Members of Congress
President Barack Obama
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
U.S. Department of Justice
Honor the Human Rights of LGBT Asylum Seekers in the U.S.
LGBT people who flee attacks, torture, and murder in their home countries expect to find safety in the U.S. but often face more hardships when they arrive. Unlike refugees, asylum seekers are not allowed to work until they have been granted asylum or until at least 180 days after filing an application, whichever occurs first.
They are also not able to access most programs that are supported by government funds. Many become homeless while their claims are pending, and others are vulnerable to abuse in immigration detention. Those with out proper documents upon entry, or who attempt to reenter after being turned away, are being criminally prosecuted under U.S. federal law. Language barriers and ongoing discrimination can leave asylum seekers in despair, especially if they are detained or do not receive community support. Specifically, we call on leaders to:
1) Lift the one-year filing deadline on asylum applications, which especially harms LGBT people who are living in the shadows with limited access to information;
2) Remove the “bed quota,” the law requiring that at least 34,000 beds be filled in immigration detention facilities nightly, as it provides inhuman incentives to keep people locked up. LGBT people are particularly vulnerable to harm while detained;
3) Support alternatives to immigration detention, such as the programs that are being established by an increasing number of faith-based and community-based organizations around the U.S.;
4) Remove barriers to asylum seekers resulting from Department of Homeland Security (DHS) referrals to the Department of Justice (DOJ) for criminal prosecution of asylum seekers prior to adjudication of asylum claims and stop criminalizing asylees.
By Melanie Nathan.