LGBT migrants face more hardship after their journey
While the Trump administration has been under heavy fire because of their treatment of migrants– especially children– entering the US, LGBT migrants have been undergoing this hardship even more.
Ironically, the migrants– both in the US and the world– face more trauma at the end of journey as they wait in limbo for their migrant status to be sorted out.
This is because while migrants can request asylum in the US or in Europe on the basis of persecution due to their LGBT identity, chances of success is uncertain.
LGBT migrants face double-edged danger
In a recent New York Times article, this plight was highlighted by the story of 22-year old Jade Quintanilla, a transgender refugee from El Salvador who managed to survive her flight to Mexico.
Quintanilla had been waiting for five months at the border town of Tijuana hesitant to cross into the US to request for asylum because she had heard of the many stories undergone by transgender migrants.
Prior to this period, she had faced violence and humiliation with many of her friends in San Salvador. Throughout her journey, she faced sexual and physical assault, harassment, and hardship.
On the other hand, she said: “What if they ask, ‘Why would we accept a person like you in our country?’ I think about that a lot. It would be like putting a bullet to my head, if I arrive and they say no.”
Victor Clark-Alfaro, an immigration expert, told NYT that in Central American and Mexico, “almost everyone is Catholic, and so the machismo and religious sensibilities provoke attacks against people who break gender norms.”
“The ones who can’t hide their sexuality and gender, there’s a huge aggression toward them. And of them, trans women are the ones who are most heavily targeted,” said Clark-Alfaro.
And then there are the transgender migrants facing abuse and neglect in US custody, with trans women describing humiliation by guards and sexual assault by other detainees
LGBT migrants face uncertainty under Trump
Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like that things will improve on the other side of the border. For example, “A” is a lesbian asylum seeker who fled from Jamaica in 2015 to the US due to homophobia in her country.
Filing for asylum in the US in 2016, she is one of hundreds of LGBT asylum seekers in the US stuck in a large backlog of applications under the Trump administration.
The Daily Beast reported that last January 29, the Asylum Division of the US Citizenship and Immigration Services gave priority to “the most recently filed affirmative asylum application” rather than processing them in order that they were received.
Virginia Goggin, director of legal services for the New York City Anti-Violence Project, told The Daily Beast that: “The people who have been waiting for two or three years for their scheduled interview are now even further back in the backlog, waiting to get an interview to see if they’ll be granted asylum.”
Immigration Equality executive director Aaron C. Morris described this status as a “never-ending limbo.”
“No one’s trying to deport you but you can’t really establish roots, you can’t get the education you need, and you can’t get the health care you need. It’s a real barrier to having a livable life,” Morris told The Daily Beast.
The plight of LGBT migrants worldwide
As detailed in an article in the 2018 World Economic Forum Annual Meeting, “In 72 countries, same-sex relationships are currently criminalized. In eight, they are punishable by death.”
“But in many others, social norms, traditions and customs make life for LGBT people equally impossible, even if the law is not officially against them,” the article noted.
It also pointed out a problem faced by LGBT migrants in Europe: finding evidence as LGBT asylum seekers are expected to provide witness statements to corroborate their sexual orientation or gender identity.
“To obtain such evidence is no easy task. It might endanger family members, previous partners, and asylum seekers themselves, especially if detained in an immigration centre with what refugees describe as ‘no privacy at all’,” it said.