Trump’s fake emergency disregards the real threats to LGBTQ immigrants

By Steve Kilar, April 2019 Issue.

The day after President Trump stood in the White House Rose Garden and rambled on about why he was declaring a national emergency to fund his border wall, the Washington Blade reported a transgender woman the Trump administration deported was killed in El Salvador.

Camila died on Feb. 3 in a San Salvador hospital after being admitted for “multiple injuries,” the Blade said. The cause of the injuries was not known, but the Blade did not hesitate to call her cause of death murder. Another transgender woman, Lolita, was killed in El Salvador “with a machete on February 8,” the news outlet said.

Transgender people “still live in constant danger because El Salvador has not implemented sufficient legal mechanisms to fully protect their human rights,” American University and Heartland Alliance stated in a Feb. 2015 brief submitted to the United Nations. LGBTQ people face similar threats in Honduras and Guatemala, Amnesty International said in a November 2017 report.

Camila came to the U.S. in a migrant caravan last year because she faced threats at home, the Blade said. But the U.S. deported her to her country of origin, where she lived for no more than five months before being killed, the newspaper said.

LGBTQ people suffer when the U.S. walls itself off from its neighbors, inhibits the legal right to seek asylum, and dehumanizes immigrants. The U.S. should be proud to be a haven for LGBTQ people and others trying to escape violence and oppression. About 900,000 gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender adult immigrants live in the U.S. and a third of those people are undocumented, the Center for American Progress reported in March 2013.

Under U.S. law, any foreign-born person “who is physically present in the United States or who arrives in the United States” may apply for asylum. But in November, the Trump administration tried to prevent people from applying for asylum if they crossed into the country at a place that is not a government-supervised entry.

Within days, after the ACLU and other civil rights organizations filed a lawsuit challenging the policy change, a federal judge blocked the new rule. The president’s attempt to override the intent of Congress’ asylum law violates the separation of powers, the judge said.

Then, in late January, the Trump administration began forcing many asylum seekers at the southern border to turn back and wait in Mexico while their asylum claims are processed. In addition to violating immigration law, this policy requires asylum seekers to wait in dangerous places. It also makes it difficult for them to prepare their asylum cases because of a lack of access to lawyers and other professionals who can help navigate the process.

One of the people who brought a federal lawsuit in February to challenge this harmful practice is a lesbian from Honduras. She “fears returning to her home country where LGBTQ individuals like her face discrimination, violence, and death, and receive no protection from the authorities,” according to the lawsuit, Innovation Law Lab v. Nielsen, which is being litigated by the ACLU and other immigrants’ rights groups.

“In Honduras, Bianca became pregnant by a man who raped her because of her sexual orientation, and who was then granted custody of their son by a Honduran judge who cited the fact Bianca was a lesbian as evidence of her unfitness as a parent,” the lawsuit states. “Bianca was forced to flee Honduras after her partner’s abusive father discovered their relationship and threatened to kill them both if Bianca did not leave the country immediately.”

When Trump on Feb. 15 proclaimed a national emergency to build his wall while at the same time saying, “I don’t need to do this,” he made yet another choice to hurt LGBTQ people. Every time he acts to limit refugees’ access to the U.S., he chooses to disregard the life-threatening situations queer people around the globe face and may be able to escape if they can reach American soil.

There isn’t a national emergency at the border. The only reason Trump declared one is because Congress refused to fund his wall. But many LGBTQ people trying to reach the U.S. do face emergency situations. Their lives may be at stake.

The ACLU, as well as 16 states, have sued the Trump administration to stop it from unlawfully misusing taxpayer dollars for a southern border wall. This gross abuse of power cannot stand.