EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – Title 42 expulsions are no more, but policies such as the Biden administration’s online asylum applications and a so-called “travel ban” are putting LGBTQ migrants in harm’s way, according to U.S. and Latin American advocates.
That’s because online appointments take time and force the migrants to wait in countries where discrimination and violence based on gender orientation are palpable; likewise, forcing LGBTQ migrants to first apply for protection in those countries is wrong, a group of advocates assembled by the Welcome With Dignity campaign said Thursday on a Zoom call.
“Asylum is a lawful pathway to the United States. […] If you are fleeing persecution or torture and make it to American soil, you have a fundamental right to ask for asylum. The new Biden rule is illegal,” said Aaron Morris, executive director of Immigration Equality in New York City.
He was referring to the Circumvention of Lawful Pathways rule the Department of Homeland Security published in May. It requires asylum-seekers to apply for an appointment through the CBP One app or to apply for protection first, and be denied, in the countries they travel through on the way to the U.S.
At least two civil rights organizations are contemplating suing to overturn the rule, Morris said, and allow anyone to show up at the border and apply for asylum.
A California group called Al Otro Lado has documented high rates of violence and intimidation against LGBTQ migrants. The group has interviewed 420 such migrants and says one in five was a victim of kidnapping and one in four a victim of sexual violence. Half said they feared for their lives in Mexico and elsewhere in Latin America because they had received threats.
“We’ve seen a dramatic rise in restrictive policies that limit the rights of asylum-seekers at the southern border. It affects everyone but is disproportionate to the LGBTQ,” said Nicole Ramos, director of Al Otro Lado’s Border Rights Project. And “what we’ve seen over the last eight years is the government’s effort to install more barbwire, more CBP (officers) and Mexican officials acting at the direction (of U.S. authorities) that give them thousands of dollars to patrol the border.”
Guatemalan migrant Estuardo Cifuentes said he experienced insecurity and a lack of shelter and other resources when he and more than 70,000 other asylum-seekers returned to Mexico under the Trump administration’s Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) program. The LGBTQ activist who fled his country because of threats said he experienced harsh conditions during his stay in Mexico, which he says have only gotten worse with time.
“Policies change, but conditions become more difficult every day,” he said, referring to migrants living on the streets in Mexico, being victimized by criminals and lacking the technology – internet access and literacy – to apply for an asylum appointment online.
Welcome With Dignity campaign members said they welcome the administration’s expansion of legal pathways but will continue to advocate for the removal of barriers to asylum, particularly for vulnerable groups such as LGBTQ migrants.