As the United States made its Supreme Court decision that made gay marriage the law of the land, it remains criminal in over 70 countries to be a lesbian, gay, bi-sexual or transgender. Many individuals flee their native country in pursuit of asylum for fear that they may loose their life.
Work needs to be done on asylum for LGBT people
Beginning in 1994, the United States has been offering asylum to LGBT people who face persecution in their country of origin. The federal government doesn’t keep data on LGBT asylum seekers, but thousands of LGBT people have been granted asylum. As per a report recently released by The Center for American Progress, LGBT people are still confronted with significant obstacles in being granted asylum. Winnie Stachelberg, an executive vice president at the center remarked that considerable work still needs to be done for LGBT people seeking asylum in the United States.
The one year application deadline is an obstacle
One hurdle is the one year limitation period for an asylum seeker to submit their application upon arriving in the United States. The center’s report recommends repealing that requirement because many LGBT people arriving in the country don’t know that they can seek protection on the basis of persecution based on their sexual orientation or identity. Sharita Gruber is a senior policy analyst at the center, and she believes that LGBT arrivals are burdened by being required to make sexual orientation or identity disclosures to government officials so soon. The center also recommends not keeping new arrivals in detention because detention operates to reduce their chances of asylum. Aaron Morris is the legal director at the not-for-profit organization Immigration Equality. He relates that detention is a particularly complex issue for LGBT people because it places transgender women in male detention facilities. He stated that the federal government was trying to keep transgender women safer, “but it’s not a humane way to do so.”
The Center for American Progress report recommends lessening the delays and number of cases in the immigration courts, providing free legal services to asylum seekers and increasing education and training on LGBT issues for immigration officers, personnel and judges. Admittedly gay former congressional representative Barney Frank said he believes that the immigration policies of the nation might be improved by permitting LGBT people to submit their asylum applications at United States embassies in their countries of origin before even traveling here. There are advantages though to traveling to the United States and then filing the application. Frank was instrumental in including asylum for LGBT people back in 1994. “Asylum is given to people who are already here and then can apply not to be sent back by documenting the problems” said Frank at a recent conference.