From day one, the Trump administration has made targeting undocumented immigrants one of its top priorities.
Unlike the usual clown show that Trump’s staff puts on, the crackdown on immigrants has been run with ruthless efficiency. Arrests by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) soared 40% once Trump took office, and there’s no end in sight.
Much of the media’s recent focus has been on the administration’s policy of separating children from their parents when they are apprehended crossing the border. But ICE, which shows few signs of restraint, has also arrested LGBTQ immigrants, including those seeking asylum, in its aggressive approach.
Consider the following cases:
Jose “Ivan” Noe Nuñez Martinez, a gay man, was arrested in January during what he thought would be a routine visit to immigration offices as part of his green card application process. Martinez’s husband, Paul Frame, has been visiting him in prison twice a week. “Some days are good. Some days are not good,” Frame said.
Sergio Avila-Rodriguez, the husband of Army Chaplain Capt. Tim Brown, was detained by ICE last month and faced immediate deportation to his native Honduras. Avila-Rodriguez came to the U.S. when he was seven, but ICE cited his arrested on a DUI charge as enough cause for his deportation.
Brown says that an immigration agent reassured him earlier that his husband would not be arrested if he attended an immigration hearing, an exchange that Brown now calls “a trap and a lie” meant to ensure that Avila-Rodriguez would show up for the meeting.
Avila-Rodriguez has since been released, but his legal status is still unresolved.
Sadat Ibrahim, a gay man from Ghana, entered the U.S. via Mexico in January 2016. He sought asylum, saying that he was the victim of an attack by an antigay group in his home country.
“They stabbed me and gave me a cut on my back and hand,” he told the asylum officer. Ibrahim said if he returns to Ghana, “I will be killed.”
Ibrahim’s claim for asylum was rejected on the grounds that the leader of the antigay gay had been arrested–despite evidence from Ibrahim that the man had since been released. Ibrahim is appealing the case.
Denis Davydov, an HIV-positive gay man from Russia, was detained by ICE for 46 days when he tried to return to the U.S. from a trip to the U.S. Virgin Islands. Davydov had been in the process of seeking asylum, citing fear for his life.
ICE agents ignored the pending request, shackled him and sent him to a detention facility in Florida. He was released after a month and a half, but still faces deportation.
Once in detention, immigrants face a series of dangers. Roxsana Hernandez, a transgender woman who said she was raped by gang members in Mexico, died in ICE custody last month from what immigrants right groups have called “medical negligence.”
Laura Monterrosa, a lesbian who says she was beaten and subject to death threats in her native Honduras, thought that she would be safe as an asylum seeker in the U.S. Instead, she says, she suffered sexual abuse from one of the guards at her detention center.
There are plenty of other cases of LGBTQ immigrants being detained and suffering legal and physical torment as a result. Immigrants Equality, a group that advocates on behalf of LGBTQ immigrants, has an asylum project representing people from more than 80 countries.
Not that the Trump administration much cares about immigrants seeking asylum or nonviolent immigrants who have been living in the U.S. productively for years. (To be clear, the Obama administration was pretty bad as well, just not as bad.)
Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a hardliner on immigration, is pushing immigration courts to move swiftly through their backlog of cases by not allowing people to remain in the country while their case is under consideration.
In essence, the U.S. is creating an assembly line for shipping people back to their country of origin.
For LGBTQ people, that can be a death sentence. But with the current administration calling the shots, that may be more of a feature than a bug.