Politics

Will the Biden administration retract a Trump-era policy harming LGBTQ refugees?

JUNE 30, 2018: An activist in Detroit holds a protest sign that says
JUNE 30, 2018: An activist in Detroit holds a protest sign that says "With LGBT Refugees."Photo: Shutterstock

Among the many offenses Donald Trump committed against the LGBTQ community as President, one undoubtedly was with his immigration policy. Trump and his aides, led by Stephen Miller, despised anyone who was not a white Christian and already here. (There were some exceptions, like Melania’s parents.)

The Trump administration’s policies made it virtually impossible for LGBTQ people suffering persecution to seek asylum in the United States. Joe Biden’s election offered hope for them that things would change for the better. Unfortunately, the change has been slow in coming. Moreover, some of the changes are leaving LGBTQ refugees behind.

Related: An open letter to President Biden & Secretary of State Blinken

Trump rolled out Title 42 in March 2020. The policy used the COVID-19 epidemic as an excuse to ban people from seeking asylum via the southern border. In doing so, it played into old stereotypes that immigrants are inherently diseased.

“It was just a damaging excuse that the president latched onto,” Aaron Morris, executive director of Immigration Equality, an LGBTQ immigrations rights group, tells LGBTQ Nation. “Even pre-pandemic, the president’s administration was considering using this same provision for a made up medical reason.”

Biden’s administration has said before that they would consider repealing Title 42, at least in part. But more recently, they’ve been backtracking, apparently out of concerns that the optics of a flood of immigrants seeking asylum will hurt President Biden politically.

Immigration rights advocates like Morris are critical of the foot-dragging. “It’s remarkably frustrating that the Biden administration has not repealed Title 42,” he says. “It’s hurting a whole lot of refugees, and some of the most vulnerable among them are LGBTQ [people].”

The Biden administration is still considering revisions to at least one part of Trump’s policies. The revision being considered would allow families to remain together instead of being separated at the border — but the part that remains will effectively single out LGBTQ people for continuing unfair treatment.

Anyone traveling alone to America’s borders, as many LGBTQ refugees have to do, will still be turned away. Moreover, the definition of “family” is inherently disadvantageous to LGBTQ people.

The changes would essentially ensure that almost all LGBTQ people hoping for asylum in the U.S. would still be blocked from seeking it.

“The vast majority of LGBTQ refugees will be legally single because they have not had the opportunity to marry, or their parental relationships have not been solidified under the law,” Morris notes.

Title 42 is being challenged in the courts, but that is a slow process. Morris says to LGBTQ Nation, “I don’t think the Biden administration should wait for a federal court to stop using Title 42 for this purpose.”

In the meantime, LGBTQ people remain at risk of persecution. Violent attacks and kidnappings against refugees turned away at the border are all too common.

“We should acknowledge that we’re living in a pandemic on both sides of the border,” says Morris.

“Excluding people from coming here doesn’t slow down the pandemic. It just makes it impossible for refugees to find safety.”

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