Contradiction in How Obama Admin Treating LGBT Refugees

In his ‘international LGBT rights Tuesday’ policy announcement, President Obama pledged support for LGBT refugees and asylum seekers. In a memorandum, he directed agencies, including Homeland Security, to “protect vulnerable LGBT refugees and asylum seekers.”

The State Department laid out work it is doing on plans on supporting LGBT refugees, in conjunction with UNHCR and NGOs, and even pledged to directly help with relocation if activists are under dire threat.

In the US, a recent announcement on how immigration cases will be prioritized for decision to focus on those involving criminals has draw LGBT criticism because it does not offer explicit protection for lesbian and gay bi-national couples. However, the new policy has drawn little attention for its impact on LGBT asylum seekers, those the President said Tuesday that his administration will protect.

Asylum lawyer Jason Dzubow points out that the new shifting of priorities on decision making has put asylum seekers at the bottom of the pile and describes the impact as “devastating.”

The Executive Office for Immigration Review (“EOIR”, the Immigration Courts) is re-arranging its dockets to expedite priority cases in a pilot program running in Baltimore and Denver. Dzubow has already seen the impact in one case, of an Eritrean almost certain to receive sanctuary, re-scheduled from this December to May 2014.

According to EOIR, the goal of the Pilot Program is “to ensure that [limited] resources are focused on the Administration’s highest immigration enforcement priorities.”

“Unfortunately, in this case, the Administration’s ‘enforcement priorities’ (i.e., removal of aliens) comes at the expense of our country’s humanitarian obligations,” says Dzubow.

“Delaying asylum hearings for 2+ years is devastating to many asylum seekers.”

The stress of delayed decisions is well-documented around the world. Homeland Security could adopt a policy, Dzubow says, of starting the ‘Asylum Clock‘ if decisions are delayed, which would at least allow asylum seekers to work. It should also offer at least some space in the courts for decision making for asylum seekers within a reasonable time frame for those like his Eritrean client.

The Obama administration has also been accused of doing nothing to protect detained LGBT asylum seekers in the US, from either maltreatment by those running detention centers or sexual violence, even rape. Here, ‘protection’ from such threats can often mean being held for long periods in solitary confinement,which is recognized as a form of torture.

There are also ongoing concerns about how LGBT asylum cases are treated in the immigration courts, with vastly differing approaches in different court systems across the US, with many cases showing either a too high ‘bar’ for asylum seekers to reach or even homophobic treatment.

Said Physicians for Human Rights (PHR):

This memorandum is a step in the right direction. But we urge the Obama administration to take a close look at the treatment of LGBT immigrants and asylum seekers in the US and work to reform our nation’s broken asylum and immigration detention systems, especially for the most vulnerable. We cannot expect to credibly protect the human rights of LGBT persons abroad when we cannot do so at home.

Dzubow says that “it might be futile to argue that we should not be prioritizing removals over protecting people fleeing persecution.” However, given Obama’s pledge on LGBT asylum seekers, the administration appears to have set up a clear conflict of priorities with how these refugees are actually treated by them.

Related stories:

More Complaints on Treatment of LGBT Refugee and Immigrant Detainees

Mental Harm Caused by Prolonged Immigration Detention

Obama Admin to ‘Leverage’ Foreign Aid for LGBT Rights

Picture by herbrm


Janet K.
Janet K6 years ago

Obama has a good chance of being the president who deported more people than any other. Last June, a friend of mine, Jose, who had been in the US since he was 5 years old was deported to El Salvador where he had no ties. His father and mother brought him here to escape the violence of El Salvador's civil war. (In 1980 Rebels were fighting to overthrow the repressive, US backed, military government with death squads - by 1982 the US had given over $82 million in aid and continued to give aid until the war's end in 1992. Over 70,000 people were murdered by military death squads, most were civilians.) Being poor illegals, Jose's family moved to South Central Los Angeles where, a few years later, Jose's father was murdered in a drive-by shooting by gang members for being a Hispanic who made the mistake of sitting on his front porch in their territory. Jose is an honest, self supporting, hard working young man who was picked up by ICE and sent to a foreign country. He can't even try to come back to the US for 10 years. Our government is heartless.

Kathy B.
Kathy B6 years ago

Showing a picture of the London Underground signage for a U.S. article is a bit of a slam on the UK, as it has been pointed out by someone from the UK that they treat their LGBT community properly - and so should we.

Leslea Herber
Leslea Herber6 years ago

HINT time. When president Obama was originally campaigning, the slogan was NOT "yes I can".

It was "Yes WE can". A lot of you forgot that "we" bit. Not that I'm surprised in the least by your extremely short memories.

Worse yet, are you REALLY convinced that the cryptkeeper (McCain) and the bimbo (Palin) would have been MORE LEFT LEANING?

I swear people today are snorting more crap than ever before. Whine as you will, at least this guy IS trying, even if you all have dropped YOUR end of the agreement due to being lazy bastards.

John Mansky
John Mansky6 years ago

( No Comment )...

Faye S.
Faye S6 years ago

Obama and his minions are in bed with the LGBT community...

Steve R.
Steve R6 years ago

Oh don't worry so much Paul Canning - Obama will make it right - or at least PRETEND to until after he is re-elected!

Then it will be business as usual in the White House - in other words - where's the money at?

Is there money in LGBT rights? No? Okay - shelve it for now....

Vicky Slay
Vicky SlaySlay6 years ago

It will all work out. I have faith in President Obama to walk the talk. He has shown us through doing all that he does that not only does he talk the talk, but he walks the talk. Just ask BinLauden and he will tell you how he walks. GO President Obama 2012!!!

Jamie Clemons
Jamie Clemons6 years ago

I think an election year is exactly the time for a liberal to take aim at the Obama administration. He promised us change. The progressive base got him elected and then he promptly forgot all about us when he got into office and started catering to his corporate puppet overloads and leaning to the right. He is no better than bush in my opinion and in some ways worse on civil liberties. He is just another war monger police state megalomaniac.

Naomi Stephan
Naomi Stephan6 years ago

The present US admin criticized for their contradictory policies regarding LGBTs? Puhleeze!

Is there anyone out there who really believed that Hobama was going to do anything for gays and lesbians? He sits by and lets non US partners of bi-national couples get arrested and shipped off to anywhere but the US, and has allowed this since his first day in office.
I'm a liberal, walked for civil rights in the 60's, 73 and a lesbian and have had to stand by and watch the suffering of my legal partner in exile, a woman with whom I shared a house and life in the US. I warned then in blogs not to vote for Hobama way back in 2006.
I'd rather vote for porky pig.

Big picture? The US is a Neaderthal country with archaic laws.

I got residency in German in 15 minutes through a civil partnership. Trouble is, when my brother was dying, I didn't have the funds to fly back. Spent it all on legal fees and moving costs. while illegal day workers down the street got a free passes, and dozens of hetero bi-national couples in our neighborhood got marriage licenses with no sweat.

Jamie Clemons
Jamie Clemons6 years ago

He talks the talk but he don't walk the walk.