Tag Archives: LGBT

ICE Releases Woefully Inadequate Transgender Guidance

Crossposted from Medium – Advancing Justice | AAJC

Photo Credit: NDLON

Photo Credit: NDLON

Responding to grassroots pressure from advocates, and mounting criticismfrom congressional leaders such as Mike Honda (D-Calif.), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) unveiled an 18-page memorandum for the care of transgender immigrants in detention this week.

While these guidelines are a step in the right direction and long overdue, it’s still not enough and here’s why:

1. Detention of vulnerable immigrants is inherently inhumane: The new guidance does nothing to move us away from the prolonged detention of transgender individuals, the vast majority of whom are asylum seekers who have already faced persecution in their home countries, only to be subjected to further pain and suffering at the hands of ICE. Detaining asylum seekers is inhumane, re-traumatizes some of the most vulnerable immigrants and it is contrary to our laws when detention is used as a form of deterrence to dissuade people from coming to the United States. Advocates have repeatedly called on Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials to release such detainees once they have proven that their fear of persecution is credible. Officials should act to end the practice of detaining such individuals, as there is no mending it.

2. The new guidance provides inadequate care and housing options: The guidance continues to allow practices that have been denounced as inhumane, such as administrative segregation, ‘protective custody’ and isolated pods for transgender detainees. ICE detains 75 transgender immigrants on average, which is less than one percent of the detainee population, but over 20 percent of sexual assault cases in immigrant detention involve a transgender survivor. Alternative housing practices havefailed to protect transgender immigrants in detention from sexual assault and physical abuse in the past, and should not be used when releasing such detainees on bond or parole is a much more humane and cheaper alternative.

3. No guidelines for the treatment of vulnerable immigrants such as lesbian, gay and bisexual asylum seekers: Many individuals seeking asylum in the United States are detained upon arriving at a port of entry. Many of them, including lesbians, gays and bisexuals, have suffered severe persecution in their home countries. A recent Center for American Progress report shows that ICE routinely detains LGBT immigrants who it knows are at great risk and should not be behind bars. A disproportionate number of undocumented LGBT individuals are Asian American. The new guidelines do nothing to recognize that these individuals, who may have suffered sexual assault and torture in their home countries, remain vulnerable in immigrant detention and should be released.

4. No guidelines for dealing with sexual assault and abuse in detention:Transgender immigrants in ICE custody face extremely harsh conditions such as alarming rates of sexual assault, physical abuse and harassment. While housing them according to their gender identity may reduce some of the violence transgender detainees face, the guidelines provide no mechanism for reporting ongoing violence. Forty percent of sexual assault cases in detention are unreported, and the guidelines contain no mention of how transgender immigrants can report assault, or any measures to protect transgender immigrants from such assault.

5. No enforcement mechanism — The ICE ERO working group that crafted this guidance worked hard to meet with transgender detainees and try to ascertain best practices for the detention of transgender individuals in custody. However, without a grievance mechanism, the guidance may be tough to enforce at all facilities.

We strongly urge the ICE ERO working group to consider alternatives to detention for LGBT and other vulnerable immigrants in detention.

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Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice

I recently joined the board of directors at the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice. My growing concern for the lack of philanthropic efforts to address the needs of queer people of color was the prime impetus behind this decision.

I can proudly say that I am drawn to Astraea because as a public foundation, Astraea helps to fund the grassroots work of organizations such as Black Lives Matter and many queer POC groups, who are at the forefront of movement-building and social change in the United States. I am also thrilled at the opportunity to be part of a foundation that is defining lesbian feminism in the most inclusive terms, and advancing global LGBT human rights without advancing colonialism.

I am truly glad to have added it as an organization that goes in my yearly giving portfolio, and hope that many more of my friends and followers can do the same. As a public foundation with a 4/4 Charity Navigator rating, you’ll get the maximum bang for your buck.

Check out our work and let me know if you’ve any questions about the organization!

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“That Awkward Moment When You Run Away from Your Home Country Due to Discrimination For Being Queer, To Be Locked Up in the Land of the Free…”

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Full text: “That awkward moment when you run away from your home country due to discrimination for being queer…Only to be locked up in the land of the free with a lot of machista, and sexist, homophobic, transphobic ICE officers.” – Alejandro Aldana

Yesterday, I received this bittersweet postcard from my dear friend, Alex Aldana, who is currently detained at the Otay Detention Facility in San Diego.

Alex lived with his family in California for ten years, where he graduated from high school and worked hard to make his community a better place. He left the U.S. to go back to Mexico five months ago to care for his sick grandmother.

Over these past few months, Alex discovered how crime and corruption made life particularly difficult for the LGBTQ community in Mexico. In Guadalajara alone, 128 gay and lesbian people have been killed, and none were reported as hate crimes. Now, Alex wants to return to California, where his mother and sibling reside so that he can continue to take care of them, and lead a life that does not entail the amount of violence he would face if he remained in Mexico.

Even with the heightened standard for credible fear instituted by the new Lafferty memo in light of the numerous claims for asylum from Mexico and Central America, Alex has already passed his credible fear interview. This means that according to Immigration and Customs officials, Alex has established a clear and convincing chance of winning asylum before an Immigration Judge based on his fear of persecution in Mexico. According to ICE guidelines, Alex should be released from detention to pursue his asylum case as he is neither a threat nor a flight risk. However, he has been detained at Otay for more than a month for no real reason, and subjected to abuse inside the facility. 

Sign the petition to demand that ICE release Alejandro (Alex) Aldana.

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Asian Americans and Affirmative Action

Race still matters infographic AAAJ - for websiteAffirmative action is now the latest wedge issue in California to keep ethnic minorities from seeing our common interests.

In California, a bill to revive affirmative action is dead. Mainstream media reports convey that opposition from insurgent Asian Americans groups killed the measure at the last minute. If this is true, then there is much work to be done in Asian American communities about the benefits of affirmative action. 

However, it is more likely that the measure was primarily opposed by white voters, and an over-hyped loud minority of Asian American opposition became a convenient scapegoat for lawmakers. After all, more than 75 percent of Asian American support affirmative action programs. Even when Prop 209 was passed by overwhelmingly white voters, Asian Americans were scapegoated for supporting the repeal effort even though 61 percent of Asian Americans voted against the ban. The backlash against Asian-Americans for the latest affirmative action debacle is the same old “divide and conquer” strategy, and we must stop falling for it.

I support affirmative action. I have written at length about the need for affirmative action, as well as why it is constitutional. Contrary to myths, Asian Americans have been hurt by Prop. 209, and projected Asian-American enrollment rates have fallen as a result of Prop 209. Moreover, Asian-Americans do not lead single issue lives. Many Asian-American women and LGBT Asian-Americans directly benefit from affirmative action. 

We need to restore affirmative action in California, and we need to stop allowing the white majority to use the increased Asian American enrollment numbers as a way to defend a ban that only they support overwhelmingly. 

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Filed under Ethnic Studies, Racism

Nigeria’s New Law Criminalizing Gays

India Nigeria Locator

India Nigeria Locator (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

First India, and now Nigeria.

Albeit, the situation in Nigeria is far worse.

Nigerian President, Goodluck Jonathan, signed into law a draconian anti-gay bill. Same sex relationships were already illegal in Nigeria but under the new law, anyone who enters into a same-sex marriage or partnership may be jailed for up to 14 years. The new law also bans people who register, operate or participate in gay clubs, societies or organizations, or who publicly show that they are in a same-sex relationship.

In less than a week, dozens of people have been rounded up, arrested, and questioned under the new anti-gay law. 11 Muslim men in Nigeria also face a possible death sentence. More disturbing reports are trickling out. Amnesty International, and many other countries have called for the government to halt the homophobic witch-hunt. Some are also exploring withholding foreign aid to Nigeria.

Withholding aid is not particularly helpful in such a situation. Nigeria’s LGBT community needs all the help it can get in order to work to change attitudes or escape the situation in their home country, if that is what they want to do.

There are reports of some people escaping persecution by obtaining false documents or visas to travel to the U.S. or another country (though they must reveal their true identity and apply for asylum at the port of entry), but it is unclear who and how this underground railroad is organized. Also, I am not sure if asylum seekers who make it to the U.S. only to be locked up in detention for months, sometimes years, as arriving aliens, are better off here or there. It’s like being stuck between a rock and a hard place. Perhaps they are better off finding another country. 

While the law spells terror for Nigerians, it is a blessing in disguise for many LGBT Nigerians already in the U.S., who can now seek asylum, withholding, or reopen their failed asylum claims. If you have gay friends and family members from Nigeria, do let them know to consult an immigration attorney for help in seeking asylum from Nigeria.

 

Please note: Nothing in this post denotes legal advice or is offered in substitution of advice from a lawyer. Success is not guaranteed in every case, and results often vary. 

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Filed under Human Rights, Immigration, LGBTQ

India’s Supreme Court Re-Criminalizes Gay Sex

Pyaar Kiya Koi Chori Nahi

Photo credit: CNN-IBN India

In a shockingly poor decision, the Indian Supreme Court has reversed the July 2009 ruling of the Delhi High Court decriminalising gay sex between consenting adults. In doing so, India’s Supreme Court has recriminalized gay sex in India, rendering almost 20 percent of the global LGBT population illegal.

Overturning a High Court decision, the Indian Supreme Court upheld Indian Penal Code 377, an archaic and barbaric law that criminalizes “homosexual” acts:

377. Unnatural offenses — Whoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal, shall be punished with imprisonment for life, or with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine.

Western media and LGBT organizations are already demonizing India as “backward” after this ruling, which does not make life easier for Indians who are gay and lesbian abroad, and conveniently casts the West as an arbiter of freedom. In fact, the New York Times took a potshot at Asian countries as a whole in reporting about India’s tragic decision, perhaps forgetting that gay sex was illegal in parts of the United States only ten years ago. Because LGBT people have been marginalized and mistreated for so long, many people in the West mistakenly see some forms of “gay rights” as a marker for progress or modernity. Anthropologist Akshaye Khanna articulates this quite well:

We are seeing, in several parts of the world, a cynical appropriation of the discourse of sexual rights and sexuality by right wing and reactionary agendas. In Western Europe, North America and Israel, we see the phenomenon of ‘homonationalism’, where LGBT discourse is being used in deeply racist—usually Islamophobic—groups. In East Africa, the question of sexuality has come to be the central question in discourse about the nation – where notions of ‘Africanness’ have come to be tied to the position on homosexuality. This centering of the question of sexuality is always a way of diverting attention from political and economic questions relating to the control over natural resources, or instances of corruption.

While people in India and across the world are mourning and expressing outrage at the ruling, and shaming the entire country, it is important to note that Indian Penal Code 377 is a relic of British rule and colonialism. Contrary to the sexual puritanism and homophobia that the British wrote into the law while colonizing India, Indian and Hindu culture is enriched with queer sensibility. It is rather ironic that the British are finally getting ready to start allowing same-sex marriages next year, while their retrograde policies in former colonies continue to harm and hamper peoples lives. The Indian Supreme Court ruling is a reminder that the Indian people cannot rely on courts to strike down an injustice rooted in colonial oppression, and that colonial ideas remain ingrained in a so-called post-colonial country.

However, colonial-era law or not, many Indians are rightly outraged by this decision from the Indian Supreme Court, which should have outlawed colonial-era discrimination, instead of punting the question of sodomy to the Indian parliament. Thus far, the Indian parliament has remained non-commital on the issue, sparking more outrage on social media and across the country. In a display of vibrant democracy, Indians are taking to the streets both in India and abroad in protest of the ruling. That hardly seems backward and regressive to me.

Funnily, while LGBT organizations in the U.S. expressed disappointement at the decision, they have rarely ever expressed the same sort of outrage about queer immigrants who are criminalized and locked up in detention at home. Claudette Hubbard, a long-time lawful permanent resident of the U.S. who escaped Jamaica after facing persecution for being gay, has been locked in an ICE detention facility for two years now. Viesca, a transgender detainee at El Paso, Texas who won her credible fear interview, reported constant degradation and harassment from guards, and finally agreed to her own deportation yesterday. Kumar Jagdish, a gay asylum seeker from India, has been detained at El Paso, Texas since June, 2013. You won’t hear these stories in the mainstream media, because they do not show a flattering image of the United States as a beacon of hope or democracy. After all, detaining and deporting thousands of immigrants daily is not a marker of modernity any more than criminalizing homosexuality. Frankly, I am disappointed in all of us.

As for Section 377, the law is clearly an abomination. While Section 377 has rarely been used to criminalize gay persons in India, Indian queer liberation activist Kaveri Indira reports that there are many enforced laws on the books that cause less nationl and international outrage, such as Karnataka Police Acts, which criminalizes hijras, gender transgressives and transgender persons. Perhaps it is time to take the outrage, and pour it into the threats and daily assaults against queer and transgender persons of color that are far more real and tangible in both the U.S. and India, than this poor Supreme Court decision.

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Married

Yesterday, we had a paparazzi wedding ceremony at the Lutheran Church of Reformation in Washington D.C.

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It was nonetheless, lovely to share our love with so many people, including all our badass friends from the National Immigrant Youth Alliance, and the same-sex binational couples from Immigration Equality who have so long been denied due process and equal protection under the law.

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Special thanks go to Emiliano Rojas, son of Claudio Rojas, who is the Cake Boss of the movement and stayed up all night making us a beautiful wedding cake with the help of Cristobal Lagunas-Alvarez, from DreamActivist Massachusetts. We are still eating through it, but you can have a photo.

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We’ll be getting legally married in a private ceremony in August.

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Thank you so much for making this day so wonderful and special.

Now Lindsay can work towards getting her Fijian citizenship.

Some media articles about the wedding are here:

P.S. Please email Lindsay Schubiner, lschubiner@gmail.com, for media quotes and comments as I’m busy studying for the bar exam.

P.P.S. Please send us all photos of the wedding ceremony!

Photo Credit: William Anderson, Benito Miller and Immigration Equality

 

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