Center on the Issues: Immigration

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With a tumultuous political environment and a landscape with the potential to impact our communities, we are dedicated to examining both national and local policies that will affect LGBTQ and allied individuals. We aim to both inform you and equip you with the knowledge and tools to advocate for your health and well being.

Last Friday, an executive order, “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States,” was issued by the President of the United States. The order bans from the United States all Syrian refugees; blocks all refugees from entering the United States for 120 days pending review; reduces the total of number of refugees allowed for fiscal year 2017 from 110,000 to 50,000; institutes a religious test favoring Christians from Muslim-majority countries; and for at least 90 days bans immigration from seven countries — Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Syria, Yemen and Somalia — even by legal permanent residents of the United States.

Many refugees coming to the United States are fleeing persecution based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. One perpetuator of anti-LGBTQ violence is the Islamic State of Iraq & Syria, which has a reputation for killing men perceived as gay. The executive order itself makes reference to anti-gay persecution overseas by saying the United States “should not admit those who engage in acts of bigotry or hatred…those who would oppress Americans of any race, gender, or sexual orientation.” Yemen, Iran, Sudan and Somalia are among the countries where same-sex relations are punishable by death; Iraq, Libya and Syria have criminal laws against it.

Refugees seeking resettlement in the United States must undergo an extensive security screening process. For LGBTQ individuals already engaged in the process, the halt to the U.S. refugee resettlement program leaves them with no options other than to remain in hiding and hope for the best. Although refugees registered with the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees could be referred to another country for resettlement, the United States historically resettles more refugees than all other resettlement countries combined. As it is, less than 1 percent of the 16 million refugees registered are resettled. For LGBTQ refugees already in line, resettlement in the United States represents their last shot at living safe and free lives. Even if resettlement is later resumed, the executive order’s prioritization of resettlement for religious minorities — and deprioritization of all other categories of refugees — pushes LGBTQ refugees even further down the line.

Here is what you can do:

  • Call your legislators to tell them how you feel about the executive order. You can find a listing here and here.
  • Educate yourself about immigration issues to combat misinformation, fear, and hate.
  • Are you an immigrant? Make sure you know your rights!
  • Get involved with Center on Halsted to organize for action at our next Call to Rise meeting on Wednesday, February 22nd at 6:00 p.m.

Center on Halsted is the Midwest’s largest community center dedicated to advancing the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) Movement.

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