One of the cruelest fixtures of Trump’s immigration agenda was the creation of Migrant Protection Protocols (“MPP”) which nearly dismantled our asylum system at the border. This inhumane program forced immigrants to wait in dangerous conditions, often in makeshift camps in Mexico, until their cases could be heard in the United States. Sadly, with all of the roadblocks set in place under Trump, this could mean months or years of waiting for a chance at adjudication, even for those who were fleeing severe violence and persecution.
According to a study on LGBTQ asylum claims, LGBTQ immigrants face heightened risks persecution and violence, including domestic violence, rape, and murder, as well as discrimination when it comes to employment, housing, healthcare, and education. Many individuals sought to escape this persecution in their home countries only to be thrown into a system that would leave them vulnerable to more violence and terror. MPP is finally in the process of ending under the Biden administration and LGBTQ cases left unseen under Trump are at last being considered.
The Los Angeles and Washington Blade have kept the public up to date with the latest news on LGBTQ immigrants arriving at the U.S. border. These outlets have shared painful but important stories of the realities of being an LGBTQ person awaiting asylum in Mexico where the community faces heightened risks of violence and death. Although countless LGBTQ immigrants are still stuck beyond the border, many have started the process of entering into safety to have their claims heard.
Estuardo Cifuentes is a gay Guatemalan man who arrived to the border in 2019 and awaited the MPP process until he entered the U.S. on March 3, 2021. He asked for asylum due to the persecution he endured in Guatemala when him and his partner were targeted by local gangs. He ran the Rainbow Bridge Asylum Seekers shelter until the end of the wait, where he helped other LGBTQ immigrants who were at a heightened risk of violence throughout their time in MPP. After finally crossing the border, he is now in the Texas Rio Grande Valley where he will continue to pursue his asylum case.
— Monica Campbell (@monica_campbell) March 4, 2021
Janeth is a transgender woman from La Havana, Cuba who flew to Trinidad and Tobajgo in 2019 and spent the next four months traveling through South and Central America in order to reach the U.S. Border. The Los Angeles Blade writes that she left Cuba after suffering persecution due to her gender identity. Janeth says that “[Mexico] is a racist, xenophobic, transphobic country with a lot of aggression, and it is worse in the state of Tamaulipas.” Janeth finally entered the country on March 10, 2021 and plans to live with her family in Miami while she pursues her case.
Natasha is a transgender woman from Honduras who arrived at the border in 2019. She left Honduras because of the persecution and discrimination she faced back home. Very poignantly she described her frustration with the MPP process by saying, “We are not here in Mexico because we want to [be here]. We are here because they sent us to Mexico.” Natasha finally entered the country on March 10, 2021. She thanks Cindy Candia of Angry Tias and Abuelas, a local group that assists asylum seekers and migrants, for her support.
Sadly, despite these isolated stories of success and optimism, the scope of damage done by the Trump administration and MPP can never fully be understood or reconciled. The chaos of the past four years is slowly being rolled back into a semblance of order, but many LGBTQ immigrants are still waiting for their chance to enter and the trauma experienced during the wait is something that can never be undone.
However, it is worth acknowledging the exceptional resilience of LGBTQ immigrants at the border and the many programs that sprung into action and mobilized in order to help these asylum seekers during this period. In particular, Rainbow Bridge Asylum Seekers, Resource Center Matamoros, Angry Tias and Abuelas, Team Brownsville, and Sidewalk School for Children Asylum Seekers were just some of the organizations that worked to protect those struggling through the tumultuous wait.
As we move past this dark period, it is important to recognize the damage done, work to ensure these human rights abuses are never again unleashed, and celebrate the arrival of LGBTQ immigrants who can finally enter our country and find refuge.