LGBT Caravan Refugees Seeking Sponsorship

Members of RAiCES during an SB4 protest. Photo via RAiCES, Facebook

(Mirror) Sponsorships are needed for LGBT refugees of the caravan. Four organizations are actively recruiting individuals who desire to sponsor an LGBT refugee.

Numerous LGBT refugees are currently being held in detention centers awaiting decisions on their asylum status, declares an email from Center Action Network, a collection of LGBT community centers.

A long standing narrative of LGBT people being turned away by family members continues to haunt this community. There are entire nations where the simple existence of an LGBT individual can be dangerous, if not lethal. A recent public execution in Iran shook the U.S. into action.

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Cast out of their home societies, LGBT people – like others – immigrate to the U.S.

“LGBTQ+ people encounter unique obstacles to securing protection, particularly when caught up in immigration enforcement and detention systems,” the CAN email reads.

Cristian Sanchez is an Equal Justice Works fellow for RAICES – the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services. A gay man and attorney, Sanchez said sponsoring refugees helps avoid a problematic detention system.

“When people enter detention they typically can get out if they have a sponsor, but the problem with the LGBTQ community is a lot of them are fleeing because they have been turned away from their families … rejected by their families. Where they would have a family member like an aunt or uncle sponsor them, now they can’t because of who they are,” said Sanchez in a telephone interview from San Antonio.

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RAICES is headquartered in Texas and has been working with the Santa Fe Dreamer’s Project and the Los Angeles LGBT Center, confirmed Gil Diaz, Media and Public Relations director for the Los Angeles LGBT Center. 

In seeking sponsorships these organizations cite a report from the Center for American Progress as a major concern for their cause. LGBT immigrants in detention, the CAP report states, are sexually assaulted and abused at much higher rates.

ICE, the nation’s Immigration & Customs Enforcement agency, reported 227 cases of sexual abuse and assault in 2017. Of the 227 - 28 involved an LGBT victim.

The accounts of abuse and assault were too much for RAICES.

“So that’s when we decided let’s step in and volunteer to help,” Sanchez said. “Let’s find volunteer sponsors that can sponsor these people so they don’t have to spend more time in detention which is obviously really, really dangerous and even more so for this population.”

 RAICES got its start in Mexico as part of the much chronicled “caravan” migrate movement.

“Our organization jumped in and we decided to help a self-form group of people, LGBT asylum seekers called La Comunidad,” Sanchez said.

La Comunidad members, Sanchez continued “were facing discrimination from other people in the caravan as well as in Mexico so they formed a group and we decided to help them out to finish in their journey to Tijuana and we also assisted them with housing while they were there. Us and other organizations got together and helped with providing services and legal services.”

Those interested in sponsorship or hosting LGBT asylum seekers must complete an application form on the RAICES website.

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Sanchez said the response has been strong, estimating the number of interested parties to be somewhere north of 90.

“I think there’s been a really great positive reaction,” he said. “We have seen a lot of people step up and be interested. We have had people be so anxious and say, ‘I’m ready.’ We do extensively vet everybody before. We haven’t been able to reach out to everybody that has signed up because we’re still going down the list.”

Most of the asylum seekers RAICES represents come from Central America. The reason, Sanchez said, is twofold.

“Discrimination against LGBTQ people is wide spread, kind of engrained in the culture,” he said. “Political issues, cartel issues, there has been kind of a breakdown in government. The government is not in a position - or even wants to - protect vulnerable people like the LGBTQ community who because of the discrimination of the culture are susceptible to persecution.”

The vetting process, or essentially matchmaking, is not easy.

“We take it very serious,” Sanchez said. “It’s a lengthy process.”

That process, Sanchez said, needs more attention from the wider community.  

“I think there is maybe a disconnect or a struggle for the wide LGBTQ community within the United States to really see this as an LGBTQ issue,” Sanchez said. “A lot of times our community closes ourselves off to other issues and it’s kind of an us versus them, but  I see that changing, that people are saying, ‘Hey, these are our brothers and sisters regardless of their nationality and this is an important issue to our community.’”

 


 


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