LGBTQ Asylum Seekers and Refugees Must Be Welcome Here

by HRC Staff

Many LGBTQ asylum seekers are among those seeking safety and shelter in the U.S., which must continue to be a beacon of hope for many around the world.

The recent government shutdown highlighted the humanitarian crisis facing asylum seekers at the U.S.-Mexico border, which is part of this administration’s ongoing, disgraceful policies targeting asylum seekers and refugees around the world.

Over the last two years the Trump-Pence administration has more than halved the number of refugees per year it is allowing to resettle in the U.S. and has put thousands of refugee resettlement applications on hold. The administration’s “travel ban” on people from seven Muslim-majority countries has created an uncertain future for thousands.

According to a 2017 report from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), “more people are living today as refugees or displaced persons than at any time since the end of World War II.” Yet, 2017 marked the lowest number of refugees admitted to the U.S. in more than 40 years.

Many LGBTQ asylum seekers are among those seeking safety and shelter in the U.S., which must continue to be a beacon of hope for many around the world.

These three regions are among those that urgently need our support:

The “Northern Triangle” of Central America

El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras have high levels of violence and political instability -- and life in this region can be particularly treacherous for LGBTQ people. “I asked for asylum because of prosecution in my country,” said Karolina López, who left Mexico in 2009, in an interview with Remezcla. “A gang raped me and wanted to mutilate my genitals, so I asked for political asylum in the United States.” Traveling through Mexico can be particularly difficult for LGBTQ migrants, who frequently report suffering sexual and gender-based violence while crossing through Mexico.


Earlier this month, a statement from the Russian LGBT Network confirmed reports that anti-LGBTQ violence has resurged in Chechnya, with approximately 40 people detained and two killed in a "new wave of persecution" that started at the end of 2018. Reports of anti-LGBTQ persecution began in 2017. Chechen authorities detained and tortured more than 100 gay and bisexual men in the region, killing as many as 20. While LGBTQ Chechens have been offered asylum in many parts of Europe and Canada, activists state that the U.S. has yet to accept a single Chechen refugee and some Russian advocates have been told that U.S. visas are out of reach for LGBTQ Chechens. In June 2018, HRC joined a survivor of the brutal crackdown and Kimahli Powell, executive director of Rainbow Railroad, to meet with White House and State Department officials to address the ongoing crimes against humanity occurring in Chechnya and to share the survivor’s story.


Between 200 and 750 people living in the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya identify as LGBTQ. The camp was created in 1992 to accommodate South Sudanese refugees fleeing the war, but it has now grown to house refugees from across sub-Saharan Africa, including many LGBTQ refugees who have fled neighboring Uganda. But even in the camp, LGBTQ refugees report rampant anti-LGBTQ violence. In June 2018, LGBTQ refugees were attacked and received death threats after holding a Pride. In December 2018, LGBTQ refugees were moved to safe houses in Nairobi after they were brutally attacked by a mob and by police demonstrating outside a UNHCR office in Kakuma to ask for better protections.

The Trump-Pence administration’s treatment of immigrants, asylum seekers and refugees is shameful. From ripping apart families at the southern border to turning away others fleeing violence and persecution, the U.S. has made itself complicit in the crimes that marginalized people face in their home countries. It is time for Congress to restore this country’s position as a global leader for equality and send a signal to the world that our doors are open to all who seek a better life for themselves and their families.