HRC on Passage of so-called “Secure the Border” Act: “Members of the House Majority Will Sacrifice Everything, Including our Country’s Values, to Prove their Xenophobia and Indifference to LGBTQ+ Lives”

by Cullen Peele

WASHINGTON – Today, the anti-equality majority in the U.S. House narrowly advanced HR 2, the so-called “Secure the Border” Act, a Republican-led bill designed to limit entry opportunities for asylum seekers migrating to the U.S., with devastating implications for LGBTQ+ individuals fleeing fatal violence and persecution in their home countries. The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) recently joined a chorus of 143 organizations in a statement urging members of Congress to vote ‘no’ on the legislation.

LGBTQ+ people are living in fear for their lives on a global scale, and this bill will only intensify a dire humanitarian crisis rather than alleviate one. There are vulnerable members of our community, especially transgender women, who live each day uncertain of their survival and who need the best of our country’s resources as a matter of life and death. We know that the U.S. can be a lifeline for LGBTQ+ asylum seekers, particularly those fleeing violence in Central America. Turning our backs on LGBTQ+ people whose daily threats involve cases of kidnapping, torture, and even murder at the hands of police and community members s falls out of line with what our country promises to be. Anti-equality members of the House should be ashamed of their actions today -- their indifference to people’s lives is reprehensible. ”

Kelley Robinson, HRC President

In addition to facing gaps in basic services during displacement, LGBTQ+ asylum seekers are often systemically targeted for kidnapping, extortion, rape, and other violence. Under Title 42 and Remain in Mexico - policies that have undermined access to asylum - human rights organizations have documented heightened threats against LGBTQ+ asylum seekers. Examples include:

  • In May 2021, a Honduran transgender woman was kidnapped and raped while waiting in for U.S. asylum processing to resume. She escaped her kidnappers, but sustained significant injuries.

  • A gay Central American man who’d fled his home country was kidnapped and trafficked for months around Mexico, where he was beaten, assaulted, and forced to perform sex acts.

  • Blocked from seeking asylum due to Title 42, a transgender Honduran man and his girlfriend were assaulted in Mexico “by guys who targeted them for their queerness and gender expression.” The assailants reportedly asked the couple “who is the man and who is the woman?” and threatened that they were “going to teach them how to be women.”

In addition to the dismantling of the U.S. asylum system, HR 2 would also limit funding for certain programs and the government’s partnerships with non-governmental organizations providing humanitarian services. It would also increase detention of asylum seekers, eliminate a U.S.-funded legal assistance program for asylum seekers, and expedite border wall construction.

Today’s vote also comes as other countries, such as Uganda, inch closer toward passing laws that target LGBTQ+ individuals, criminalizing same-sex relations and even imposing the death penalty in some cases.

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