In this article Sharita Gruberg from the Center for American Progress looks at some positive developments in US policy on processing LGBTQ refugees seeking asylum…
Despite significant progress toward ensuring that LGBT people have equal access to the U.S. immigration system—includingtraining asylum officers to adjudicate claims that are based on sexual orientation and gender identity—LGBT people continue to face significant barriers to protection in the United States, particularly when it comes to family recognition. Under the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, or INA, asylees and refugees can bring their children who are younger that age 21 and spouses to the United States. In the INA, however, the termspouse is usually interpreted to require a legally recognized marriage. Since only 22 countries have marriage equality, LGBT people who face persecution are in the impossible position of choosing between seeking safety in the United States or remaining in dangerous situations with their loved ones. As Ugandan LGBT rights activist Victor Mukasa has said, “Homophobia separated me from my family, but so has the immigration system that has made it difficult for me to reunite with my family, just because of a document.”
The State Department’s solution for reuniting LGBT refugee families
In 2015, the Council for Global Equality—of which the Center for American Progress is a member—made the fair and equal treatment of same-sex partners of refugees and asylees a top administrative priority. The U.S. Department of State recently took a major step toward that goal. In its annual report to Congress on refugee program admissions for fiscal year 2016, the State Department announced a more inclusive interpretation of what constitutes a spouse in its Process Priorities, or P-3, program. This expanded interpretation recognizes that the vast majority of refugee-producing and refugee-hosting countries do not have marriage equality. The expanded categories within the P-3 process now allow qualifying resettled refugees and asylees who live in the United States to file an affidavit of relationship, or AOR, for their partners—thereby bypassing the need for a referral from the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, a process that can take years.
As a result of this change, refugees and asylees can file for their same-sex partners to join them in the United States through the P-3 family reunification program for spouses, unmarried children younger than age 21, and parents of qualified refugees and asylees. Because of P-3 program requirements, the expanded categories for family reunification are limited to certain nationalities that are of special humanitarian concern. A CAP analysis of data about LGBT asylum seekers found that 15 percent of the cases in the dataset represented LGBT people among those fleeing humanitarian crises in P-3 priority countries.Subhi Nahas, a Syrian refugee who was resettled in the United States and recently addressed the U.N. Security Council during its first-ever meeting on LGBT rights, is just one example of the many LGBT people who sought protection in the United States.
Read the entire article here at The Center for American Progress: