Washington, D.C. — According to a groundbreaking report issued today by the Center for American Progress, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender, or LGBT, individuals seeking asylum in the United States from persecution at home still face significant barriers despite decades of improvements to the asylum system.
The report analyzes data compiled by Immigration Equality and Human Rights First, filling in major gaps in data from federal reporting on the outcomes for LGBT asylum seekers. It shows that arbitrary time constraints, the unnecessary use of immigration detention, a lack of access to legal information, and extreme backlogs within the asylum system stand in the way of fair treatment of LGBT asylum seekers.
“For many LGBT asylum seekers, gaining the strength and ability to leave their home countries in search of a life free of persecution is only the beginning, as the system makes it difficult for them to stay here,” said Sharita Gruberg, CAP Senior Policy Analyst and co-author of the report. “The barriers to asylum for LGBT individuals have not been quantified enough making fixes to the system difficult to identify. For the first time, we have a glimpse into the challenges they face and can promote specific recommendations to ensure that far fewer aren’t sent back to lives of dangerous persecution.”
Neither the U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services, or USCIS, nor the Executive Office for Immigration Review currently collects data on LGBT asylum claims, making the issues that this community faces particularly difficult to understand and to quantify. However, thanks to data compiled by outside partners, CAP has been able to provide some insight into the challenges faced within the system and to offer recommendations that CAP believes will make for a more fair and effective process for LGBT individuals seeking asylum from persecution, imprisonment, and even death in their home countries.
Among these recommendations are the following:
- USCIS and the Executive Office for Immigration Review should collect and publish data on sexual orientation and gender identity in asylum claims.
- Resources are needed to reduce the extreme backlog of asylum cases so that seekers are not left in limbo for years at a time.
- Greater promotion of legal counsel for asylum seekers is needed, as those with representation are dramatically more likely to successfully receive asylum than those without it.
- End the arbitrary one-year filing deadline from arrival in the United States in order to seek asylum.
- End the widespread use of immigration detention, as those who seek asylum who have been previously detained are far more likely to fail in their effort than those who have not been detained.
The report is being released in conjunction with a major CAP event featuring former Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA), a contributor to the report and major advocate for reforms to the asylum process for LGBT individuals while in Congress. A video created by CAP telling the story of one Azerbaijani asylum seeker’s persecution at home and the challenges faced once entering the system will be debuted at the event.
For more information on this topic or to speak with an expert, contact Tom Caiazza at gro.ssergorpnacirema@azzaiact or 202.481.7141.