September 12, 2017 at 12:12 pm PDT | by Karen Ocamb
LGBTQ Asians and Muslims protest as Supreme Court allows some of Trump’s travel ban

NQAPIA’s National Call to Action demonstration in downtown LA (Photo courtesy NQAPIA)

While progressives in Los Angeles have been focused on the potential deportation of 800,000 undocumented DREAMers and President Trump’s order to eliminate the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DADA) program in six months—which California Attorney General Xavier Becerra filed suit to stop on Monday – there are thousands of refugees with proper documentation who are being stopped from legally immigrating to America.

In a squirmy irony, the Supreme Court on Monday, Sept. 11, the 16th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, agreed with an emergency plea from the Justice Department to continue to refuse entry to refugees with formal assurances from resettlement agencies from entering the United States.

This is the latest back and forth over the Trump administration’s insistence on imposing an America-first ideology on immigration. Trump revoked his first Muslim travel ban that specifically targeted refugees and citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries after massive protests. That was replaced with a version that blocked refugees from six countries, a ban the Supreme Court decided to allow with caveats last June. Applicants with a “bona fide” connection to the US—such as having family, a job, a slot in college could proceed. However, Monday’s decision raises the question of how to interpret “bona fide” connection: what is the direct connection between the refugee and the resettlement agency granting assurance?

At stake are around 24,000 refugees with assurances who expected to start immigrating to the US soon. No one knows how many of those thousands are LGBT. It is a risk to reveal one’s sexual orientation or gender identity in the refugees camps and for many, the asylum process is too complicated and humiliating—lesbian Muslims having to tell strange men about being viciously raped, for instance.

Next month, the Supreme Court is expected to take up the issue of the constitutionality of Trump’s travel ban at its core.

“It’s inhumane for the Supreme Court to block refugees from entering the U.S., especially when the U.S. has often caused the political instability that forces refugees to flee,” Sasha W., Organizing Director at the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance (NQAPIA), told the Los Angeles Blade. “NQAPIA is filing an amicus brief in anticipation of the Supreme Court’s Oct 10th hearing on the Muslim Ban. We will not rest until we have fought every piece of Trump’s Muslim Ban tooth and nail – including the ban on refugees.”

But in the meantime, there’s a ripple effect of hatred felt in the US, much of which goes unreported. Last July, Attorney General Becerra announced an increase of 11 percent in hate crimes statewide from 2015 to 2016, with the greatest increase of 40.7 percent. The LAPD reported a surge in hate crimes in LA, a 12.6 percent increase in the first half of 2017, 161 compared to 143 in the same period last year, according to the LA Times.

“It appears that bigots have become emboldened in the state, not only to commit more violence, but to publicly promote white nationalism,” Brian Levin, director of the Cal State San Bernardino’s Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism, told The Times after clashes at the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va. Levin said there were 13 significant violent events in 2016; By comparison, he said, there have been 14 violent protests or clashes already this year.

Drawing attention to hate crimes and racial profiling prompted rallies held over the weekend around the country, including in Washington DC’s Dupont Circle and in Los Angeles.

“Last year, NQAPIA and KhushDC held an action on 9/11 as part of an ongoing campaign to end legalized profiling by the Department of Homeland Security. Our goal was to put pressure on Jeh Johnson, the then-secretary of DHS. However, it quickly became apparent that the space we were creating was an equally important goal,” Sasha W. said. “The queer and trans Muslim, South Asian and Arab people present all shared that we don’t typically go outside on 9/11—it’s a day when the U.S.’ ‘patriotism’ feels even more violent and terrifying than usual. We worry about becoming the victims of hate crimes or violence from people who see us as terrorists.”

Sasha W. was also the #QueerAzaadi organizer for the LA rally on the lawn at LA City Hall, along with Satrang, API Equality LA, #VigilantLove Coalition, and Gender Justice LA.

“Of course, these feelings of fear have only been exacerbated since the election. Hate crimes against trans people, Muslims, South Asians and people perceived to be Muslim, people of color, immigrants have all skyrocketed with Trump’s rhetoric and policies,” she continued. “Being able to publicly take and hold space on a day that typically creates so much fear was one of the most powerful parts of the action last year. That was the inspiration for the types of healing actions we organized this year—one of our main goals was to create a space where trans and queer Muslims, and people often perceived as Muslim, could be outside and feel safe and powerful.”

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