Asian Americans are watching the cruelty of President Trump’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy with shock and horror as children stripped from the arms of parents seeking asylum are placed in detention facilities as court-ordered deadlines for reunification are missed and a blur of chaos greets cries for information.
But the perception of the cruelty might be different for the Asian Pacific Islander (API) community, which has experience with previous U.S. zero-tolerance immigration policies from the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 to the Japanese American internment camps ordered by President Franklin D. Roosevelt after Pearl Harbor. Their empathy is deep and intersectional, knowing that at least Japanese American children were allowed to stay with their parents behind the barbed wire fences.
“It’s been an extremely difficult time under this administration for LGBT immigrants and racial minorities,” Glenn D. Magpantay, National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance (NQAPIA) executive director, tells the Los Angeles Blade. “The fear mongering that the Trump administration has put out there—and the policies based on fear and hate—is appalling.”
NQAPIA notes that LGBT youth have been particularly impacted by Trump’s policies. “We filed a brief at the U.S. Supreme Court to show how the Muslim travel ban tears apart LGBT Muslim families,” he says. Additionally, “the stakes are higher for LGBT DACA kids” after Trump’s cancelation of DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals). “They won’t just be deported—they’ll be deported to countries that criminalize or persecute LGBTQ people. So it’s not just a deportation—it’s going to jail or torture.”
There are a litany of issues, Magpantay says. “Our community is suffering under this administration.”
NQAPIA is fighting back, “relentless in speaking out,” joining marches and rallies, lobbying Congress about the DREAM Act, suing the administration over the Muslim travel ban and sanctuary cities — “using all the tools in our arsenal to protect the LGBT API community.”
But Magpantay notes that LGBT immigrants harbor what to them seems like justifiable fears, even in sanctuary cities with laws to prevent Immigration Enforcement (ICE) from coming into a home and rounding up immigrants.
“For LGBTQ immigrants, ICE is our hate group,” Magpantay says. In states such as California, Texas and Illinois that have laws to protect LGBTQ people—hate crime laws, domestic violence laws. “We have access to courts, to services. We have rights as LGBTQ people. But when ICE is there – we cannot access those protections because there’s fear.”
LGBTQ immigrants won’t go to court to get a retraining order against an abusive same sex husband. “You have the right to a restraining order—but have to go to court to get it. You cannot do that,” he says. “Or you’re a victim of an anti-gay bashing. You need to go to the police station to file a report. But you think: I’m an immigrant. Will they report me to ICE if I report my gay bashing?”
And, Magpantay says, it doesn’t matter what kind of an immigrant you are. “Those who have lived in this country, loved this country, have worked in the LGBT community have been told you don’t belong. No matter how long you’ve been here, no matter what visa you get, not matter what you have done to build up our LGBTQ community,” he says, “the administration is saying ‘Get away from America,’ again. This administration has policies of hate and scapegoating.”
“This is the greatest fear,” however, is that Republicans will control the three branches of government with no recourse for minorities. “There would be no balance of power and we will suffer from a tyranny under unchecked power,” Magpantay says.
But NQAPIA hopes to enhance their political participation, bringing LGBT Asians from across the US and activists from Japan, China, Vietnam, Bangladesh, India, and Malaysia to strategize, organize and mobilize. The occasion is the organization’s triennial national conference from July 26 to 29 In San Francisco. More than 400 LGBTQ APIs are expected, with international speakers and 100 workshops on racial justice, immigrants’ rights, LGBTQ equality, trans justice, philanthropy, religious acceptance, youth organizing, among other issues.
This is no small matter. Asians are the fastest growing minority in the U.S., according to the Pew Research Center. “The U.S. Asian population grew 72% between 2000 and 2015 (from 11.9 million to 20.4 million), the fastest growth rate of any major racial or ethnic group. By comparison, the population of the second-fastest growing group, Hispanics, increased 60% during the same period,” Pew reported Sept. 8, 2017. “In 50 years, Asians will make up 38% of all U.S. immigrants, while Hispanics will make up 31% of the nation’s immigrant population.”
Meanwhile, “Asian unauthorized immigrants made up about 13% of the 11.1 million unauthorized immigrants who live in the U.S.,” Pew reports.
In September 2013, the Williams Institute estimated that 325,000 or 2.8% of all API adults in the U.S. identified as LGBT. That was five years ago—one reason NQAPIA will fight the “citizen question” on the upcoming census and educate LGBT APIs to come out.
“For too long our needs have gone unmet. For too long, we have been marginalized,” Magpantay says. The conference will help develop ideas on how LGBT APIs can achieve greater fundraising skills and political representation. They’ve seen confrontations before. “We must act with love and solidarity,” Magpantay says. “We must support each other and move together.”
For more information, visit nqapia.org.