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LGBTQ asylum seekers from Central America still seek refuge in U.S.

Human Rights Watch criticizes Trump administration rhetoric

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immigration crisis, gay news, Washington Blade
A section of the border fence between the Mexico and the U.S. as seen from the highway that runs parallel to Tijuana International Airport in Tijuana, Mexico, on Jan. 26, 2019. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

TIJUANA, Mexico – Advocates this week said the Trump administration’s hardline immigration policies have not stopped LGBTQ people in Central America’s Northern Triangle from traveling to the U.S. to seek asylum.

“It’s not a deterrent in the sense of ‘Oh, I’m not going to do this right now. I’ll go next year,'” said Emem Maurus, an attorney with the Transgender Law Center who is based in the Mexican border city of Tijuana, on Wednesday during a virtual press conference that Human Rights Watch organized.

“It is certainly having a practical impact, I do want to say that,” added Maurus. “These policies are causing people to be hurt, they are causing people to die, truly. They are causing a lot of harm and in that sense, they are practically impeding asylum, but I don’t know that it’s causing people to be like, ‘Oh, I’ll wait until next spring’ necessarily.”

Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador comprise the Northern Triangle. Human Rights Watch on Wednesday released a report that highlights persecution in the region based on sexual orientation and gender identity and Trump administration policies that have put LGBTQ asylum seekers from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador at even more risk.

The report notes the U.S. in March “entirely closed its southern border to asylum seekers, leaving them to suffer persecution in their home countries or in Mexico.”

“The COVID-19 pandemic served as the pretext for the closure, but for years, the Trump administration had adopted increasingly severe measures aimed at preventing asylum seekers from ever reaching the United States and expelling them quickly if they did cross the border,” reads the report.

Estuardo Cifuentes, a gay man from Guatemala, is among those who the U.S. has forced to await the outcome of their asylum cases in Mexico under the “return to Mexico” policy. Cifuentes, who asked for asylum in the U.S. at the end of July 2019, runs a project in the Mexican border city of Matamoros that helps LGBTQ asylum seekers as he awaits the final outcome of his case.

“I went back to Matamoros without knowing anything, without knowing anything about the process,” Cifuentes told the Los Angeles Blade during a recent Zoom interview.

Maurus on Wednesday noted Guatemala in 2019 signed a “safe third country” agreement with the Trump administration that requires migrants who pass through Guatemala on their way to the U.S. to first ask for asylum in the country. [email protected] Coalition Executive Director Bamby Salcedo during the press conference also highlighted the inadequate health care and other mistreatment that LGBTQ asylum seekers face while in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody.

Roxsana Hernández, a transgender woman from Honduras with HIV, died in ICE custody in New Mexico on May 25, 2018. Johana “Joa” Medina Leon, a trans woman from El Salvador with HIV, died on June 1, 2019, at a Texas hospital three days after ICE released her from their custody.

Three police officers in El Salvador in July were sentenced to 20 years in prison for the 2019 murder of Camila Díaz Córdova, a trans woman who asked for asylum in the U.S. two years before her death. Díaz’s friend, Virginia Gómez, earlier this year during an interview with the Blade in El Salvador confirmed a judge denied Díaz’s asylum claim and the U.S. deported her back to the Central American country on Nov. 7, 2017.

Bianka Rodríguez, executive director of COMCAVIS Trans, a trans Salvadoran advocacy group, also participated in Wednesday’s Human Rights Watch press conference.

“As long as this kind of violence and discrimination do persist, LGBT people from the Northern Triangle will continue to travel north to the United States to attempt to seek asylum and what the Trump administration has done in the last two years—which is to make asylum so restrictive that there’s barely an asylum system left to speak of—is unconscionable and it puts LGBT people at great harm,” said Human Rights Watch Senior LGBT Rights Researcher Neela Ghoshal. “These policies should be reversed.”

Maurus during the press conference acknowledged “it was not people’s first choice to leave.”

“They had discrimination and abuse throughout much of their live and their first choice is not to leave their home, their family, their community, their friends. It is something happens that truly forces them—I leave or I will die,” they said. “It’s a last choice and it’s the only choice and to that extent it isn’t a choice. I do think people are concerned … about detention, who are concerned about what’s going to happen in Mexico.”

“People know, it doesn’t come as a surprise, that right now the policies are awful, but I think for many they need to leave,” added Maurus.

Ghoshal also specifically criticized the Trump administration’s rhetoric around the migrant caravans that in recent years have traveled from Central America to the U.S.-Mexico border.

“We were disturbed to hear President Trump use very dehumanizing language to describe the people who were in these caravans, in particular dismissing them all as criminals and of course, we know that for many of the members of the caravans—including LGBT people within them—they were survivors of crimes and they were people who were trying to escape lifetimes of marginalization and dehumanization and they needed the opportunity to arrive at the U.S. border, seek asylum and be heard and protected,” said Ghoshal.

A group of LGBTQ asylum seekers from Central America meet with Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) at Casa Ruby in D.C. on March 26, 2019. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)
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California

Newsom calls out gas companies, says they’re fleecing Californians

The governor announced oil refineries could roll out winter-blend gas ahead of schedule, which could reduce price up to 25 cents per gallon

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Screenshot/Twitter

SACRAMENTO – On Friday California Governor Gavin Newsom in a scathing video on his Twitter account castigated oil and gas companies for what he termed fleecing consumers in the Golden State.

“Oil companies are ripping you off. Their record profits are coming at your expense at the pump,” the Governor said. “I’m calling for a NEW windfall tax exclusively on oil companies. If they won’t lower their prices we will do it for them. The money will go directly back to you.”

According to the Triple A Auto club of Southern California, gas prices statewide crept up yet again overnight, reaching an average of $6.36/gallon for regular unleaded Saturday.

In the Los Angeles area, gasoline hit $6.45/gallon, up 7 cents from the day before. Ongoing Southern California fuel supply issues pushed Los Angeles wholesale gasoline prices to new records this week and pump prices may also break new records soon if they keep increasing at the current pace of 10-15 cents a day.

The average price for self-serve regular gasoline in California is $6.18, which is 66 cents higher than last week. The average national price is $3.78, which is ten cents higher than a week ago.

“The degree of diversions from the national prices has never happened before, and oil companies provide no explanation,” Newsom said. “We’re not going to stand by while greedy oil companies fleece Californians.”

The average price of self-serve regular gasoline in the Los Angeles-Long Beach area is $6.26 per gallon, which is 67 cents higher than last week, 98 cents higher than last month, and $1.85 higher than last year. In San Diego, the average price is $6.20, which is 67 cents higher than last week, 96 cents higher than last month, and $1.85 higher than last year.

California Gas Prices vs. National Average

CaliforniaNationwide
Saturday, Oct 1. = $6.358/gallonSaturday, Oct 1. = $3.80/gallon
Friday = $6.293Friday = $3.797
Week Ago = $5.682Week Ago = $3.700
Month Ago = $5.252Month Ago = $3.829
Source: AAA

The governor also announced on Friday that oil refineries could roll out winter-blend gasoline ahead of schedule, which could reduce the price of gas up to 25 cents per gallon.

“In light of the dramatic increase in gas prices that California is experiencing, we should not wait until the end of the month to start distributing or to ramp up production of our winter-blend gasoline. Allowing refiners to make an early transition to winter-blend gasoline could quickly increase fuel supply and provide a much needed safety valve with minimal air quality impacts,” Newsom said in a letter to Liane Randolph, chair of the California Air Resources Board. “Accordingly, I am directing that the Air Resources Board immediately take whatever steps are necessary to allow for an early transition to gasoline to be manufactured, imported, distributed, and sold in California.”

Switching from the summer to winter blend would likely save consumers 15 to 20 cents per gallon, said Doug Shupe, a spokesman for the Southern California Automobile Club said.

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Russia

Putin slams LGBTQ+ people in Ukrainian annexation speech

The Russian President implied directly that the U.S. and its NATO allies assisting Ukraine were trying to erase Russian culture

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Screenshot/YouTube AFP/NBC

MOSCOW – In a rally ceremony resembling a political convention Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin celebrated his signing a degree that Russia had annexed four regions of Eastern Ukraine that were overrun by Russian military forces and Russian-backed separatists.

“The people made their choice,” said Putin in the formal signing ceremony at the Kremlin’s St. George hall. “And that choice won’t be betrayed” by Russia, he said.

This past week, in an election President Joe Biden labeled fraudulent and a sham, Ukrainians in the occupied territories of of Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia voted to join Russia in elections supervised by heavily armed Russian troops.

Speaking from the White House Friday, Biden said the United States and its allies will not recognize Russia’s annexation of the Ukrainian regions and reaffirmed that NATO nations will defend all territory in the alliance.

Addressing the Russian leader, the president said “Mr. Putin, don’t misunderstand what I’m saying. Every inch.”

America and its allies are not going to – I’m going to emphasize, are not going to be intimidated, are not going to be intimidated by Putin and his reckless words and threats. He’s not going to scare us and he doesn’t- or intimidate us.

Putin’s actions are a sign he’s struggling. The sham referenda he carried out and this routine he put on, don’t worry, it’s not there if you’re looking, OK. The sham routine that we put on this morning that’s showing the unity and people holding hands together. Well, the United States is never going to recognize this and quite frankly, the world is not going to recognize it either. He can’t seize his neighbor’s territory and get away with it. It’s as simple as that.

And they’re going to stay the course. We’re going to continue to provide military equipment so that Ukraine can defend itself and its territory and its freedom, […] And we’re fully prepared to defend, I want to say this again, America is fully prepared with our NATO allies to defend every single inch of NATO’s territory, every single inch. So Mr. Putin, don’t misunderstand what I’m saying. Every inch.”

Putin in his long and rambling speech at the ceremony, held on the massive stage in Moscow’s Red Square opposite the Kremlin’s walls, took aim at the West with particular emphasis on Western values and culture(s).

“Western countries have been repeating for centuries that they bring freedom and democracy to other peoples. Everything is exactly the opposite: instead of democracy – suppression and exploitation; instead of freedom – enslavement and violence.,” Putin said.

Later during the speech Putin decried the LGBTQ+ community and Western nations that allow equity and equality/human rights:

“In fact, they spit on the natural right of billions of people, most of humanity, to freedom and justice, to determine their own future on their own. Now they have completely moved to a radical denial of moral norms, religion, and family.

Let’s answer some very simple questions for ourselves. I now want to return to what I said, I want to address all the citizens of the country – not only to those colleagues who are in the hall – to all the citizens of Russia: do we want to have, here, in our country, in Russia, parent number one, number two, number three instead of mom and dad – have they gone made out there? Do we really want perversions that lead to degradation and extinction to be imposed on children in our schools from the primary grades? To be drummed into them that there are various supposed genders besides women and men, and to be offered a sex change operation? Do we want all this for our country and our children? For us, all this is unacceptable, we have a different future, our own future?”

The Russian President then implied directly that the U.S. and its NATO allies assisting Ukraine were trying to erase Russian culture and then justified the illegal annexations of the four regions in Eastern Ukraine:

“Today we are fighting so that it would never occur to anyone that Russia, our people, our language, our culture can be taken and erased from history. Today, we need the consolidation of the entire society, and such cohesion can only be based on sovereignty, freedom, creation, and justice. Our values ​​are humanity, mercy and compassion.

And I want to end my speech with the words of a true patriot Ivan Alexandrovich Ilyin: “If I consider Russia my Motherland, then this means that I love in Russian, contemplate and think, sing and speak Russian; that I believe in the spiritual strength of the Russian people. His spirit is my spirit; his fate is my fate; his suffering is my grief; its flowering is my joy.”

Behind these words is a great spiritual choice, which for more than a thousand years of Russian statehood was followed by many generations of our ancestors. Today we are making this choice, the citizens of the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics, the residents of Zaporozhye and Kherson regions have made this choice. They made the choice to be with their people, to be with the Motherland, to live its destiny, to win together with it.”

The Russian president has long held homophobic and transphobic opinions and has signed multiple pieces of legislation that has sharply curtailed LGBTQ+ rights and expression in the Russian Federation during his 18 years as president including Russia’s infamous Don’t Say Gay law signed in 2013 that has been strengthened and augmented by succeeding measures.

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Southern California

Triple A: Local gas prices rocket up at second-highest pace of 2022

The average price for self-serve regular gasoline in California is $6.18, which is 66 cents higher than last week

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Screenshot/YouTube KTLA 5

LOS ANGELES – Ongoing Southern California fuel supply issues pushed Los Angeles wholesale gasoline prices to new records this week and pump prices may also break new records soon if they keep increasing at the current pace of 10-15 cents a day, according to the Auto Club’s Weekend Gas Watch.

The average price for self-serve regular gasoline in California is $6.18, which is 66 cents higher than last week. The average national price is $3.78, which is ten cents higher than a week ago.

The average price of self-serve regular gasoline in the Los Angeles-Long Beach area is $6.26 per gallon, which is 67 cents higher than last week, 98 cents higher than last month, and $1.85 higher than last year. In San Diego, the average price is $6.20, which is 67 cents higher than last week, 96 cents higher than last month, and $1.85 higher than last year.

On the Central Coast, the average price is $6.20, which is 67 cents higher than last week, 80 cents higher than last month and $1.84 higher than last year. In Riverside, the average per-gallon price is $6.11, which is 67 cents higher than last week, 95 cents higher than last month and $1.79 higher than a year ago. In Bakersfield, the $5.97 average price is 51 cents higher than last Thursday, 58 cents higher than last month and $1.62 higher than a year ago today.

“This week saw the most significant gas price increases since they jumped 77 cents in one week in March. Local wholesale gasoline prices are now 35 cents higher than their all-time record reached in June, when gas prices climbed to an all-time record average of $6.46 in Los Angeles,” said Auto Club spokesperson Doug Shupe. “Until the state receives significant amounts of imported gasoline and local refineries are fully operational again, we will likely continue to see pump price increases.”

The Auto Club reminds drivers of the following tips to save money on gas:

  • Only use premium unleaded fuel if it is required for your vehicle, not just recommended. The Auto Club’s Automotive Research Center found that vehicles with recommended (not required) premium fuel performed safely with regular unleaded gasoline.
  • Make sure your tires are properly maintained and inflated to the correct level.
  • Maintain your car according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. Regular service will ensure optimum fuel economy.
  • Avoid “jackrabbit” starts and hard accelerations. These actions greatly increase fuel consumption.
  • Slow down and drive the speed limit. Fuel economy peaks around 50 mph on most cars, then drops off as speed increases. Reducing freeway speeds by 5 to 10 mph can increase fuel economy by as much as 14%.
  • Use cruise control on the highway to help maintain a constant speed and save fuel. However, never use cruise control on slippery roads because you could lose control of the vehicle.
  • Minimize your use of air conditioning.
  • Avoid extended idling to warm up the engine, even in colder temperatures. It’s unnecessary and wastes fuel.
  • Remove unnecessary and heavy items from your car.
  • Minimize your use of roof racks and remove special carriers when not in use.
  • Download the AAA App to find the cheapest gas prices near you. 

The Weekend Gas Watch monitors the average price of gasoline. As of 9 a.m. on Sept. 29, averages are:

Sept 29 22
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