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Donald Trump's executive order tightening asylum rules will do grave harm to LGBTQ people along with others, even endanger their lives, civil rights groups said Friday.
The order, announced shortly before Trump departed for Paris Friday, denies asylum to anyone who enters the U.S. illegally. About 70,000 people who come into the country without permission seek asylum, the Associated Press reports. Many of them are people persecuted in their home countries because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
"We need people in our country, but they have to come in legally," Trump told reporters as he left.
The American Civil Liberties Union immediately filed suit challenging the order. "The president is simply trying to run roughshod over Congress's decision to provide asylum to those in danger regardless of the manner of one's entry," said ACLU attorney Lee Gelernt, according to the AP. The suit also seeks to keep the order from going into effect while the court case proceeds.
Civil rights groups quickly pointed out how much harm the new rules will do. "President Trump in effect ordered violence and a possible death sentence against thousands of people seeking safety in the U.S.," said a statement from Transgender Law Center executive director Kris Hayashi. "This unconscionable rule severely limits the opportunity for people, no matter their circumstances, to apply for asylum, meaning that LGBT people and other communities who fear persecution and violence -- groups that our own courts have already identified as eligible for asylum -- will no longer have the opportunity to apply solely based on where and how they enter.
"This cruel proclamation comes ahead of an expected humanitarian crisis at the border, with thousands of refugees- including potentially dozens of transgender migrants -- journeying an arduous path to the U.S. in a last attempt to flee danger and persecution. Instead of being greeted with compassion, they are being met by thousands of active duty troops. This increased militarization of the border has especially devastating implications for LGBTQ migrants, especially black LGBTQ migrants, who have already been repeatedly targeted by this administration."
Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, released this statement: "The administration is stoking fear, hate, and racism in a way that will absolutely cost people their lives. Transgender people face targeted violence around the world, and many come to the United States seeking refuge and safety. Instead, they are being turned away or jailed by a president who has built a career on cruelty and inhumane treatment of people who need our help. This is nothing short of an abuse of human rights and human dignity, and we are prepared to fight it every step of the way."
"President Trump's plan would not only unlawfully limit asylum but would rewrite the character of our nation," said Tyrone Hanley, policy counsel at the National Center for Lesbian Rights. "For generations, America has been a refuge for those fleeing persecution in their home countries. For many, asylum is a life and death matter. NCLR has worked with hundreds of LGBTQ asylum seekers who faced devastating physical and sexual violence in their home countries at the hands of the people and systems that should have protected them. Trump's plan to refuse asylum seekers based on where they enter the U.S. is not only cruel but will be a death sentence for many in our community."
"President Trump's proclamation is yet another attempt to destroy the United States' long tradition to guarantee the fundamental human right to seek protection from life-threatening fear and persecution," said a statement issued by Amnesty International secretary general Kumi Naidoo. "Asylum is not a loophole, it is a lifeline. This policy needlessly places the lives of thousands of people in danger. U.S law states that any individual can seek asylum, whether or not they are at an official point of entry."
"The narrative that people seeking refuge are a security threat is a manufactured crisis by the Trump administration rooted in the politics of hate and fear," added Amnesty International executive director Margaret Wang. Since 2017, Amnesty has documented that thousands of people already wait for weeks on end at the ports of entry, and others have been wrongfully turned away by U.S. border officials as they attempt to seek protection."