Michaela Jae Rodriguez
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Senators Press State Department on Support for LGBTQ+ Asylum Seekers

Amy Klobuchar

Fourteen U.S. senators, led by Amy Klobuchar, have released a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken calling for additional steps to protect LGBTQ+ people who are seeking asylum in the U.S. because of persecution in their home countries.

The senators praise the commitments by Blinken and President Joe Biden to support LGBTQ+ asylum seekers but say further action is needed, and they request a progress report.

The State Department announced in February that it would “use a broad range of diplomatic and programmatic tools and resources to protect vulnerable LGBTQI+ refugees and asylum seekers.” The Biden administration has also raised the cap on refugee admissions from its historic low of 15,000 a year under Donald Trump, with a cap of 62,500 this fiscal year (ending September 30) and promising to admit 125,000 the following year. Those figures are for all refugees, not LGBTQ+ ones alone.

“We write to commend the State Department for taking swift action to implement President Biden’s expansive commitment to ‘pursue an end to violence and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or sex characteristics, and to lead by the power of our example in the cause of advancing the human rights of LGBTQI+ persons around the world,’” the letter begins. “At the same time, we also write regarding the need for additional steps to support LGBTQ asylum seekers.”

“The United States has been a beacon of hope for many LGBTQ migrants escaping persecution, including domestic violence, rape, and murder, as well as discrimination in areas like education, employment, housing, and healthcare,” it continues, noting that there were an estimated 11,400 applications for asylum in the U.S. on the basis of LGBTQ+ status from 2012 to 2017.

The letter praises the Department of Justice for reversing policies that had limited the ability to seek asylum over fears of domestic abuse or gang violence, “issues endemic to many of the nations from which LGBTQ people are fleeing.” It also mentions positive moves by the Department of Homeland Security, allowing migrants to return to the U.S. while their asylum claims are being reviewed.

But given the February statement, the senators write, “we request answers to the following questions on what steps the State Department is taking to protect and promote the rights of LGBTQ asylum seekers: What are the Department’s plans for restoring our former commitments to LGBTQ refugees and asylum seekers and expediting resettlement for the most at-risk LGBTQ refugees globally? What progress has been made in the Department’s global strategy to address discrimination against the LGBTQ community and to integrate LGBTQ concerns into U.S. foreign policy? In what ways can Congress assist in these efforts, including and beyond the Global Equality Fund?”

In addition to Klobuchar, a Democrat from Minnesota, the letter is signed by Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Cory Booker of New Jersey, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Richard Durbin of Illinois, Dianne Feinstein and Alex Padilla of California, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Jacky Rosen of Nevada, Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Elizabeth Warren and Edward Markey of Massachusetts, Patty Murray of Washington, and Klobuchar’s fellow Minnesotan Tina Smith. All are Democrats except Sanders, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats.

Full text of the letter is here.

Tags: Politics, World

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