Home > In the News > WNYC: LGBT Refugees and Asylees Have Their Own Trump Fears

By Matt Katz | February 21, 2017

In the days following President Trump’s first executive orders on immigration, LGBT activists gathered outside the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village, an enduring symbol of gay rights. An activist from Mexico took the microphone.

“Hello beautiful people!” bellowed Ishalaa Ortega. “I am a transgender woman of color from Mexico…I have to leave my country, my family, my friends behind and became an immigrant not because I want to invade this country but because my life was at risk…I lost almost everything, but not my dignity as a human being!”

Ortega, a political asylee now living in Queens, told the crowd how she learned about Stonewall in a book when she was 12 years old. “That gave me the strength to come out forward for every time in my childhood another kid kicked me, punched me, humiliated me, laugh about me for who I am,” she said.

Long after the institutionalized discrimination that led to the violence in 1969 at the Stonewall Inn, activists are rising again. They are concerned that Trump’s approach to immigration could be uniquely problematic for gay and transgender people seeking refuge in America.

Advocates say LGBT refugees turned away at the border face death at home or back in refugee camps. But if they make it to the U.S., life might not be much better. The Trump Administration is expected to increase the use of detention centers for would-be asylees—which is particularly problematic because of the documented history of sexual and physical abuse endured by LGBT detainees.

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