Trump's New Travel Restrictions Leave Persecuted LGBTQ People Trapped

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On Sunday, Sept. 24, President Trump unveiled the third version of his travel ban. This new version places country-specific restrictions on visitors from eight countries, which the Trump administration has decided “do too little to protect against terrorists and criminals coming into the United States.”

Trump’s new expanded immigration order bans or restricts visas for travel to the U.S. from eight countries: Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Yemen, Chad, Venezuela and North Korea. According to ABC News:

The new travel restrictions are effective immediately for those subject to the two earlier travel bans, and take effect October 18 for those subject to these new provisions. This ban does not apply to lawful permanent residents, those already in the United States on the effective date, those with valid visas on the effective date, dual citizens who are traveling on passports of a non-banned country, or those already granted asylum.

But what will happen to the persecuted LGBTQ people who have not yet been able to reach the U.S.?

Under U.S. immigration law, one may only apply for asylum if they are arriving in or already physically present in the U.S. Therefore, for the persecuted LGBTQ people who remain trapped in one of the restricted countries, this travel ban is akin to a death sentence.

Four of the eight countries (Iran, Sudan, Yemen and parts of Somalia) named in the latest version of the ban still have the death penalty for same-sex activity. In two more (Libya and Syria), homosexuality remains illegal. In Syria and Iran, ISIS routinely stones and throws gay men off buildings. In these environments, LGBTQ people face their own mortality daily.

The three new countries added to the travel ban (Chad, Venezuela and North Korea) also represent perilous places for LGBTQ people. While homosexuality is technically legal in these three nations, LGBTQ people on the ground continue to face persecution.

For example, Venezuela has been cited as a deadly place for members of the LGBTQ community. According to a 2015 report by the LGBTI Network of Venezuela to the United Nations, Venezuelan LGBTQ people face a lack of protections in “an atmosphere of alarming growth of homophobia and transphobia.”

“For [a LGBTQ Venezuelan] and many other LGBTQ Venezuelans living abroad, leaving the country was a necessary step toward living more openly as a gender or sexual minority.” - Kevin Truong in NBC OUT

Similarly, Chad has a long history of LGBTQ oppression. In 2014, Chad passed a law making same-sex relations punishable by 15 to 20 years in prison. In December 2016, the nation’s parliament passed another law criminalizing homosexuality by a vote of 111 to 1.

In North Korea, the LGBTQ community is rendered virtually invisible by the state.

“[A gay North Korean defector] did not hear the word ‘homosexual’ for the first 37 years of his life, saying he had no concept of what it meant, something not unusual in his native North Korea.” - Paula Hancocks in CNN

In all eight of the countries named in the newest iteration of Trump’s travel ban, LGBTQ people continue to face discrimination and danger. These individuals deserve the opportunity to seek asylum in the U.S. They deserve to live authentically without fear of severe persecution.

The Trump administration has just robbed them of this fundamental human right.

Now, without a way to get into the U.S., where will they turn to for safety?

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