Tag Archives: Northern America

U.S. News | Asylum-Seekers

U.S. government loses nearly 1,500 children as administration directs separation of families at border
  • Under direction from the Trump Administration, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers have begun separating children as young as 18 months old from their parents and shipping them to detention facilities at times more than a thousand miles from where their parents are held.
  • The separation of children from their families effectively produces “unaccompanied minors,” who are then referred to the Office of Refugee Settlement (ORS) for placement.
  • The head of the ORS reported to Congress that the office had lost track of some 1,475 children who had been placed in its charge.
Read

Testimony of Steven Wagner on the Care and Placement of Unaccompanied Alien Children” (Office of Legislative Affairs and Budget | April 2018)

Federal Agencies Lost Track of Nearly 1,500 Migrant Children Placed With Sponsors” (The New York Times | April 2018)

What Separating Migrant Families at the Border Actually Looks Like” (VICE News | May 2018)

Citations | LGBTQ+ Asylum-seekers

Citations
Asylum Claims and the Adjudication of Sexual Identity

In immigration systems around the world, credibility stands as the primary burden of proof and identity indicator for sexual and gender minorities fleeing persecution in their countries of origin. In determining who assesses credibility and how, however, precision has long eluded researchers, lawmakers, and adjudicators as fluidity and multiplicity in identity has come to define sexual- and gender-minority communities. The reliance on expert assessments and interviewer perceptions in legal and administrative decisions has proven problematic from both a scientific and human rights perspective. Testing often involves a combination of physiological and psychological measurement, from arousal responses to personality assessments, and interviews have been based on a range of cultural biases and unrealistic expectations.

Immigration laws across nations have variously granted or denied asylum based on behavior, identity, affiliation, or perception, and the lack of standardization has created a large degree of uncertainty for LGBT individuals fleeing unsafe conditions in their countries of origin. This Citations installment outlines the patchwork of domestic and international laws and guidelines framing the consideration of asylum claims by sexual and gender minorities in popular destination countries, region- and country-specific legal and administrative processes, and recent trends in the assessment of sexual and gender identity and asylum claims.


Global

The U.N. Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees (also known as the 1951 Refugee Convention) established guidelines determining the status of an individual as a refugee, defined as “someone who is unable or unwilling to return to their country of origin owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion.” The “membership of a particular social group” item has become the cornerstone of the expansion of asylum rights to LGBT individuals fleeing persecution, and international organizations have undertaken efforts to outline frameworks for ascertaining such membership.

European Union

In a victory for LGBT asylum-seekers in Europe, the E.U. Court of Justice recently ruled against Hungarian immigration officials’ decision to deny a gay Nigerian’s asylum claim as the result of a sexuality assessment test. In its ruling, the ECJ determined that while such psychological assessments are not prohibited, the results cannot factor into asylum decisions when testing methodology contravenes any of the human rights outlined in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. The decision comes as the culmination of a series of rulings related to the assessment of sexual identity in asylum decisions in member states amid historic levels of trans-Mediterranean migration.

United States

Since 1994, the U.S. has recognized sexual identity as grounds for granting asylum in the country. The political and legal recognition of LGBT asylum-seekers has co-evolved with that of LGBT citizens, with asylum decision-making processes having liberalized alongside greater scientific research into sexual orientation and expanding legal rights and protections for LGBT citizens. Today, LGBT asylum-seekers submit an application that includes documentation corroborating both individual circumstances as well as the conditions LGBT individuals face in their country of origin and are then selected to participate in an interview with the Department of Homeland Security. With no government data kept regarding the outcome of claims based on sexual orientation, however, transparency and accountability have emerged as central issues for advocates and watchdogs seeking to promote security and rigor in adjudication.

Australia

While Australia has recognized sexual orientation as part of the 1951 Convention’s designation of “membership of a particular social group,” the country has faced significant criticism for its asylum process for LGBT petitioners, which has included low approval rates and offshore detention that has further imperiled asylum-seekers. When asylum-seekers have gone before the Refugee and Migration Division of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal in a final attempt to secure asylum, they have faced arbitrary, invasive, stereotypical, and culturally ignorant lines of questioning and expectations by interviewers and offered private photos and texts by asylum-seekers in desperation to “confirm” their sexual identity.

Canada

As immigration and refugee acceptance have become political hot topics in Europe, the U.S., and Australia, Canada has sought to position itself as a beacon of acceptance for individuals fleeing to the Global North to escape war or persecution. LGBT individuals petitioning for asylum enjoy higher-than-average approval rates in the country, but advocates have noted that Canada’s adjudication process has historically suffered from the same cultural biases and pitfalls in credibility assessment as other popular destination countries. Tight claim deadlines and multiple points of inquiry introduce further precarity in the process, but advocates are hopeful that a new set of guidelines issued in 2017 will improve the adjudication process. 

South Africa

A popular destination for LGBT Africans seeking refuge outside of their countries of origin, South Africa positioned itself as an early global leader in the establishment of LGBT legal rights and protections. Though the most progressive African nation in this respect, the country has nevertheless been criticized for the legal process through which it puts LGBT asylum-seekers, including reliance on temporary permits to defer long-term status provision and intimidation and credibility issues in the interview process.

 

U.S. Research | Incarcerated Black & Latinx

Mixed Optimism in New U.S. Incarceration Statistics

Racial and ethnic disparities in incarceration in the U.S. have long been the target of research, with the gaps an indicator of the effects of unevenly policed populations and legacies of bondage, segregation, and criminalization. Nevertheless, the difference in rates of incarceration in federal and state prisons between groups has shrunk, and criminal justice reform advocates hope that the last decade has been an indication of a turning of the tide towards de-incarceration and the decriminalization of communities of color.

New data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics continue to enliven those hopes as they show continuing gains in 2016 in the wake of the incarceration apex in 2009, and analysts have begun offering a number of reasons for the tightening numbers, including changes in drug-related law enforcement and an increased focus on sex crimes. However, disparities at the the juvenile level have widened, and advocates and researchers continue to worry over the growth of contributing phenomena including the school-to-prison pipeline.

1,458,173 (2016) vs. 1,553,574 (2009)

Total number of prisoners (decrease of 6%)

486,900 (2016) vs. 584,800 (2009)

Number of black prisoners (decrease of 17%)

339,300 (2016) vs. 341,200 (2009)

Number of Latinx prisoners (decrease of <1%)

439,800 (2016) vs. 490,000 (2009)

Number of white prisoners (decrease of 10%)

33% (black) vs. 23% (Latinx) vs. 30% (white)

Percentage of prison population by race/ethnicity

12% (black) vs. 16% (Latinx) vs. 64% (white)

Percentage of overall population by race/ethnicity

1,604 (black) vs. 856 (Latinx) vs. 274 (white)

Number of incarcerated people per 100,000 adults in racial/ethnic group


Study

Prisoners in 2016 (Bureau of Justice Statistics | January 2018)

Read

The gap between the number of blacks and whites in prison is shrinking” (Pew Research Center | January 2018)

A Mass Incarceration Mystery” (The Marshall Project | December 2017)

Black Disparities in Youth Incarceration” (The Sentencing Project | September 2017)

Mass Incarceration: The Whole Pie 2017” (The Prison Policy Initiative | March 2017)

There’s been a big decline in the black incarceration rate, and almost nobody’s paying attention” (The Washington Post | February 2016)

U.S. Feature | Poor & Low-income Women

The Haunting of U.S. Housing by Sexual Exploitation


Source: WBAL-TV/YouTube (October 2015)

Each year, hundreds of lawsuits against agencies and individuals associated with housing management in the U.S. are filed, the tip of the iceberg of rampant sexual misconduct and abuse disrupting housing security for poor and low-income women. Landlords, property managers, maintenance workers, security officers, and housing program managers have demanded sexual favors from tenant women in exchange for continued residence or program coverage, including qualification for Section 8 housing. A combination of an affordable housing crunch, long wait times for housing program intake, the threat of homelessness via retaliation, and the consequences of eviction on future housing access have left many women vulnerable to sexual exploitation and many men engaging in coercion with impunity.

While the lack of robust national studies and uneven state reporting practices on sexual harassment in housing have long obscured the problem, legislators have introduced House and Senate versions of a bill to amend the Fair Housing Act with explicit anti-harassment language and federal agencies have announced steps to target exploitation, including piloting an initiative to identify reporting barriers. Similarly, advocates have begun building consciousness amidst the burgeoning national conversation on gender-based sexual misconduct driven by the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements.

Read

A woman’s choice – sexual favours or lose her home” (BBC News | January 2018)

HUD charges Wichita landlord with housing discrimination after alleged sexual harassment” (KWCH-TV | November 2017)

Justice Department Announces Initiative to Combat Sexual Harassment in Housing” (U.S. Department of Justice | October 2017)

Watch

Complaints of Sexual Harassment in Public Housing Go Ignored” (The Real News Network | September 2017)

Justice Department sues KCK Housing Authority for sexual harassment” (KSHB-TV | October 2015)

Study

Fair Housing Act

Combat Sexual Harassment in Housing Act (Proposed Senate bill)

Combat Sexual Harassment in Housing Act (Proposed House bill)

Sexual Harassment and Fair Housing Toolkit (Equal Rights Center)

Memo: Questions and Answers on Sexual Harassment under the Fair Housing Act (U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development)

Connect

National Fair Housing Alliance

U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development: Fair Housing

Report

U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division (fairhousing@usdoj.gov1-844-380-6178)

U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (1-800-669-9777)

 

U.S. News | Somali Immigrants

Deported Somali immigrants file suit against U.S. for inhumane conditions during removal flight
  • The 92 deported individuals were reportedly subjected to physical and psychological abuse during a 48-hour trip intended for Mogadishu, including physical shackling, medication withholding, and lack of restroom access.
  • After landing in Dakar, Senegal, the flight was held for nearly 24 hours before eventually returning to the U.S., with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials denying incident.
  • The lawsuit seeks to reopen their deportation cases and ensure the future treatment and security of the plaintiffs, with some having lived in the U.S. for decades and fearing retribution by the militant group al-Shabaab given the publicity surrounding the flight.
Read

Somalis were shackled for nearly 48 hours on failed US deportation flight” (The Guardian | December 2017)

Somalis faced ‘inhumane’ abuse on US deportation flight” (Al Jazeera | December 2017)

Somalis faced ‘slave ship conditions’ on failed deportation flight” (Public Radio Internationalvia USA Today | December 2017)

U.S. News | Racial & Religious Minorities and Allies

Attackers connected to white supremacist groups kill 3, wound another in Oregon and Maryland
  • In College Park, MD, black college senior Richard Collins III was stabbed and killed in an unprovoked attack by a 22-year-old white man on the University of Maryland-College Park campus.
  • In Portland, OR, two white men were killed and another injured after intervening as a neo-Nazi white supremacist yelled anti-Muslim rhetoric at two Muslim women on a train.
  • The attacks follow a number of high-profile incidents and an uptick in reported identity-based terrorism following the election of President Donald Trump, whose campaign was marked by anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim rhetoric and a willingness to court and promote white-supremacist supporters.
Read

University of Maryland Fatal Stabbing Investigated by FBI as Possible Hate Crime” (NBC News | May 2017)

Man shouting ‘anti-Muslim slurs’ fatally stabs two men in Portland” (The Guardian | May 2017)

Spread of Hate Crimes Has Lawmakers Seeking Harsher Penalties” (The New York Times | April 2017)

(Image Credit: via The Baltimore Sun)

Australia & Canada Feature | Indigenous

The Fight for Indigenous Equality, from Australia to Canada

As increased attention to negative outcomes in indigenous communities has pushed their governments to address racial disparities, Australian and Canadian indigenous advocates have drawn attention to the markedly similar ways in which English settler colonialism and systemic racial inequality unfolded in their countries. In both countries, indigenous peoples make up at least a quarter of the prison population, 40% of incarcerated children, and half of those in the child welfare system. Similar policies of forced family dissolution, detention, and delayed dismantlement of legal inequality have pushed advocates an ocean apart to come up with comparative solutions to the persistent indigenous/non-indigenous gap in their countries.

Read

‘It’s the same story’: How Australia and Canada are twinning on bad outcomes for Indigenous people” (The Guardian | April 2017)

(Image Credit: Torsten Blackwood/AFP/Getty Images, via The Guardian)