Jeff Sessions Effectively Bans Transgender Asylum Seekers from US

Alejandra (Amnesty International)

The lack of civil protections in other nations has, on occasion, seen Transgender individuals crossing the boarder asking for asylum from persecution, violence and administrative policies that leave them vulnerable to social alienation, targets of abuse and stripped of human rights. While it is not something we see every day, it does happen, and in a joint partnership with the United Nations, we have an obligation to protect citizens whose own countries have put them in grave danger, effectively preventing them from enjoying the same quality of life as their cisgender counterparts.

Currently, a Transgender woman, know only by the name Alejandra, is being unjustly detained in Cibola County Correctional Center, a prison facility in Mexico, by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) awaiting a hearing to determine her eligibility for asylum status in the United States. She has been incarcerated since last year. Amnesty International, the agency campaigning for her release said that Alejandra’s case is “especially urgent in light of the recent death of another transgender woman in ICE custody who was briefly held in the same unit.”

Alejandra, a resident of El Salvador, had been an outspoken trans activist, educator and national speaker who found herself the subject of intense sexual harassment by military agencies, brutally attacked by gang members, and offered no assistance from local authorities. Had she not fled her home country, she would most certainly be murdered for promoting transgender visibility and advocating for equality.

Shockingly, since Alejandra was detained last year, she has been denied access to basic medical treatments, including disruption of her transitional medications which has sent her plummeting into a deep depression. She has not received therapy to deal with the emotional aftermath of her sexual abuse and the traumatic experiences imposed on her by the military- who sought her out for deliberate retaliation due to her transgender status and high profile.

As this story was just coming to national attention, Attorney General Jeff Sessions made a terrifying shift in the United States asylum policy regarding victims of hate-based gang violence and domestic abuse. Sessions wrote in 31-page decision. “The mere fact that a country may have problems effectively policing certain crimes — such as domestic violence or gang violence — or that certain populations are more likely to be victims of crime, cannot itself establish an asylum claim.

This means that LGBT individuals who are targeted simply for their gender or sexuality will no longer qualify for asylum in the United States. In countries like El Salvador, where gang activity is often the right hand of high ranking officials in the military, LGBT people will be left at their mercy. We have seen the devastating consequences of this unfold in Chechnya, where their own government advocated their imprisonment in concentration camps and even campaigned for families of gay men to kill them without consequence in what is known formally as a “Anti-Gay Purge.”

With America determined to turn its backs on it’s own transgender citizens by rolling back protections and banning the word “Transgender” or “Vulnerable” from any missives between the CDC and the White House as well as American President, Donald Trump, determined to eradicate Transgender military service men and women, America may not be the safe house it once was. This leaves other countries such as Canada, United Kingdom, France, Italy and other more progressive countries as their only hope for safety.

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