Trump’s Refugee Ban Instills Fear, Confusion, Anger, Among LGBT Immigrants

"Today Lady of Liberty, symbol of America’s greatest promise to the world, hangs her head and weeps.”

President Trump’s executive order limiting immigration from Muslim countries has already wreaked havok on green-card and visa holders, who are reportedly being kept off flights returning to the U.S. Those who’ve already landed Stateside have been told they must return to their point of origin, according to the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee.

The situation is even more dire for refugees, who face hardship, homelessness, and violence back home. For LGBT refugees seeking asylum in the U.S., the order could be akin to a death sentence.

Shadi Ismail, a gay man from Syria, came to the U.S. in 2012. Since then, he’s resettled in Boise, and even found love with boyfriend Ian Guthrie.

In all, 11,469 Syrian refugees were admitted into the U.S. between October 2015 and September 9, 2016. of them, 118 have relocated to Idaho. (The number in Boise is twice that of New York City.)

Back in September, Ismael told McClatchy, “it’s good, very good news—people coming in, being safe now. They will have a life.” But just four months later, his mood has changed drastically. He worries for his countrymen, and fears Trump’s policies are “signing them to die.”

“If you see what is happening in Syria, or any country that has war like Syria, where are we going to go, what are they going to do?” he asks. “You’re telling them 10,000 people die because they have no place to go.”

He fled Syria himself after his father burned him with charcoal to “cure” him of his homosexuality. “I fled from Syria because I am gay and my family tried to kill me,” he told KIVI TV.

If the goal of the order is to stop terrorists from entering the U.S., Ismael says, it’s a waste of time: It took him four years of background checks, detailed interviews and psychological examinations to get refugee status. “[Terrorists] will not wait for three years or four years to get approved. They will come here on a business visa,”

His fellow asylum-seekers aren’t looking to hurt America, he insists, or to get a free handout.

“I believe that everyone that’s coming here as a refugee are coming just to live, just to have a real life.” Their mindset, he explains, is “I don’t know if my house will explode or tomorrow I will see my kids or not. I don’t know if i send my son to the store to buy bread if he will be back or not.”

Friday’s order bans immigration officials from accepting refugees for the next 120 days. After that, the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program will be reinstated, but “only for nationals of countries for which the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, and the director of national intelligence have jointly determined that such additional procedures are adequate to ensure the security and welfare of the United States.”

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It also prohibits the issuance of visas to people from Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Sudan, Somalia and Yemen for the next three months. Almost all of those countries criminalize homosexuality, with Iran, Sudan, Yemen and parts of Somalia attaching the death penalty to same-sex activity. (Men accused of sodomy have been publicly executed in both Syria and Iraq in the past year.)

“The United States cannot, and should not, admit those who do not support the constitution, or those who would place violent ideologies over American law,” the order reads.

Ironically, it also promises the U.S. will keep out “those who engage in acts of bigotry or hatred (including ‘honor’ killings, other forms of violence against women, or the persecution of those who practice religions different from their own) or those who would oppress Americans of any race, gender or sexual orientation.”

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 25:  (AFP OUT) U.S. President Donald Trump (C) reads from one of the two executive orders he signed during a visit to the Department of Homeland Security January 25, 2017 in Washington, DC. Trump signed two executive orders related to domestic security and to begin the process of building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.  (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

And yet President Trump has promised to give Christian refugees priority over Muslims. Is that not an act of bigotry?

“To single out Muslim persons for stigma and suspicion undermines our commitment to inclusion, religious freedom, and our common humanity,” said Kate Kendell, executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights. “Today Lady of Liberty, symbol of America’s greatest promise to the world, hangs her head and weeps.”

Dan Avery is a writer-editor who focuses on culture, breaking news and LGBT rights. His work has appeared in Newsweek, The New York Times, Time Out New York, The Advocate and elsewhere.
@ItsDanAvery