Connect with us

US

Advocates Call for Release of Some LGBT Asylum-Seekers

Published

on

As millions waited this week for a landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage, dozens of LGBT immigrants sat in American detention centers after fleeing what they say is persecution in their homelands because of their sexual orientation. 

Now, a coalition of attorneys, lawmakers and immigrant rights groups are calling on the federal government to release some of the asylum-seekers, arguing they remain at risk for violence while they are locked up. The groups also want the government to collect better data that would shed more light on how many people are fleeing because they are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. 

Opponents of releasing asylum-seekers from detention centers say such immigrants would be unlikely to show up for hearings. 

The issue hit close to home for many LGBT Texans when earlier this month, Sulma Franco, a lesbian from Guatemala, sought sanctuary in a Central Austin church after being denied asylum. 

Immigration Equality, a New York-based group that advocates and provides legal services for LGBT and HIV-positive immigrants across the country, recorded more than 500 cases involving LGBT asylum-seekers from 2010 to 2014. But that number is only a fraction of the bigger picture, said Sharita Gruberg, a policy analyst with the Center for American Progress

Though immigration agents question asylum-seekers about their concerns, the federal government does not track the number of people seeking asylum specifically because they are LGBT. 
 
“We’ve been advocating for the government to collect data on this,” she said. “We don’t get a good picture of who’s seeking protection.” 

LGBT asylum-seekers who are released from detention are likely to show up for their hearings because their cases have merit, said Vanessa Allyn, a managing attorney at Human Rights First, an advocacy group whose Houston office has secured two asylum claims for LGBT people in the past year and has five more pending. 

“The real question is: Why are we detaining these individuals in the first instance? If they can articulate a credible claim of fear on recognized grounds for protection, then they are going to show up for their hearings,” she said. “There is no reason for them to disappear into the ether of the United States. They are definitely going to come and they are going to articulate their claim and they are probably going to be granted relief.” 

Her confidence stems from a 1994 decision in which a gay Cuban man was granted asylum due to his sexual orientation. In that case, known as the Toboso-Alfonso case, then-Attorney General Janet Reno ruled that the man could seek protection due to persecution in his homeland. 

“That was precedential in 1994, so this [protection] has been around for actually quite a while,” she said. “It’s binding within all the asylum courts within the United States.” 

But the ruling also prompted concerns that asylum-seekers could lie and claim LGBT status in order to gain legal residency in the United States. That concern persists today. 

Ira Mehlman, a spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, a group that seeks to limit immigration to the United States, said LGBT people, like any asylum-seekers, should be vetted thoroughly to weed out fraud. 

“That’s an ongoing concern across the board,” he said. “It’s not new news; we’ve been watching fraud in the asylum process for a long time.” 

Mehlman cited as proof the system is being gamed a report by the U.S. House Judiciary Committee that says the majority of asylum-seekers do not show up for their hearings. 

Advocates have an army of Congressional Democrats on their side, however. 

In a letter dated June 23, a group of 35 Congressional Democrats wrote to Department of Homeland of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson urging him to change current detention policies for LGBT people. Included on the correspondence were the signatures of U.S. Reps. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Houston, Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth and Al Green, D-Houston. 

“Detention should almost never be used for vulnerable groups such as LGBT immigrants facing immigration proceedings,” the letter said. “Recent surveys of jails and prisons by the Bureau of Justice Statistics found that non-heterosexual detainees experience sexual assault at up to ten times the rate of heterosexual men. The situation is starker for transgender detainees.” 

Mehlman said he agrees that all detainees, regardless of their claims, should be treated humanely. But he argues there is a reason to keep them in detention. 

“Bottom line is there is a very valid reason,” he said. “They are not going anywhere. Whether they are LGBTQ or anyone else.”  

[gdlr_icon type=”icon-camera-retro” size=”16px” color=”#999999″]Supporters of LGBT asylum-seekers rally at a church in Austin. / photo credit: Julián Aguilar

[gdlr_notification icon=”icon-external-link” type=”color-background” background=”#ffcc20″ color=”#ffffff”]This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at http://www.texastribune.org/2015/06/27/advocates-shed-new-light-lgbt-asylum-seekers/[/gdlr_notification]

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Comments

Elections 2020

Beto O’Rourke Says Religious Institutions That Oppose Gay Marriage Should Lose Tax-Exempt Status

The Democratic presidential candidate gave an unequivocal answer Thursday night during a CNN town hall on LGBTQ rights, drawing intense criticism from Republicans and religious groups.

Published

on

Democratic presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke is shown during a Sept. 28, 2019, appearance at The Texas Tribune Festival in Austin. Photo credit: Bob Daemmrich for The Texas Tribune

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune

Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke said religious institutions should be stripped of their tax-exempt status if they oppose same-sex marriage, a position that sparked swift and fierce criticism from social conservatives.

The former El Paso congressman made the comment Thursday night during a CNN town hall on LGBTQ rights. Anchor Don Lemon asked O’Rourke, “Do you think religious institutions — like colleges, churches, charities — should lose their tax-exempt status if they oppose same-sex marriage?”

“Yes,” O’Rourke replied without hesitating, drawing a round of applause. “There can be no reward, no benefit, no tax break, for anyone or any institution, any organization in America, that denies the full human rights and the full civil rights of every single one of us, and so as president, we are going to make that a priority and we are going to stop those who are infringing upon the human rights of our fellow Americans.”

In taking the stance, O’Rourke again staked out politically explosive territory with few allies in the primary field, much like his crusade for a mandatory buyback program for assault weapons following the deadly El Paso shooting in August. He did not immediately back down from the position on tax-exempt status, tweeting his quote on the topic minutes after he was done at the town hall.

By Friday, GOP reaction had intensified, with U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Nebraska, issuing a statement denouncing O’Rourke for “extreme intolerance” and “bigoted nonsense.”

“O’Rourke and some Democrats have declared war on churches,” Texas Values president Jonathan Saenz said in a statement. “We say come and take it. This unconstitutional threat of using the government to punish churches for their Biblical beliefs on marriage must end and will be vigorously opposed. This is just another example of leftists that want to effectively ban the Bible and destroy our US Constitution.”

Calling O’Rourke’s position a “direct affront to the constitutional guarantee of religious liberty,” the Plano-based First Liberty Institute said it was prepared to take legal action if O’Rourke or any future president sought to carry out the idea.

Earlier in the town hall, which was in Los Angeles, one of O’Rourke’s primary rivals, Cory Booker, did not go nearly as far in response to a similar question. Booker, a U.S. senator from New Jersey, emphasized that there needs to be “consequences for discrimination” but repeatedly declined to say if he believed religious institutions should lose their tax-exempt status over opposition to gay marriage.

O’Rourke released a plan for LGBTQ equality in June. Lemon cited it as he asked O’Rourke the question Thursday night, noting it said, “Freedom of religion is a fundamental right, but it should not be used to discriminate.”

O’Rourke has previously targeted tax-exempt status for the National Rifle Association, calling for its revocation in response to a report by U.S. Senate Democrats that it served as a “foreign asset” for Russia ahead of the 2016 election.

The Texas Tribune is a nonpartisan, nonprofit media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them – about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

Continue Reading

Elections 2020

Elizabeth Warren Hires Texas State Director

The Democratic presidential hopeful is the first non-Texan candidate to announce a hire in the state.

Published

on

Gina Ortiz Lopez raised $1 million in the third quarter of 2019 for her second run at the 23rd Congressional District. Photo credit: Marjorie Kamys Cotera for The Texas Tribune

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune

Democratic presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren has hired a Texas state director, the first such move by a non-Texan candidate in the primary.

The Warren campaign told The Texas Tribune on Monday that longtime Texas organizer Jenn Longoria will lead its efforts in the state, which holds its primary on Super Tuesday, or March 3. Longoria, a San Antonian who sits on the board of Battleground Texas, has extensive organizing experience in a range of races for everything from statewide office to city council.

Longoria has also worked for presidential campaigns, serving as a field organizer for Barack Obama’s 2008 run and as a full-time volunteer for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 bid.

Warren’s campaign is the second in the primary to announce a Texas state director. In early September, one of the candidates from Texas, Beto O’Rourke, named a Texas state director, Delilah Agho-Otoghile, as well as four other staffers dedicated to the state.

Some other campaigns have regional staffers, both based in Texas and elsewhere, that focus on groups of states including Texas. For example, Pete Buttigieg has a regional organizing director, Michelle Hutchinson, who is based in Austin and oversees organizers working in Texas as well as other southwest states.

Warren, a U.S. senator from Massachusetts, has risen in Texas primary polls as she has ascended nationally. In a University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll released early last month, Warren overtook O’Rourke for second place in the state, behind Joe Biden.

Warren has come to Texas four times this cycle, making her one of the more frequent visitors in the primary beyond O’Rourke and the other Texan in the race, Julían Castro. Her latest trip, which was in mid-September, featured an Austin rally where she was joined by Jessica Cisneros, the primary challenger to Laredo U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar who Warren had endorsed days earlier.

The Texas Tribune is a nonpartisan, nonprofit media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them – about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

Continue Reading

Austin

Austin Raises Metered Parking Rates Citywide

Austin Transportation will raise the base rate of all City of Austin metered, on-street parking spaces to $2-per-hour starting Monday, October 14, 2019.

Published

on

Starting Monday, October 14, 2019, Austin Transportation will implement the $2-per-hour citywide parking meter base rate City Council approved in the Fiscal Year 2019-20 Budget. The new base rate will apply to all City of Austin metered, on-street parking spaces.

The City’s street parking system is designed to promote space turnover, which provides convenient short-term access to places of interest. However, at the current rates of $1.20 per hour in the downtown core and $1 per hour outside of it, Austin Transportation staff have routinely observed drivers exceeding parking time restrictions.

These observations align with those documented in the Downtown Austin Parking Strategy, released by the Downtown Austin Alliance in 2017. “The rates do not match the level of demand or patterns of behavior,” reads the report. “On-street prices are lower than off-street prices. There is a direct incentive for drivers to circle and hunt for the best deal.”

In order to reduce congestion, national best practices indicate that one to two parking spaces should be available at any time on any given block, minimizing the time that drivers spend circling in traffic in search of a nearby parking space. As parking usage is monitored quarterly, Austin Transportation may make incremental pricing adjustments to ensure that this goal is met.

“This rate modernization better represents the true value of street parking,” said Robert Spillar, Austin Transportation Director. “It also supports the City of Austin’s goals of providing more mobility options and reducing single-occupancy vehicle trips.” These goals are outlined in the Austin Strategic Direction 2023, the Imagine Austin Comprehensive Plan, and the Austin Strategic Mobility Plan, which envisions at least 50 percent of commuters using modes other than single-occupancy vehicles by 2039.

Reducing drive-alone trips allows Austin Transportation to test and implement curb management strategies that promote equitable and flexible curb space access for all travel modes and public needs.

As an alternative to on-street parking, Austin Transportation launched its Affordable Parking Program in 2016 to make downtown off-street parking more accessible for people who work or regularly park downtown in the evenings, including service industry workers. This program has flourished and now has approximately 400 users, reducing evening demand for on-street parking by directing people to off-street spaces that would otherwise often be unused. There continue to be spaces available at rates that vary from $30 to $65 per month, and Austin Transportation encourages people to learn more about the program.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Special Preorder Price

october 2019

13oct12:00 PM9:00 PMSunday Funday Beer Bust12:00 PM - 9:00 PM Oilcan Harry'sAges:21+

13oct2:00 PM7:00 PMSunday RemixFeaturing DJ Tony Castro2:00 PM - 7:00 PM Sellers UndergroundCategories:Drag,FoodAges:21+

13oct2:00 PM9:00 PMSunday Beer BustFt. DJ Todd2:00 PM - 9:00 PM The Iron BearCategories:NightlifeAges:21+

13oct3:00 PM9:00 PMSunday Funday ft. DJ KAHLU3:00 PM - 9:00 PM Rain on 4thCategories:NightlifeAges:21+

13oct4:30 PM8:00 PMTexas Hold'em TournamentHosted by ADA Hold'em4:30 PM - 8:00 PM Sellers UndergroundCategories:NightlifeAges:21+

13oct4:30 PM5:45 PMAustin Naked YogaInstructor varies weekly4:30 PM - 5:45 PM ToddPilates & Barre South AustinCategories:FitnessAges:18+

13oct5:00 PM7:00 PMGHOST QUARTET5:00 PM - 7:00 PM Blue Genie Art BazaarCategories:TheatreAges:18+

13oct5:00 PM9:00 PMBrunch, QWEEN!Hosted by Roxy Brooks5:00 PM - 9:00 PM Oilcan Harry'sCategories:DragAges:21+

13oct5:00 PM7:00 PMDrag BingoHost by Vegas Van Cartier5:00 PM - 7:00 PM BT2 AustinCategories:DragAges:21+

13oct7:00 PM10:00 PMDirty Bird Drag Queen BingoHost by Lady Grackle Birdbreath7:00 PM - 10:00 PM Highland LoungeCategories:DragAges:21+

13oct7:00 PM9:30 PMFeaturedJESUS CHRIST SUPERSTARPresented by Broadway in Austin7:00 PM - 9:30 PM Bass Concert HallCategories:TheatreAges:All Ages

13oct(oct 13)9:00 PM14(oct 14)2:00 AMRewindFeaturing DJ Dallas Downs9:00 PM - 2:00 AM (14) Rain on 4thCategories:NightlifeAges:21+

13oct(oct 13)9:30 PM14(oct 14)2:00 AMPlanet Fabulous KaraokeHosted by Murrah Noble9:30 PM - 2:00 AM (14) The Iron BearCategories:NightlifeAges:21+

13oct(oct 13)10:00 PM14(oct 14)2:00 AMLatin Night ft. DJ PM10:00 PM - 2:00 AM (14) BT2 AustinCategories:NightlifeAges:21+

13oct(oct 13)10:00 PM14(oct 14)2:00 AMLate Night KaraokeHosted by Colleen DeForrest10:00 PM - 2:00 AM (14) Highland LoungeCategories:NightlifeAges:21+

13oct(oct 13)10:00 PM14(oct 14)2:00 AMSuper Sunday Diva Show10:00 PM - 2:00 AM (14) Oilcan Harry'sCategories:DragAges:18+

13oct(oct 13)10:00 PM14(oct 14)2:00 AMKreamHosted by Cupcake10:00 PM - 2:00 AM (14) Sellers UndergroundCategories:Drag,NightlifeAges:21+

14oct7:00 PM9:00 PMAustin LGBTQ Quality of Life Advisory Commission Meeting7:00 PM - 9:00 PM Austin City HallCategories:LGBTQ+Ages:All Ages

14oct7:00 PM9:00 PMCupcake Bar Trivia7:00 PM - 9:00 PM Rain on 4thCategories:Drag,NightlifeAges:21+

14oct8:00 PM10:00 PMJulie Nolen Duo8:00 PM - 10:00 PM The Saxon PubCategories:MusicAges:21+

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Trending

X