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LGBT Asians/South Asians Urge U.S.  Supreme Court to Strike Down Trump’s  Anti-Muslim Travel Ban

Read the LGBT Amicus Brief at bit.ly/17-956

Tomorrow on April 25, 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Donald Trump’s third iteration of his anti-Muslim Travel Ban. The ban, issued by Executive Order, bars people from certain majority Muslim countries from coming to the United States.

LGBT Asian/South Asian groups submitted an amicus (“friend of the court”) brief urging the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down. The National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance (NQAPIA), with the pro bono assistance of Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom LLP, spearheaded the brief illustrating the impact of Trump’s travel ban on the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community. Brief is here: bit.ly/17-956.

Glenn D. Magpantay, NQAPIA Executive Director and Counsel on the Amicus Brief, said, “Trump’s anti-Muslim travel ban has a direct impact on the lives of LGBT people and tears families apart. The defense relies on some of the cases and legal theories that supported the internment of Japanese Americans.”

He continued, “We’ve been here before. In 1987, President Regan instituted an anti-HIV Travel ban. In 1952, the U.S. Supreme Court banned homosexuals because they were persons of ‘bad moral character.’ In 1882, the Chinese Exclusion Act banned Chinese from immigrating to the United States. Let’s never forget. Never again.”

Arguments

The amicus brief details the oppressive conditions for LGBT people living in the countries named in the travel ban, where homosexuality is criminalized and LGBT people are persecuted. The brief explains how Trump’s ban prevents LGBT people in those countries from joining their families and loved ones in the United States, increasing their exposure to persecution in their home countries.

Moreover, the brief argues that the ban deprives U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents of their constitutionally-protected liberty interests in maintaining familial relationships with their loved ones whose safety is jeopardized by their sexual orientation or gender identity. Because the ban’s narrow—and legally required—exceptions lack meaningful rules guaranteeing equal treatment of LGBT visa applicants, Trump’s travel ban disproportionately denies LGBT people the ability to reunite with their loved ones in the United States.

Co-Signers

8 signed-on organizations

Seven (7) LGBTQ South Asian and Asian Pacific Islander organizations across the country join as co-amici to sign on to the brief:

  • API Equality-Los Angeles
  • API Equality-Northern California (APIENC)
  • Invisible to Invincible (i2i): Asian Pacific Islander Pride of Chicago
  • KhushDC
  • Massachusetts Area South Asian Lambda Association (MASALA)
  • Queer South Asian Collective (QSAC)
  • South Asian Lesbian and Gay Association of New York City (SALGA-NYC)
  • Trikone Northwest

In addition to these groups, the NYC Gay & Lesbian Anti Violence Project; Immigration Equality; LGBT bar associations in New York (LeGaL), Chicago (LAGBAC), San Francisco (BALIF), and Los Angeles; and GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) in Boston also joined.

Shristi Pant, a member of QSAC in Boston, said, “As an organization for South Asian queer and trans folks, we have a duty to support our Muslim community members, as well as Muslim folks from other areas of the world. This travel ban is just one aspect of the anti-Muslim violence that is being perpetuated in and by the U.S. and one that deeply affects Muslim LGBTQA+ folks in need of refuge from the violence they already face.”

Sammie Ablaza Wills, Director of API Equality-Northern California, commented that, “The anti-Muslim and anti-refugee ban is political fear mongering, directly impacting many in our communities. As LGBTQ Asian and Pacific Islander people, we understand that we cannot accept policies that dehumanize our Muslim and refugee family members. APIENC is dedicated to working towards safety and freedom for our people, and we will fight the Muslim ban at the airports, on the streets, and in the courts.”

Anne Watanabe, i2i core member in Chicago further elaborated, “As Asian Americans, we remember the disgraceful U.S. history of 120,000 Japanese American and Japanese people being forced into detention camps as a result of wartime hysteria filled with racism. We are now seeing this racist history repeat itself against Muslims and other targeted communities.”

Prior Actions

API Equality-LA works in solidarity with LGBTQ Muslims and those affected by racial profiling. In 2017, API Equality-LA took action on 9/11 highlighting the experiences of queer and trans Muslims and South Asians through a vigil hosted at Los Angeles City Hall. Its Indi(visible) Campaign advocates for a holistic approach towards immigration equality that encompasses challenging Islamophobia and the Muslim Ban, defending DACA and undocumented communities, and protecting LGBTQ immigrants, particularly trans immigrants of color.

Last fall, before the Supreme Court was scheduled to hear oral arguments on Trump’s second version of the travel ban, NQAPIA and several of the co-signing groups organized awareness raising actions in seven (7) cities—Austin, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Philadelphia, and Washington, DC—protesting the violence, harassment, and profiling that LGBTQ South Asians and Muslims have endured since 9/11.

“For the past two years, on the anniversary of 9/11, KhushDC has participated in and organized direct actions to raise awareness of Islamophobia. These actions bring attention to the increased profiling and discrimination faced by Muslim people in the U.S.,” said Anish Tailor of KhushDC.

The effort, entitled “#QueerAzaadi,” featured community funerals to lift the names of Muslims and those perceived to be Muslim, trans women, African Americans, and undocumented immigrants killed in hate crimes; storytelling speak outs of LGBTQ Muslims and experiences of violence in the last 16 years; and mock checkpoints targeting white people to replicate the profiling that South Asian, Muslim, API, and people of color experience at airports and government buildings. 300 people participated in the actions in seven (7) cities that unveiled the interlocking systems of Islamophobia, Transphobia, Xenophobia, and Anti-Blackness.

Voices of Queer Muslims

NQAPIA has also published the personal stories of LGBT Muslims and South Asians sharing their experiences of policing and profiling in writing at nqapia.org/redefinesecurity-stories and in video at nqapia.org/redefinesecurity-videos.

Historical Timeline

1882 – Anti-Chinese Travel Ban
In 1882, Congress adopted and the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Chinese Exclusion Act, the first piece of federal legislation that singled out a minority group for invidious discrimination and barred their entry. It was not until 1943 that Chinese people could naturalize to become U.S. citizens. The Act was passed after many Chinese people had built the transcontinental railroad which unified the United States East and West.

1952 – Anti-LGBT Travel Ban
From 1952 to 1990, LGBT people were excluded from the U.S. because they were deemed to be of “psychopathic personality.” The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the law and its application to homosexuals. Lower courts further denied the naturalization of LGBT immigrants because they were persons of “bad moral character.”

1987 – Anti-HIV Travel Ban
From 1987 to 2010, President Reagan issued an Executive Order, which President Bush extended, barring people with AIDS or who were HIV+ from entering the United States. Congress then codified the HIV+ exclusion into federal law in 1993. It was not until 2010, under President Obama, when the travel restriction was eliminated.

2017 – Anti-Muslim Travel Ban
Trump issued an executive order preventing people from 6 majority Muslim counties (Syria, Iran, Libya, Sudan, Yemen, and Somalia) and all refugees from entering the United States.

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The National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance (NQAPIA) is a nationwide federation of LGBTQ Asian American, South Asian, Southeast Asian, and Pacific Islander (API) organizations. We seek to build the organizational capacity of local LGBTQ API groups, develop leadership, and expand collaborations to better challenges anti-LGBT bias and racism.

#NeverAgain nomuslimbanever.com #QueerAzaadi

Not Another Death Threat: Queer and Trans Muslim Realities in America

By Almas Haider

There should be a name for the particular depression of living as a queer trans Muslim of color in America. A specific PTSD of walking the streets in constant fear of being racialized as Muslim and have your gender and sexual orientation questioned. The pleasure of not just having one day a year, September 11th, to expect extra harassment, but surprise holidays like “Punish a Muslim Day.” The joy of calling your mother and father, asking them their plans for the day, and telling them to “be mindful, keep your phone charged, and go home and call me if you don’t feel safe outside today.” Because to be a queer trans Muslim of color in America means to live in a state of anticipation of what hate violence we can expect next.

In the past two years since Trump’s campaign and subsequent election, there has been a surge in anti-immigrant legislation and hate violence. According to a study conducted by South Asians Americans Leading Together (SAALT), from Election Day 2016 to Election Day 2017 there have been “302 incidents of hate violence and xenophobic political rhetoric aimed at South Asian, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, Middle Eastern, and Arab communities in the United States.” 82% of these incidents were motivated by anti-Muslim sentiment, a “45% increase from the year leading up to the 2016 election cycle, levels not seen since the year after September 11th.” [SAALT]

This rapidly escalating level of hate violence was not created in a vacuum. This cycle of violence is directly tied to the racist and xenophobic legislation and systems of the United States. The latest manifestation of this has been the Muslim Travel Ban which will be heard by the Supreme Court on April 25th. The executive order, “bans citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S. for 90 days, suspends the entry of all refugees for at least 120 days, and bars Syrian refugees indefinitely,” creating yet another form of institutionalized Islamophobia in the U.S. [ACLU].

In response, on March 26th the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance (NQAPIA) and seven LGBT South Asian and API groups submitted an amicus (“friend of the court”) brief urging the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down Donald Trump’s Muslim Travel Ban. The brief showed how the ban has a direct impact on the lives of LGBTQIA people and tears families apart.

This brief is in part a direct response to an attempt to pinkwash the Muslim Travel Ban. Language included in the Ban says it will protect Americans by barring entry to “those who would oppress Americans of any race, gender, or sexual orientation” [Human Rights First]. This insinuates that people living in Muslim-majority countries are queerphobic and transphobic, a marketing and political tool most infamously being used by Israel to justify Palestinian genocide.

How quintessentially American: the Ban would bar queer and trans immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers from seeking a complicated form of “safety” in the U.S., while claiming that the ban will help keep queer and trans people safe. This will in turn further the narrative of queerphobic and transphobic tyrants reigning in Muslim majority countries, justifying ongoing U.S. imperialism and intervention in the Middle East and creating more refugees. And the amount of physical and verbal violence queer and trans Muslims of color experience within the U.S. will continue to increase.

As the policies of the state become normalized in our everyday lives, the next turn in this cycle of queer, trans, and gendered islamophobia is the increase in hate crimes against our communities. For queer and trans Muslims of color, these attacks target multiple identities that we hold. According to the 2016 FBI Hate Crimes Statistic report, hate crimes against racial and ethnic minorities drastically increased in 2016. 25% of incidents were motivated by anti-Muslim bias alongside 18% anti-queer and anti-trans bias incidents. This makes queer and trans Muslims of color disproportionately likely to be victims. [FBI report]

Through our organizing as queer and trans Muslims, we aim to change that.

For the last two years, on September 11th, we have been crafting actions across the U.S. The purpose of these actions has been to educate, empower, and hold our community who experience the nuances of being profiled as queer Muslims of color. Our actions, drawing inspiration from Black Lives Matter and the movement for Palestinian liberation, have ranged from mock “security” checkpoints to guerilla performance art.

We are questioned and detained not just because of the languages we speak, our ancestral homes, and places of worship and communal gathering, but also because of how we express our gender and sexual identity through our appearance and the political movements we align with. Through these actions we have focused on the ways that Islamophobia and transphobia reinforce each other, how Black Muslims are particularly impacted by queer and gendered islamophobia, and building solidarity internally within our LGBTQIA community.

On the 15th anniversary of September 11th, we spearheaded 20 local organizations to create “checkpoints” in high-traffic areas of Washington, D.C. The Washington Post showed how we aimed to replicate various “checkpoints” and experiences that Muslim Americans and those perceived to be Muslims have to go through every day, including being stopped by the Transportation Security Administration, being verbally and physically harassed in businesses, and routinely called terrorists.

In 2017, after a year of direct and blatant attacks on our communities by the Trump administration, we focused on creating spaces of not only resistance, but also of healing and safety. We named the Muslim Travel Ban and other forms of state violence as the root cause of queerphobic, transphobic, and Islamophobic hate crimes. We drew connections between queerphobia, transphobia, Islamophobia, anti-Blackness, xenophobia. We questioned how we show up for one another. And we committed and successfully created spaces for all of our communities to mourn both the lives and the safety that has been taken from us since the election.

Through this work we as queer and trans Muslims of color have recognized and grown our power in a country that seeks to alienate, imprison, and murder us within and outside its borders. And as we wait in anticipation for the the Supreme Court’s ruling on the Muslim Ban, we begin our plans for an annualized and formal nationwide series of actions on September 11th. We now look to September 11th and every day, not with fear, but with the resolve and strengthened ability to create a different world. And ask our accomplices to be ready to join us.

Almas Haider is the Racial Justice and Immigrants’ Rights Committee Chair of the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance and Community Partnerships Manager at South Asian Americans Leading Together.

You can learn more about and get involved with the work of the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance to combat Islamophobia, transphobia and queerphobia at www.nqapia.org.

OpEd: The Dream Act & the LGBTQ Community: So Much at Stake

OpEd By Glenn D. Magpantay, NQAPIA Executive Director

Take Action: Send an email to Congress

Congress must pass the Dream Act. So much is at stake for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) undocumented young people.

In September, Donald Trump said he would cancel the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program unless Congress passes the Dream Act. President Obama created DACA which has helped thousands of LGBTQ undocumented young people to work, study, and improve their lives in this country, without the fear of deportation. Many of them come from Asian counties.

The Dream Act will preserve DACA and will provide LGBTQ undocumented young people with employment opportunities, educational opportunities, and even a path to citizenship.

Asian Americans, South Asians, Southeast Asians, and Pacific Islanders (APIs) are the fastest growing racial group in the United States today and the largest segment of new immigrants.

Immigration Statistics

169,000 APIs are eligible for DACA. 267,000 undocumented immigrants are LGBT, of which a disproportionate share is API. According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, over 16,000 people from South Korea, the Philippines, India, Pakistan, and China have benefitted from DACA.

Donald Trump’s cancellation of DACA will subject 800,000 potential beneficiaries to again live in fear of deportation. For LGBTQ people, the stakes are even higher unless Congress passes the Dream Act. Thousands of LGBTQ young people could be deported. Many of them to countries where they cannot live their full and authentic LGBTQ lives.

Many counties in Asia and the Pacific prohibit same-sex relations, such as Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Pakistan, Malaysia, Myanmar, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, and Tonga. In Indonesia, police shaved the heads of trans women and publicly caned a gay couple for having consensual sex. In most Asian and Oceania countries, transgender people cannot legally change their gender-markers on their IDs, and LGBTQ people are not protected by anti-discrimination laws.

Tony Choi is a 24-year-old, gay, Korean DACA beneficiary from New Jersey. In 2010, his options were to live a closeted life taking care of this mother with cancer in the US or return to Korea where his LGBTQ identity would subject him to harsh hazing for two years in the mandatory military service. Korean military penal law also criminalizes homosexuality. Because of DACA he is serving the community.

Bupendra Ram is a South Asian Dreamer from Fiji who came to the United State when he was only 2-years-old. He is the first person in his family to attain a college degree.

Pro-Dream Act ProtestersA broad coalition of civil rights groups, businesses, educational institutions and religious communities support the Dream Act. The National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance (NQAPIA) has been pushing for a clean Dream Act with no enforcement provisions, mobilizing 10,0000 postcards, phone calls, and emails to US Senators and US Representatives.

Congress needs to hear from people NOW more than ever. Send an email to Congress to support a clean Dream Act and call House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader McConnell at 202-225-3121 and demand that they support LGBT undocumented youth by passing a clean Dream Act.

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The National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance (NQAPIA) is a nationwide federation of LGBTQ Asian American, South Asian, Southeast Asian, and Pacific Islander (API) organizations. We seek to build the organizational capacity of local LGBT API groups, develop leadership, and expand collaborations to better challenge LGBT-bias and racism.

#SaveDACA   bit.ly/savedaca   #CleanDreamAct

Report Profiling

To report/file a complaint about your own experiences with racial or religious profiling, check out the resources below.

#RedefineSecurity: Sasha, 26 (NQAPIA)

Sasha“The last time I flew to New York City, I was stopped by TSA, which is a regular occurrence. This time though, for reasons I can’t explain, I was led away from the security checkpoint and into a room: a tiny storage closet with blocked out windows.

The only sign in the room was a piece of paper saying that any kind of recording is prohibited. I was trying and failing to stay calm, alone with two TSA agents in a tiny space where nobody could see inside. I felt like anything could happen to me, and nobody would know.

In the end, nothing out of the ordinary happened. They thoroughly patted me down just like every other time. I don’t know why they felt the need to take me away from the LAX crowds, into a special room. But I do know that because of my queer, gender non-conforming, South Asian body – I was seen as a threat.

It’s these experiences that lead me to organize in queer and trans* API and South Asian communities, and to organize in solidarity with all Black and brown people, until we all get free.

That is why I believe that we need to #RedefineSecurity and #StopProfilingImmigrants.”

#RedefineSecurity: Sahar Shafqat, 44 (Washington DC)

Sahar Shafqat“When I was on my way to India with Sapna, my wife, we received boarding passes with a quadruple S (SSSS) security code. I had received that code before, so we knew: it’s going to be one of those security experiences. A TSA agent opened up a security line just for us. Each of us needed to go through the security x-ray machine alone, and we could not stand near each other. That was very isolating. I could see my wife, Sapna, being physically checked very thoroughly, and then her belongings checked very thoroughly. This is somebody who is my life partner, who I love, who I’m very protective of. And I watched her privacy and her person being violated, and I was helpless. I couldn’t do anything about it, because in this system, this is the way she’s supposed to be treated.

Then it was my turn. Sapna was clearly very upset, very angry and very shaken. I ask her if she’s okay and shesays yes, but not very convincingly. A female agent starts doing a pat-down on me, but it’s not like a pat-down you’ve ever experienced. It’s very invasive – really being touched in an intimate way. It’s not just about checking your pockets, it’s really going all the way up the inside of your leg to your pelvis. She said “I’m going to take my hand all the way up until I can’t go anymore,” and that’s really what it was. Even my short hair was manually checked with the TSA agent using her gloved hands and fingers, adding to the humiliation.

All of our belongings were assumed to be suspect – it was presumption of guilt, and the burden was on us to prove otherwise. I had a computer that had to be turned on. Every single item was individually checked – forexample, every single credit card inside my wallet was pulled out and manually checked. That was how invasive the check was. For brown and black people in America, our bodies are constructed as dangerous, as almost superhuman. The idea that we are strange beings that can somehow evade the normal screening process is racist. The thought is that I must be hiding some explosives in my computer or in some orifice of mine, just because I’m brown and traveling to Pakistan. That’s where I’m from. And that’s probably what’s got us on the list, because we go frequently. Pakistan is another home for us.

That is why I believe that we need to #RedefineSecurity and #StopProfilingImmigrants.”

#RedefineSecurity: Kevin Lam, 26 (QAPA Boston & NQAPIA)

Kevin Lam“In 2013, as Khmer New Year in Providence, RI was wrapping up, my co-worker was stopped by police.

My co-worker and I were the main transportation for young people we worked with to get home after the event. When I saw that my co-worker had been stopped, I made a u-turn to check-in on her and the youth. As I pulled up, a police officer approached my car. I told him that I wanted to check to see if my co-worker and our young people were okay, and to see if I could at least get some of the youth home since it was late. The police officer told me, “I don’t know who you are,” and demanded that I “get the hell out of here or else…”

After dropping off all the young people in my car, my co-worker called asking me if I could come back because the police were towing her car. They didn’t give her any time to coordinate rides for our young people to get home, so they were left waiting on the side of the street for friends and community members to pick them up to get them home safely.

After everything happened, I felt hopeless, and angry that I couldn’t do anything to help in that moment. Because of my skin color, I know there is a level of privilege and access that I have, and I was able to use that to keep some young people safe from police harassment.

But it still hurts and makes me angry to see that as reasonable and calm as I tried to be with the police, they did not care. They did not care about our young people who we wanted to get home safe, and they didn’t care about leaving people on the side of the street stranded. In the end, we were able to take care of our people and community, while the police did nothing to protect our people and community, or make sure we were safe.

That is why I believe we need to#RedefineSecurity and #StopProfilingImmigrants.”

#RedefineSecurity: Jyoti Chand, 33 (Stop LAPD Spying Coalition)

Jyoti Chand“I am a coordinating team member of Stop LAPD Spying Coalition, an anti-state violence and anti-police spying coalition.

In 2014, my apartment was broken into. My laptop, which I use for my community organizing work, and my paper notes, to document the use of human and electronic surveillance by the police, were stolen. I felt violated in my home, my space safe.

Soon after, a person who befriended me within the coalition space, was invited by me to my home. We went outside of my apartment unit. When she saw a police helicopter, she remarked ‘we should shoot it down.’ It felt as if she were luring me into self incrimination. I trusted my instinct to protect myself and knew I was not safe. Soon after, she disappeared and stopped communicating with our coalition.

Sharing my story empowers me and others in the community to speak up and protect our ourselves from the architecture of state violence, spying, surveillance and infiltration.

Will we sleep or will we fight?”

#RedefineSecurity #StopProfilingImmigrants

#RedefineSecurity: Fa’afetai Alofa

“I remember the moment the undercover cop pulled out his badge and told me I was going to be arrested. I experienced a mix of things; shock, self disgust, disbelief, shame, and an overwhelming numbness.

As a Samoan trans woman, at the age of 23, just a few months after completing my bachelors degree, I was arrested for prostitution.

It wasn’t long until a few other undercover cops made themselves known, and within seconds I was in a van, alone, with 5 cops. As I was checked into the holding facility a male cop was assigned to pat me down. He misgendered me and asked that I remove my bra. This terrified me for so many reasons, but mainly because my bra was such a huge part of what affirmed my femininity for me. Thankfully a female cop noticed I was uncomfortable with that request and told me I could leave it on. As I waited for my sister to bail me out, I sat in a cell for an hour, without anything but four walls, silence, and my self-hating thoughts to keep me company.

Sex workers pose a very low risk to society. We are not murderers, or thieves, or drug dealers, yet police departments dedicate whole sting operations to criminalizing us for trying to survive in a system that forces us into sex work.

We need to #redefinesecurity so the most disenfranchised in society aren’t being targeted by the system. We get enough of that from the people who actually pose a threat to society: the ones who harass trans women of color and follow through with killing us.

Target them.”

#RedefineSecurity #StopProfilingImmigrants

#RedefineSecurity: August Guang, 26 (PRYSM & NQAPIA)

August Guang“I was 19 when the TSA started using full body scanners in 2010. I found myself suddenly under their microscope. Until then I had gone through with relative ease – though my suitcase was often searched because of my mom’s import business – because as an East Asian U.S. citizen I didn’t fit the profile of a terrorist. Now, for some reason I could never pass by their scanners, always being subjected to invasive pat-downs and searches, having officers reach into my pants and up into my shirt and even up into my binder, walking through the same scanner multiple times and holding everyone else up in line.

It wasn’t until I was 21 and on my way to an interview that I realized what was going on. The TSA agent made me walk through the scanner 3 times, as she got more and more confused. She called over another TSA agent, and they were discussing how there must be a bug in the system. She had me walk through it again, and when she asked me to go through it a fifth time I said no, I didn’t get why. At that point she realized what it was – she had been pressing the blue button for Male the whole time.

I identify as gender non-conforming and masculine of center, and was assigned female at birth, so to her I appeared male. The scanner kept signaling about my breasts in two evenly spaced yellow boxes. When she heard my high pitched voice, she started apologizing. I realized that every time I had ever failed the TSA checkpoints was because of arbitrary decisions that TSA agents made about my gender identity and the way body scanners were set up. TSA didn’t keep me safe, it just humiliated me for the last 6 years.

That’s why I believe we need to #RedefineSecurity and #StopProfilingImmigrants.”