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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.

# # #

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

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: 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.”

#RedefineSecurity: Alina Bee, 26 (Satrang LA)

“Abbu was always frustrated by my shalwared prancing. He said they made me look unprofessional and no one would take me seriously in the world. Much to his chagrin, I’ve just about made a uniform of them and the TSA takes me very seriously.

One particular instance sticks out and it happened to be when the both of us were traveling together. Security at LAX was exceptionally interested in my shalwar and dupatta, despite the body scanner coming back with nothing but intricate sindhi patterns weaved across yards of linen. Maybe that was it, they just wanted to grasp the cultures and stories that lay in the threads.

So after the scanner told them nothing, a TSA agent took it upon herself to dig deeper and proceeded to scrunch and shake my shalwar in hopes that a frayed edge might unravel and they could piece together the puzzle in their minds. When that gave them nothing, they took my dupatta and shook it out. Still nothing. So they reached higher and patted down my hair–which only prickled and frizzed in response.

After exhausting all their attempts to fit me in the picture they had pre-developed, they let me go and I huffed my way to the gate. This experience was nothing remotely close to the scrutiny and intimidation faced by many of my colleagues, friends, family members–but this was a microcosm of the ‘safety’ systems that interrogate and deem our bodies unsafe or threatening.

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

#RedefineSecurity Statistics

We’ve created our own 1-pagers and infographics on critical racial/religious profiling issues.  Take a look!

Countering Violent Extremism (1-Pager)

Homeland Security (1-Pager)

FBI Terror Watchlist (1-Pager)

Southeast Asians are 3-5 times more likely to be deported on the basis of an old criminal conviction than other immigrant communities The Sikh Coalition has seen a 3 times increase in hate crime reports since the bombings in Paris. Wages for Arab and Muslim men have gone down 10% since 9/11 In the past year, 28% of Muslim high school students in New York City report being stopped by the police. 25% of South Asians in the US report being selected for secondary screening in the majority of their encounters with the TSA. 48% of Muslims report experiencing racial/religious discrimination in the past year. (Gallup Poll) 75% of media coverage on Muslims is negative. Laotian and Cambodian youth in California are incarcerated at 5-9x the rate of the general population.

Sources:
http://www.searac.org/sites/default/files/SEAA%20School%20to%20Deportation%20Pipeline_0.pdf
http://saalt.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/In-Our-Own-Words-Narratives-of-South-Asian-New-Yorkers-Affected-by-Racial-and-Religious-Profiling.pdf
http://www.gallup.com/poll/6361/civil-rights-profile-profiling.aspx
http://repec.iza.org/dp4411.pdf

QUEER ASIANS REVEL IN VICTORY; BUT WILL CONTINUE TO FIGHT

Breaking News: President Obama Announces Action on Immigration; Queer Asians respond

For Immediate Release: November 21, 2014
Media  Contacts:
Pabitra Benjamin, NQAPIA Organizing Director
202-805-5405, pabitra_benjamin@nqapia.org.
Roberta sklar 917-704-6358
(For Interview opportunities)

QUEER ASIANS REVEL IN VICTORY; BUT WILL CONTINUE TO FIGHT

 The President’s action is a great step forward but the devil, and our dignity, are often in the details.”  Pebitra Benjamin, NQAPIA   

On Thursday Nov 20, President Obama, in an historic announcement of Executive Action regarding immigration reform, talked about how immigrants came to the United States to contribute to American’s successes. “At the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance we know that LGBT immigrants, whether they are on a visa or undocumented, also contribute to the LGBT community’s successes. The LGBT community is strengthened because of LGBT immigrants,” said Aya Tasaki, an immigrant, law student, and NQAPIA Board Member.

NQAPIA applauds the President’s actions,” said Pabitra Benjamin, NQAPIA Organizing Director.  “It will grant administrative relief to millions of undocumented immigrants.  The President’s action will have tremendous impact on the lives of so many LGBT Asian American, South Asian, Southeast Asian, and Pacific Islanders through the expanded Deferred Action (DACA) Program; visas for workers in the Sciences, Technology, Engineering, and Math; and change in those prioritized for deportation.   We know that so many LGBT AAPIs who are here on worker visas, entered as childhood arrivals, will benefit from these actions.”

The elimination of Secure Communities, where local police are given the power to enforce complicated immigration laws, will curb some of the state violence that so many immigrants experience and fear. However, the continued focus on enforcement through the Priority Enforcement Program (PEP), increase in border security and renewed focus on ‘terrorism’ will still allow law enforcement agencies to cast a broad dragnet in criminalizing and profiling our communities.

We were also dismayed that the President did not include the parents of Dreamers for relief, create a new non-familial category for LGBT immigration, access to healthcare for undocumented immigrants or address alternatives for transgender people in detention.

LGBT AAPIs across the country worked incredibly hard for the past several years to urge Congress to enact a comprehensive immigration reform bill and the President to take bold administrative action.   We collected thousands of postcards, made hundreds of phone calls, met with lawmakers, and had demonstrations across the country.  The President’s actions do not address every one of our issues but its a major step in the right direction.

These changes, within the limits of executive power are temporary and do not provide a path to citizenship.  Now is the time for the Congress to turn away from partisan politicking, and focus on humane legislation that will give us true comprehensive Immigration reform. Over the coming months, NQAPIA will work with the administration through implementation and to address these issues for the LGBT AAPI community. We’ll continue to press Congress to enact permanent, inclusive, and comprehensive immigration reform.  For NQAPIA, no one can be left behind in reform.

“The devil, and our dignity, are often in the details,”  Benjamin concluded.

###

The National Queer Asian Pacific IslanderAlliance (NQAPIA) is a federation of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Asian American, South Asian, Southeast Asian, and Pacific Islander (AAPI)organizations.  We seek to build the organizational capacity of local LGBT AAPIgroups, develop leadership, promote visibility, educate our community, enhance grassroots organizing, expand collaborations, and challenge homophobia and racism.

QUEER ASIANS REVEL IN VICTORY BUT WILL CONTINUE TO FIGHT

Breaking News: President Obama Announces Action on Immigration; Queer Asians respond

For Immediate Release: November 21, 2014
Media  Contacts:
Pabitra Benjamin, NQAPIA Organizing Director
202-805-5405, pabitra_benjamin@nqapia.org.
Roberta sklar 917-704-6358
(For Interview opportunities)

QUEER ASIANS REVEL IN VICTORY BUT WILL CONTINUE TO FIGHT

 The President’s action is a great step forward but the devil, and our dignity, are often in the details.” – Pabitra Benjamin, NQAPIA   

On Thursday Nov 20, President Obama, in an historic announcement of Executive Action regarding immigration reform, talked about how immigrants came to the United States to contribute to American’s successes. “At the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance we know that LGBT immigrants, whether they are on a visa or undocumented, also contribute to the LGBT community’s successes. The LGBT community is strengthened because of LGBT immigrants,” said Aya Tasaki, an immigrant, law student, and NQAPIA Board Member.

NQAPIA applauds the President’s actions,” said Pabitra Benjamin, NQAPIA Organizing Director.  “It will grant administrative relief to millions of undocumented immigrants.  The President’s action will have tremendous impact on the lives of so many LGBT Asian American, South Asian, Southeast Asian, and Pacific Islanders through the expanded Deferred Action (DACA) Program; visas for workers in the Sciences, Technology, Engineering, and Math; and change in those prioritized for deportation.   We know that so many LGBT AAPIs who are here on worker visas, entered as childhood arrivals, will benefit from these actions.”

The elimination of Secure Communities, where local police are given the power to enforce complicated immigration laws, will curb some of the state violence that so many immigrants experience and fear. However, the continued focus on enforcement through the Priority Enforcement Program (PEP), increase in border security and renewed focus on ‘terrorism’ will still allow law enforcement agencies to cast a broad dragnet in criminalizing and profiling our communities.

We were also dismayed that the President did not include the parents of Dreamers for relief, create a new non-familial category for LGBT immigration, access to healthcare for undocumented immigrants or address alternatives for transgender people in detention.

LGBT AAPIs across the country worked incredibly hard for the past several years to urge Congress to enact a comprehensive immigration reform bill and the President to take bold administrative action.   We collected thousands of postcards, made hundreds of phone calls, met with lawmakers, and had demonstrations across the country.  The President’s actions do not address every one of our issues but its a major step in the right direction.

These changes, within the limits of executive power are temporary and do not provide a path to citizenship.  Now is the time for the Congress to turn away from partisan politicking, and focus on humane legislation that will give us true comprehensive Immigration reform. Over the coming months, NQAPIA will work with the administration through implementation and to address these issues for the LGBT AAPI community. We’ll continue to press Congress to enact permanent, inclusive, and comprehensive immigration reform.  For NQAPIA, no one can be left behind in reform.

“The devil, and our dignity, are often in the details,”  Benjamin concluded.

###

The National Queer Asian Pacific IslanderAlliance (NQAPIA) is a federation of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Asian American, South Asian, Southeast Asian, and Pacific Islander (AAPI)organizations.  We seek to build the organizational capacity of local LGBT AAPIgroups, develop leadership, promote visibility, educate our community, enhance grassroots organizing, expand collaborations, and challenge homophobia and racism.