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On Thursday, the Trump Administration’s Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice finalized rule changes allegedly intended to “streamline” immigration hearings so that legal proceedings can take place much faster. In reality, according to Immigration Equality, the nonprofit immigration service for LGBTQ people, the rule changes make it very difficult for LGBTQ or HIV positive refugees to obtain asylum in the United States.

A rule change gives all asylum seekers one chance and only one chance to explain their LGBTQ or HIV-positive identity to an asylum hearing judge. If they don’t, they can never bring it up again or re-file a case that says they seek asylum to avoid queer-phobic abuse or HIV stigma in their home countries.

“The proposed rule relieves the US asylum system by rewriting asylum law without congressional approval and turning decades of precedent on its head,” said a statement from Immigration Equality. “This unprecedented lockdown would require applicants to articulate any identifiable PSG (specific social group) immediately and clearly in front of the immigration judge, or forever lose the opportunity to present them, even if a reopening application is made if an applicant is on an ineffective one Legal counsel supports. “

Persecuted queers and HIV-positive asylum seekers are often attacked by police, doctors and government officials in their home countries for revealing their identities. Therefore, many are often afraid to disclose these things to the US authorities for fear of further discrimination or abuse. Others will only reveal this personal information after months of well-being and support in the US system.

Many refugees also lack the English language skills to articulate their membership in these persecuted groups, especially if their lawyer does not encourage them or inform them that these particular social groups are eligible for asylum.

A second rule change is that asylum seekers must demonstrate that their treatment was systemic – that is, it was caused by government policy or institutional discrimination rather than by “personal animus and retaliation” of an individual or group of individuals. They have to prove that the discrimination affected other members of their groups equally, which is difficult to prove in terms of content.

In addition, refugees can no longer list “gender” as a trait they are targeting (which would put transgender people particularly at risk), and asylum seekers can no longer say that they have been persecuted for their “political opinions” or “cultural stereotypes”. A. Major rule change that would exclude all types of refugees, especially queer ones who have been harassed for their self-expression.

Ultimately, refugees have to prove that they have already been persecuted – the mere threat of persecution would no longer be sufficient to obtain asylum – and that their persecution was urgent and “extreme”. Temporary harassment and brief detention no longer count as rewarding factors in seeking asylum. In addition, refugees must show that they first tried to relocate to a friendlier location within their home country, or applied for asylum in the countries they traveled through before reaching the US, even if those countries are also anti-LGBTQ are.

Judges can now also speed up asylum hearings to quickly determine if someone is eligible, rather than having a longer fact-finding period to determine the reasons for refugees seeking asylum in the US. As a result, these rule changes not only harm LGBTQ and HIV positive people, but appear to have been specifically designed to prevent thousands of refugees from being granted asylum in the US, a longstanding goal of the Trump administration.

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