FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE | December 13, 2005
United States House of Representatives Votes Thursday On The Border Protection, Antiterrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act (H.R. 4437)
(New York, NY, December 13, 2005) — Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and HIV-positive (LGBT/H) immigrants and asylum-seekers are under attack in a bill pending in the United States House of Representatives. The House will vote this Thursday on the Border Protection, Antiterrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act (H.R. 4437), a proposed law that would criminalize bi-national relationships where the foreign national is undocumented, endanger the lives of asylum-seekers, and permit indefinite detention of immigrants.
Discriminatory immigration policies already prohibit gay, lesbian and bisexual citizens from sponsoring their foreign national partners for immigration benefits. If passed, H.R. 4437 would criminalize anyone in the U.S. without documentation. Moreover, U.S. citizens married or in committed relationships with undocumented immigrants could be criminally prosecuted and imprisoned, and have their homes and assets seized.
Lena Ayoub, staff attorney for the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), said, "LGBT immigrants, already more vulnerable than heterosexual immigrants, will be dramatically affected by H.R. 4437. If passed, this legislation will hurt nearly every LGBT immigrant in America, whether they're seeking asylum, a member of a long-term bi-national couple, or visiting on a work or tourist visa."
If passed, H.R. 4437 would jeopardize the safety of LGBT/H asylum seekers fleeing brutal persecution. The bill would make many people ineligible for asylum as well as eliminate almost all rights to federal judicial review of viable asylum claims. These policy changes are particularly dangerous for LGBT/H asylum-seekers who often do not know when they first arrive that sexual orientation and gender identity persecution are grounds for asylum.
H.R. 4437 threatens all undocumented immigrants apprehended at or between ports of entry with automatic detention by immigration authorities until removal or a final decision in their case. The bill would also overturn the Supreme Court rulings that found indefinite detention of non-citizens unconstitutional. Since certain foreign governments have refused to repatriate LGBT and HIV-positive individuals, many LGBT/H foreign nationals may be indefinitely detained by the U.S. government.
"Immigration detainees tell us that they are denied their HIV medications for weeks at a time, and are targeted by guards and other detainees because of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or HIV status," said Sarah Sohn, Immigration Equality's detention attorney. "With these kinds of conditions, a bill that ramps up detention would be disastrous for LGBT and HIV-positive immigrants."
"This bill cloaks a virulent anti-immigrant bias in the guise of sham 'security' measures," said Rachel B. Tiven, Executive Director of Immigration Equality, the only solely national organization dedicated to LGBT/H immigrant rights. "It will not make America safer," added Tiven.
Immigration Equality addresses the widespread discriminatory impact of U.S. immigration laws on the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and HIV-positive immigrants, their families and loved ones. www.immigrationequality.org
The National Center for Lesbian Rights is a national legal organization committed to advancing the civil and human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and their families through litigation, public policy advocacy, and public education.