GOP trashes Biden reforms that would help LGBTQ immigrants

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Republicans in Congress are calling President Joe Biden's immigration policies 'lawless.'

Republican members of Congress are aggressively pushing back against President Joe Biden's immigration agenda.

Biden has already signed several executive orders, and he submitted the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021, a bill to reform the U.S. immigration system, to Congress on his first day in office.

Advocates for queer, trans, and nonbinary immigrants say some of the new policies would benefit this vulnerable group by including married same-sex couples in the family-based immigration system, reinstating a program that would help LGBTQ immigrant youth stay safe, and making it easier for immigrants to seek asylum.

During his first week in office, Biden ordered a pause on deportations for 100 days and signed an executive order to "preserve and fortify" the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program (DACA), which allows young undocumented immigrants brought into the United States as children to live and work in the United States. A federal judge temporarily halted the moratorium on deportations last week.

Biden also stopped work on the wall at the U.S-Mexico border for two months; removed a ban on travelers from majority-Muslim countries coming to the United States; ensured that immigrants will be counted in the U.S. census; and reversed a Trump administration order that withheld funding from sanctuary cities.

Biden's immigration proposal introduces an eight-year path to citizenship for noncitizen residents and eliminates a one-year deadline for filing asylum claims, among other measures. The clearest way the bill would benefit LGBTQ people is through the inclusion of permanent partnerships in the family-based immigration system, which advocates say is important for immigrants traveling from countries where they can't be legally married to their partner.

"[In countries where] spouses can marry, they can apply for family immigration, but where no marriage equality exists, and there's no way for them to marry, we need to have pathways that acknowledge that those families are real families," said David Stacy, government affairs director at the Human Rights Campaign.

On Tuesday, Biden signed three more executive orders related to immigration, including a review of Trump administration immigration policies that made it extremely challenging for people to seek asylum in the United States.

"In debilitating the protections under Asylum Law, [Trump] first and foremost impacted the most vulnerable populations, including LGBTQ immigrants," said The National Center for Lesbian Rights' Immigration Project director Noemi Calonje and associate Mateo Sanchez in a statement. "If Biden succeeds in eliminating Trump's bad policies, it will definitely have a positive impact on people attempting to receive protections under our country's asylum laws, as was originally intended."

Around 39,000 LGBTQ people have been estimated to have participated in the DACA program for young immigrants. In many cases, DACA recipients' countries of origin are extremely unsafe for LGBTQ people.

Republicans engaged in fearmongering over Biden's actions in the past few weeks, calling his immigration agenda "lawless." They warned against a looming "tidal flow" of illegal immigration and a rise in human trafficking.

Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-AZ) tweeted on Tuesday that Biden's executive orders "will prioritize illegal immigrants over American workers."

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy celebrated a court's 14-day halt of Biden's moratorium on deportations, tweeting, "The Biden Admin issued a blanket stop to deportations from his office in Washington, DC, while our communities along our border are the ones who will feel the brunt of his lawless approach to immigration."

Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) stated that Biden would leave the border "under-protected" and said his actions would "give way to an increase in drug flow and human trafficking – two issues on the rise in our country."

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) tweeted, "The Biden border policy is already a disaster. A 9,000-person caravan from Honduras trying to get through Guatemala and chaos at detention centers is just the beginning. 'Catch and release' and a tidal wave of illegal immigration will soon follow."

"That Republican Senators continue to replicate the hate rhetoric that Trump continuously threw at us for the past four years is truly reprehensible," Calonje and Sanchez said.

Bridget Crawford, legal director of Immigration Equality, an LGBTQ and HIV-positive immigrants' rights organization, said that if the Trump administration brought anything to the immigration system, it was chaos rather than order. She said that Biden's policies would help reduce human trafficking.

Crawford and other advocates for LGBTQ immigrants said they were waiting for more news on Biden's immigration policies, particularly on his plans for detention centers.

"Something that is conspicuously absent is any real comprehensive executive order or other action on detention," she said. "That is one of our major concerns because the mistreatment that LGBTQ and HIV-positive people experience in detention facilities is horrific."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.