LGBT Asylum Group Expands Scope & Changes Name
A recent Associated Press story reveals LGBT people from around the world are seeking asylum in the United States in growing numbers. For example, asylum seekers from Russia are up 34%; many are LGBT persons fearing for their lives. The diversity of groups supporting LGBT asylum seekers is also growing. To reflect this reality, the LGBT Faith and Asylum Network announced a name change, today. It is now the LGBT Freedom and Asylum Network.
LGBT-FAN launched in January 2014 with a congressional briefing and a working retreat. Leaders from around the country, including asylum seekers and asylees, have worked since 2012 to build a core of support and to solidify their mission. The group’s new name reflects the collaborative style of LGBT-FAN, its commitment to LGBT people of all faiths or no faith, and the coalition’s diverse membership. Ironically, while much of the persecution against LGBT people globally is driven by religion, much of the work to help LGBT asylum seekers in the U.S. is led by groups such as Chicago’s Broadway United Methodist Church and the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS).
LGBT-FAN supports direct-service groups, educates the wider community, and operates a charitable fund to give grants for direct services. The network advocates for the U.S. Government to protect LGBT asylum seekers, and works to support asylum seekers who face the brunt of punitive US immigration policies which deny them legal representation or
any means of support while they wait for months for officials to decide on their asylum applications.
At the heart of LGBT-FAN are a growing number of grassroots efforts that provide basic necessities such as housing to LGBT asylum seekers, most of whom are not legally able to hold employment for at least six months after filing their
asylum applications. These organizations include:
• Chicago LGBT Asylum Support Program (CLASP) (Chicago, IL)
• Center for Integration and Courageous Living (Chicago, IL)
• Freedom House (Detroit, MI)
• Housing Works (New York, NY)
• Better Together coalition (New York, NY)
• The First Unitarian Universalist Society of San Francisco (San Francisco Bay Area, CA)
• LGBTQI Bay Area Asylum Coalition (San Francisco Bay Area, CA)
• Center Global, a program of the DC Center for the LGBT Community (Washington, DC)
• The LGBT Asylum Support Task Force (Worcester, MA)
According to LGBT-FAN Coordinator Max Niedzwiecki, “The work of the LGBT Freedom and Asylum Network is increasingly important. Laws in more than 80 countries subject LGBT people to prison, torture, and abuse. Some flee their homes and come to the US seeking safety. Once here, they need shelter, a welcoming community, food, and warm clothes. More than the basics, many want guidance to attain their goals, and feel empowered to join advocacy efforts for LGBT rights worldwide, and immigrant rights here in the US. Many of us are recognizing the shared responsibility to reach out to them.”
LGBT-FAN is partnering with the National LGBTQ Task Force to produce the first-ever guide for best practices when working with this population, and with Funders for LGBTQ Issues to educate foundation staff about LGBT asylum seekers.