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LGBTQ asylum seekers face an excruciating wait

The United States has some of the most progressive laws in the world when it comes to LGBTQ rights. Though many LGBTQ Americans still face de facto discrimination, the country’s laws permit same-sex marriage, allow same-sex couples to adopt children and provide many other forms of protection. The U.S. is one of the few countries in the world where its residents can openly love someone of the same gender.

As a result, the U.S. has become a popular destination for LGBTQ asylum seekers around the world. They come from countries whose laws allow—or even encourage—persecution based on sexual orientation. But for LGBTQ migrants, the asylum process is not easy.

An endless wait

After filing for asylum, most applicants have to wait months or even years for their case to be heard. Some applicants must leave their children in their home countries and cannot fly them to the U.S. until granted asylum. Children who have LGBTQ parents are sometimes targets for harassment or violence. By one estimate, there are thousands of LGBTQ applicants whose cases are lingering in the backlog of asylum applications.

A recent change in the asylum process by the Trump administration has made the wait even worse for some people. While the Asylum Division of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services used to review cases chronologically, they will now review them in the order in which they were received. Applicants who applied years ago will now have to wait even longer. This leaves LGBTQ applicants, among many others, in asylum limbo.

Legal help for asylum seekers

Because the process can be so unpredictable, frustrating and expensive, it is important for LGBTQ asylum seekers—and any other asylum seeker—to use every legal tool that is available to them. Many LGBTQ applicants work with an attorney who understands California’s immigration and asylum laws. This can sometimes make the process run faster and smoother. And any small help is crucial when you are seeking asylum in the U.S. from a country that persecutes its LGBTQ citizens.

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  • American Immigration Lawyers Association
  • State Bar of California | California Board of Legal Specialization
  • Avvo
  • Orange County Bar Association
  • Irvine Chamber