by Ian Garvin
Many LGBT+ people leave their home countries in Latin America to seek refuge in the United States. LGBT+ people are commonly discriminated against in Latin American countries, and hundreds of people die every year in Latin America due to anti-LGBT+ violence. El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, also known as the Northern Triangle, are extremely dangerous areas for LGBT+ people, causing many to flee those countries.
While same-sex marriage is legal in the Northern Triangle, gang violence is very prominent, and gangs in those countries target LGBT+ people specifically. A transgender Project Libertad client, whose name is being withheld to protect his privacy, attested to gangs in El Salvador specifically targeting LGBT+ people. According to our client, if members of a gang knew you were LGBT+, they would bully you, and the gangs made their members kill any gay relatives they may have.
There are also issues with police discriminating against LGBT+ people and preventing them from being able to report crimes. In El Salvador, according to our client, if you are gay and something happens to you, the police will not investigate. If you attempt to press charges, they will refuse to investigate. Safety for LGBT+ people is a serious issue in Central America, which means that we need to protect LGBT+ people seeking asylum in the United States.
Persecution for LGBT+ people starts at a young age in Central America. For example, our client shared that as a child, he was told that spending too much time with another child or eating certain foods made you gay. Professors and schools would persecute any students they believed to be gay, including asking children if they identify as a man or a woman in front of the whole class, which is very traumatizing for a young child. Governments in Latin America are largely ignoring issues of discrimination and protections for LGBT+ people, leading to many being forced into situations where leaving home is necessary.
Our client left his home in El Salvador at a young age to come to the United States, as many LGBT+ people do. Leaving for him was not easy, as he had to leave his family behind. Unlike many LGBT+ people seeking asylum, our client was able to enter the United States and receive help from Project Libertad. LGBT+ people are not recognized as needing international protections and as such often suffer violent crimes on their migration journey, as well as suffering pushback when they arrive.
The Trump Administration increased restrictions for asylum seekers since 2016 including LBGT+ asylum seekers, forcing many LGBT+ and other marginalized groups to return to conditions identical to the ones they attempted to escape. Since the transition of leadership in the United States, little has been done to remove the restrictions established by the Trump Administration, especially for Central American asylum seekers. There are also no additional protections specifically for LGBT+ immigrants or immigrants from other marginalized groups that are known to experience higher levels of discriminatory violence. There needs to be more recognition for LGBT+ immigrants, as there are almost no protections for them in most Latin American countries, which forces them to leave for their safety. However, there is also no guarantee of safety in coming to the United States.
Our client believes that life is better for him in the United States, as people do not treat you differently for being LGBT+, and he wants other LGBT+ immigrants to know that you should not feel guilty to flee to the United States, as in the United States you can be who you are.
I would like to thank our client for his insight on life as an LGBT+ immigrant, and encourage readers to support Project Libertad, as with your support we are able to help clients like him to be their true selves.