Refugee Voices: Honduran LGBT Activist Finds Safety in the United States
By Madeleine Bair
Violence and persecution is a daily reality for many lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people around the world. In Honduras, the State Department Human Rights Report for 2011 documents numerous attacks on LGBTI people, including prominent LGBTI activists. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights requested that the de facto regime provide protective measures to a group of LGBT activists, and the regime responded by publishing in a newspaper the names of some of the activists—an act of intimidation.
Honduras is not alone. In many countries around the world, LGBTI people risk their lives and their livelihoods simply be revealing who they are. The danger forces many to flee in search of safety and freedom. According to Immigration Equality, approximately 250 LGBTI refugees seek asylum in the United States every year.
We provide pro bono legal representation to LGBTI refugees, and have helped many—like Honduran lesbian activist Ana Patricia Centeno Caceres win asylum.
To protect LGBTI refugees, Human Rights First is pushing for U.S. policy reforms affecting refugees. In 2010, we teamed up with other advocates to write an open letter to Secretary Clinton calling on the State Department to provide stronger protection for refugees “who flee persecution due to their sexual orientation or gender identity.” In May, we released a report documenting violence targeting LGBTI refugees in Uganda and Kenya.
Years of advocacy by many advocates paid off. The White House issued a Presidential Memorandum in December 2011 directing the government to provide stronger protection for LGBT refugees and asylum seekers. Earlier this year, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services issued new guidance to Refugee and Asylum Officers on how to handle claims of persecution related to sexual orientation or gender identity.
Such progress is necessary to ensure that LGBTI people can live their lives—and in Patricia’s case, continue her advocacy work—free from violence and persecution.