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LGBT activists condemn Trump immigration executive orders

Immigrant rights advocates gathered at the White House on Jan. 25, 2017, to protest two executive orders that President Trump issued. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

President Trump on Wednesday signed two executive orders that curtail immigration into the country.

The first executive order will spur construction of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border that was among Trump’s campaign promises. The second mandate will cut federal funding to so-called “sanctuary cities” that protect undocumented immigrants.

CNN reported it paves the way for an additional 5,000 Border Patrol agents and 10,000 U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers. The executive order would also expedite the deportation of undocumented immigrants from the U.S.

“A nation without borders is not a nation,” said Trump during an appearance at the Department of Homeland Security after he signed the executive orders. “Beginning today, the United States of America gets back control of its border.”

Trump on Thursday is expected to issue two additional executive orders that would suspend the resettlement of refugees in the U.S. for 120 days and halt the issuance of visas to anyone from Syria, Iraq, Iran, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan and Libya for 30 days.

The seven countries are predominantly Muslim.

The so-called Islamic State has publicly executed dozens of men in Syria and Iraq who have been accused of committing sodomy.

An LGBT rights advocate in the Libyan city of Benghazi has told the Washington Blade that ISIS militants have killed gay men in his country. He said three men who attacked his car in 2014 later pledged their alliance to ISIS.

“America has long been a beacon of hope for LGBTQ and HIV-positive asylum seekers and refugees,” said Immigration Equality Action Fund Executive Director Aaron C. Morris in a statement. “From all parts of the world, individuals and families in our community have sought to start a new life here, free from subjugation and oppression. We see it every day at Immigration Equality.”

“Today, President Trump signed an executive order that substantially eviscerates that promise and undermines the most basic tenants of our democracy,” he added. “His order is not only unconstitutional, but also antithetical to the American Dream.”

National LGBTQ Task Force Executive Director Rea Carey described Trump’s executive orders as “an egregious attack on immigrants and their families.” National Center for Transgender Equality Executive Director Mara Keisling said Trump’s mandates are an “assault on human rights and human decency.”

“We have learned as a country that walls and discrimination don’t work, and they are not who we are,” she said in a statement. “We stand for liberty, freedom of religion and welcoming those seeking refuge.”

Hundreds of people gathered in front of the White House on Wednesday night to protest Trump’s executive order. They marched to nearby 15th Street, N.W., and blocked traffic near the intersection of New York Avenue.

Javier Cifuentes, an intern at the Human Rights Campaign who is from Guatemala, is among those who spoke at the White House.

Cifuentes, who describes himself as “queer,” arrived in the U.S. with his mother and brother in 2002. He is now an American citizen.

“I’m standing here today because I understand the anxiety,” said Cifuentes.

Log Cabin Republicans President Gregory T. Angelo told the Blade in an email there is “nothing wrong with taking a thoughtful pause to reassess our country’s immigration policy — a policy that both Republicans and Democrats agree is broken.”

“Log Cabin Republicans looks forward to working with President Trump to see that immigration issues of particular concern to the LGBT community are addressed in his administration with common-sense conservative solutions,” added Angelo.

Wall is a ‘symbol of hate’

Trump continues to insist Mexico would pay for the wall that will cost up to $12 billion.

Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto has repeatedly said his country will not pay for it. Reports indicate he may cancel his scheduled trip to D.C. next week in response to Trump’s executive orders.

Karolyna Pollorena is an LGBT rights activist who lives in Mexicali, a city in the Mexican state of Baja California that is directly across the border from Calexico, Calif., with her partner and their pets.

Pollorena, who recently began working with It Gets Better Mx, sent the Blade pictures of a wall between the U.S.-Mexico border that she took. She said she “never felt fear” until Trump took office.

“I felt we were allies,” Pollorena told the Blade, referring to the U.S. and Mexico. “My biggest fear is that both governments will start fighting each other instead of making America great again.”

Protesters who oppose President Trump’s executive orders to curb immigration sit in 15th Street, N.W., near the White House on Jan. 25, 2017. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Paco Robledo, director of the Workplace Alliance for Diversity and Inclusion, a Mexico City-based group that promotes LGBT-inclusive workplaces, told the Blade he has relatives and business affiliates in the U.S. He described the wall as a ‘symbol of racial hate.”

“This (wall) is clearly not just for Mexicans,” said Robledo. “Its construction will be a sad monument to nepotism and lack of diplomatic vision on how to stop the internationalization of a country forged by migrants.”

Andrea Ayala, executive director of Espacio de Mujeres Lesbianas por la Diversidad, an LGBT and intersex advocacy group in the Central American country of El Salvador known by the Spanish acronym ESMULES, echoed Robledo.

“This wall is only a material expression of the difference between the privileged few — straight white men — and those who live in conditions of exclusion,” Ayala told the Blade.

Rampant violence in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras has prompted hundreds of thousands of people to flee their homes over the last decade. Many of them cross into Mexico with the ultimate goal of entering the U.S.

Ayala told the Blade that many LGBT and intersex people from El Salvador see the prospect of receiving asylum in the U.S. as an opportunity to live their lives “free of discrimination and hate.”

“This disastrous news leaves their hopes and dreams broken, thus condemning them to a life of despair and hopelessness,” she said, referring to the executive orders.

Fernando Urias, a gay man who lives in Mexicali, was far more blunt in his reaction to the wall.

“This and other initiatives don’t make sense,” he told the Blade. “It is very unfortunate that Trump does not have an LGBTTI agenda, let alone one for human rights.”

Urias and his husband, Victor Aguirre, in 2015 became the first same-sex couple to legally marry in Baja California.

Ernesto Valle Linares in San Salvador, El Salvador, contributed to this article.

Murals on a wall that marks the U.S.-Mexico border in Mexicali, Mexico. (Photo courtesy of Victor Aguirre)