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LGBTQ immigrant groups welcome decision to terminate Title 42

So-called Remain in Mexico policy remains in place

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immigration crisis, gay news, Washington Blade
A section of the border fence between the Mexico and the U.S. as seen from the highway that runs parallel to Tijuana International Airport in Tijuana, Mexico, on Jan. 26, 2019. LGBTQ immigrant rights groups have welcomed the Biden administration's decision to end Title 42, but they say more needs to be done to reform the country's immigration system. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

LGBTQ immigrant rights groups have welcomed the Biden administration’s decision to terminate a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention rule that closed the Southern border to most asylum seekers and migrants because of the pandemic.

“It’s about time,” Immigration Equality Executive Director Aaron Morris told the Washington Blade on Monday during a telephone interview. “This was a policy that was difficult to justify during the worst parts of the pandemic.”

The CDC in March 2020 implemented Title 42 in response to the pandemic.

Morris described Title 42 as “the brainchild of Stephen Miller long before COVID-19 even existed” and a “sort of obscure public health law to exclude people from coming to the United States.” Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas on Friday formally announced Title 42 will end on May 23.

“Ending the use of Title 42, a racist and harmful policy that was enacted by Trump is a right step for many asylum seekers, especially Black LGBTQIA+ asylum seekers that have been denied entry at the U.S.-Mexico border,” Oluchi Omeoga, co-director of the Black LGBTQIA+ Migrant Project, told the Blade on Monday in a statement.

ORAM (Organization of Refuge, Asylum and Migration) Executive Director Steve Roth echoed Omeoga and Morris.

“ORAM is thrilled to see the long-overdue overturning of Title 42, a policy that put asylum seekers in harm’s way in border towns and prevented them from seeking safety in the United States,” Roth told the Blade. “We hope the removal of this policy will speed up the processing of asylum seekers — particularly members of the LGBTIQ community and other vulnerable groups.”

Texas Congresswoman Veronica Escobar, who represents the border city of El Paso, also welcomed the end of Title 42.

“The use of Title 42, introduced by the Trump administration, effectively eliminated access to legal asylum in our country,” said the Texas Democrat in a statement on March 31, the day before Mayorkas made his announcement. “I have been calling for an end to Title 42 since it began and I am hopeful that the Biden administration will soon rescind it.”

U.S. Sens. Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) is among the other lawmakers who have also praised the end of Title 42. U.S. Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas) and others have expressed concerns.

“We are concerned that DHS has not adequately prepared and developed a plan to ensure the safety of migrants, officers and our communities post-Title 42,” said Sinema and Cornyn in a letter they sent to Mayorkas on March 31. “To date, we have not seen sufficient steps to avoid a humanitarian and security crisis. Consistent coordination and communication with state and local governments along the border, including small communities, is one necessary element in a successful strategy to secure the border, protect border communities and ensure migrants are treated fairly and humanely.”

The Republican attorneys general of Arizona, Louisiana and Missouri on Sunday filed a federal lawsuit to block Title 42’s termination.

‘Remain in Mexico’ policy remains in place

The Biden administration has sought to end the Migrant Protection Protocols program that forces asylum seekers to pursue their cases in Mexico, but Morris and others with whom the Blade spoke noted MPP remains in place.

“Ending Title 42 is a step in the right direction, yet at the border we are still concerned about the negative impact MPP reinstatement has upon immigrants who are still returned to Mexico to wait for their hearings,” said Abdiel Echevarría-Cabán, a South Texas-based immigration attorney who is also a human rights law and policy expert.

The State Department currently advises Americans not to “travel to” or to “reconsider travel” to the Mexican states of Tamaulipas, Coahuila, Chihuahua, Sonora and Baja California — which all border the U.S. — because of “crime and kidnapping.”

A group of LGBTQ asylum seekers at a shelter in Matamoros, Mexico, on Feb. 27, 2021. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Blanca Navarrete is the director of Derechos Humanos Integrales en Acción (DHIA), a group that runs Casa D’Colores, a safe house for LGBTQ asylum seekers and migrants in Ciudad Juárez, which is across the Rio Grande from El Paso.

Navarette on Monday told the Blade during a telephone interview that Ciudad Juárez and other Mexican border cities remain dangerous for migrants who are at increased risk to be kidnapped, robbed, raped and trafficked. Jerlín, a transgender man who fled Honduras earlier this year, told the Blade in February before he received a humanitarian visa to enter the U.S. that he was afraid to stay in Piedras Negras, a Mexican border city that is across the Rio Grande from Eagle Pass, Texas, because “drug cartels will kidnap you.”

“The end of Title 42 does not mean the border is going to be open,” said Navarette.

“Title 42 is only the bottom of the egregious and plenty harmful policy that happens within our broken immigration system,” stressed Omeoga. “BLMP envisions a world where no one is forced to give up their homeland, where all Black LGBTQIA+ people are free and liberated, a world where all Black people and our loved ones have housing, bodily autonomy, health and the ability to move and travel freely and with dignity, free of criminalization, anti-Black racism, misogyny and all forms of transphobia and homophobia.”

Deborah, a national organizer for the Black LGBTQIA+ Migrant Project, in a statement to the Blade described the termination of Title 42 as “the right decision,” but added “for many people who have been turned away from the border to face an uncertain fate, it was too little too late.”

“The administration can restore the right to seek asylum without reactionary removals, detention, ankle monitors and other forms of surveillance and criminalization,” said Deborah. “The Biden administration has to understand that we don’t need a $527 million ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) surveillance program. We need safe, equitable paths for migration.” 

Escobar in her statement also reiterated her calls to reform the U.S. immigration system.

“Addressing immigration exclusively at our nation’s borders represents a failure of vision and policy,” she said. “Outdated policies and processes harm migrants and asylum-seekers, waste millions of dollars annually, misuse law enforcement personnel and do not make us more ‘secure.’ Now is the time to reform an outdated and inhumane system, and I urge the administration and Congress to implement changes I have championed.”

“Our country can and must do better,” added Escobar.

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Federal Government

Anthony Fauci, leader in HIV/AIDS and COVID epidemics, confirms plan to retire

WH adviser remembered by gay community

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Anthony Fauci has confirmed plans to retire from the U.S. government by the year's end. (Washington Blade file photo by Lou Chibbaro Jr.)

Anthony Fauci, a leading epidemiologist who advised seven presidents and had a major role in the HIV/AIDS and COVID epidemics, has confirmed plans to retire from his role in the U.S. government.

Fauci, the longtime director of the National Institute of Allergy & Infectious Diseases and now chief medical adviser to President Biden, signaled he plans to retire in December in a statement Monday.

Fauci, however, is quoted in the New York Times as saying he’s “not retiring in the classic sense” but would devote himself to traveling, writing, and encouraging young people to enter government service.

“So long as I’m healthy, which I am, and I’m energetic, which I am, and I’m passionate, which I am, I want to do some things outside of the realm of the federal government,” Dr. Fauci was quoted as saying, reportedly adding he intends to draw on his experience in public health and public service to “hopefully inspire the younger generation.”

As noted in The New York Times, the announcement from the 81-year-old Fauci wasn’t unexpected because he had been hinting for some time he was thinking of stepping down.

Fauci, a leader in the U.S. government response to the coronavirus pandemic, was seen as a major antagonist of former President Trump’s, who was criticized for downplaying the threat of the disease — and even outright lying about its danger to the American public. In turn, Fauci drew the ire of conservatives, who blamed him for making Trump look bad and for the lockdown policies they opposed.

The gay community also remembers Fauci for the lead role he took in development of treatment for HIV/AIDS during the height of the epidemic in the 1980s. Although Fauci was once among the targets of protest groups like ACT UP, he later became close friends with now deceased activist Larry Kramer.

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Federal Government

Fauci to retire by end of first Biden term

NIAID director has served seven presidents

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Dr. Anthony Fauci with President Joe Biden in May 2022 (Photo by Adam Schultz/White House)

Dr. Anthony Fauci announced during an interview Monday that his five decades as arguably America’s best-known public health official will come to an end by or before the conclusion of President Joe Biden’s first term in office, Jan. 20, 2025. 

Biden’s chief medical advisor and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Fauci’s government service began with the emergence of HIS/AIDS just before he took the helm of NIAID in 1984, where he has served now under a total of seven different presidential administrations. 

Though he encountered some criticism from activist groups like ACT UP over what they perceived as his (and the government’s) anemic response to the AIDS crisis as gay men were dying in droves, the physician and scientist would later earn their admiration and respect for his career-long dedication to finding cures. 

Today, Fauci is best known for being the public face of the American government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, a position where he was often caught in the political headwinds, clashing with the Trump administration and Congressional Republicans who often sought to undermine him. 

Responding to news of Fauci’s plans to retire, Equality California Managing Director of External Affairs Samuel Garrett-Pate told the Los Angeles Blade by phone Monday that “From the AIDS crisis to COVID-19 to the monkeypox outbreak we’re experiencing, Dr. Fauci has dedicated his life to improving health and wellbeing of all Americans, especially the LGBTQ+ community.” 

“What’s really notable about his leadership in times of crisis,” Garrett-Pate said, “is his willingness to acknowledge when our public health agencies have fallen short of their mission and continuously working to improve.”

Fauci, who is 81, vowed last year that attacks from Republican lawmakers would not force him into an early retirement, adding that when it’s time to step down, he expects to find a publisher for a memoir he’s been writing. 

In addition to his work during the early days of HIV/AIDS — some of which was chronicled in Fauci’s extensive interview published in 2007 by the Edward M. Kennedy Institute — a memoir would likely cover the ways in which Fauci was drawn into political battles over measures designed to curb the spread of COVID-19 and step up vaccination rates. 

Highlights from the decades in between AIDS and COVID-19 are worthy fodder for a memoir, too, as Fauci was battling other viruses during this time such as SARS, the Swine Flu, MERS, Ebola and Zika.

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Federal Government

Treasury Department endorses Asian Development Bank LGBTQ safeguard

Final vote expected in March 2023

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(Bigstock photo)

The Treasury Department has endorsed an LGBTQ-specific Asian Development Bank safeguard.

The Washington Blade obtained a May 31 email that Alex Severens, director of the Treasury Department’s Office of Development Results and Accountability, sent to Council for Global Equality Chair Mark Bromley and Human Rights Campaign Government Affairs Director David Stacy.

Severens in the email said the Treasury Department “has considered this issue carefully and has received thoughtful input from a variety of stakeholders.”

“Treasury agrees with your recommendation to adopt a standalone gender and SOGIESC safeguard,” wrote Severens. “In order to protect all vulnerable groups, we also believe it important to include a more general safeguard for all vulnerable groups that promotes non-discrimination and inclusion of all people.”

The Asian Development Bank, which is based in the Philippines, seeks to promote economic and social development throughout the Asia-Pacific Region.

It held consultations on the proposed safeguard earlier this week. The Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights and the AFL-CIO are among those that have endorsed the safeguard.

“United Nations Human Rights (OHCHR) strongly supports the need for a self-standing safeguard on gender equality that addresses the full range of rights of women and girls and the rights of LGBTIQ+ persons,” wrote Gabriel Alves de Faria in a June 7 letter in which the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights submitted.

The Treasury Department has not responded to the Blade’s request for comment. Chantale Wong, the U.S. director of the Asian Development Bank who is the first openly lesbian American ambassador, in April during an exclusive interview expressed support for the safeguard.

“In all the institutions, we come up with ensuring that any of our projects and our policies do no harm and maybe even improve the lives of the beneficiaries we try to serve,” said Wong. “Ultimately, it’s about economic development for these countries … we’ve always had labor standards, environmental standards, other social standards, social safeguards. You don’t go in and harm the people you’re trying to help.”

The Asian Development Bank board is expected to vote on the proposed safeguard in March.

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