A story dominating headlines in the United States right now is the wall President Donald Trump wants along the US-Mexico border. It has caused a government shutdown (going on three weeks) and numerous debates around the country.
While it may be understood this has nothing to do with the LGBTI community, that’s simply not true.
In fact, immigration (and related issues, such as refugees seeking asylum) is intrinsically linked to LGBTI issues.
This is everything LGBTI people should know about the current border wall debate in the US.
Background on the wall
Trump has been promising a border wall to curb illegal immigration since he first began his presidential campaign. In one of his first speeches, he referred to Mexicans as ‘criminals’ and ‘rapists’ as justification for the wall.
Barriers have existed along the border, aimed at preventing illegal immigration from Mexico, since the 1990s. These barriers are not one continuous structure, but numerous structures in certain areas.
Trump, however, has used fearmongering in an effort to rally support for a continuous, massive border wall.
In September 2016, he said: ‘On Day One, we will begin working on intangible, physical, tall, power, beautiful southern border wall.’
Make no mistake: this call for a wall is racist.
From his day one comments about Mexican people, all of his rallying cries for a border wall have been steeped in negative stereotypes about Latinx and other people of color.
In his recent Oval Office address on the border wall, he linked drugs, violence, and terrorism to immigrants.
Multiple White House officials, including press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Vice President Mike Pence, claimed Customs and Border Patrol apprehended 4,000 known or suspected terrorists crossing the southern border.
In fact, between 2017 and 2018, only six were on the Terrorist Screening Database.
Further, multiple studies have shown illegal immigrants commit less crimes on US soil than US citizens themselves, and legal immigrants commit even less.
The US federal government is in its third week of a shutdown, leaving federal employees out of jobs without pay.
Despite once claiming he would take responsibility for the shutdown if funding wasn’t provided for the border wall, Trump now blames Democrats.
Democratic Congressional leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer have met with Trump multiple times. Each time, they’ve refused to give in to Trump’s demands.
This, however, does not mean Democrats are against border security.
In fact, when Democrats took control of the House of Representatives at the start of the year, they passed legislation which included $1.3 billion in border security funding.
In years past, Democrats also supported other border security measures. One measure was the 2013 Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act. Another was the Secure Fence Act of 2006.
It’s different now because they simply won’t give Trump the $5.7 billion he demands for his racist and unethical wall.
How this affects LGBTI people
As previously mentioned, many federal employees are currently out of their jobs without pay due to the shutdown. This includes LGBTI federal employees.
LGBTI people south of the border are also severely affected by this.
It is no secret that LGBTI people of color face disproportionate rates of discrimination and violence worldwide. This is especially true in countries lacking protections or rights for LGBTI people.
Many of the refugees seeking asylum from Central and South America are LGBTI people. They’re escaping discrimination and violence in their home countries.
In 2018, a transgender woman seeking asylum from the violence she faced in Honduras due to her gender identity, died in the care of US immigration.
Let’s not forget, as well, that the United States helped cultivate such violence and political corruption in Central and South America due to its involvement in numerous countries’ elections during the Cold War and beyond.
In Nicaragua, for example, the US backed and funded the Contras, right-wing rebel groups in the 1980s and 90s. These groups used terrorist tactics to commit thousands of human rights violations.
We should care
More than anything else, we should care about other marginalized groups – period.
It’s true that LGBTI people are among the caravans seeking asylum. Regardless, though, it is in the interest of fostering compassion and a progressive future to advocate for and heed the oppression of other minority groups in general.
The oppression of any marginalized community affects all others.
The fight for equality and rights, in the face of dictatorial forces of power, fails without intersectionality.