Today, on Holocaust Remembrance Day, Donald Trump unveiled his administration’s harsh new refugee policies that could mean the difference between life and death for countless refugees– including LGBTQ refugees fleeing violence and persecution from places such as Syria.
This dangerous policy was announced on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, a day where people around the globe remember the more than 10 million people killed during World War II. Prior to and during the Holocaust, Jews, Poles, Roma, LGBTQ people and others were severely exacerbated by anti-immigrant policies that shamefully refused to accept people fleeing the Nazis.
The timing of Trump’s executive order on Holocaust Remembrance Day shows how the administration is blinding itself to the lessons of history. In 1939, the U.S. and Cuba denied entry to the passengers aboard the St. Louis. The ship was carrying nearly 1,000 Jewish refugees who were sent back to Europe. Many of the passengers perished at the hands of the Nazis. LGBTQ people were also targeted by the Nazi regime, who rounded up tens of thousands, particularly gay men, and forced them into concentration camps. Unknown numbers died there.
President Trump’s draft order takes us back and would close the doors to thousands fleeing violence and persecution. The draft immediately suspends the U.S. Refugee Admission Program (USRAP) for four months, preventing thousands of vulnerable LGBTQ refugees and others from getting to the U.S. while creating chaos for hundreds who are currently in transit to the U.S. Assuming the USRAP is eventually allowed to resume its work, Trump’s order cuts in half the number of refugees that the program is allowed to admit to the U.S. in fiscal year 2017, to just 50,000. It also indefinitely denies admission to all Syrian refugees until Trump has “determined that sufficient changes have been made to the USRAP to ensure its alignment with the national interest,” and instead creates temporary “safe areas” for them until they can resettle in other countries. It also stipulates that refugees claiming religious persecution will be prioritized, which will likely be a boon to Christian refugees from Muslim-majority countries, while further harming LGBTQ refugees and other refugee groups not facing that particular kind of persecution.
It also suspends all visas to citizens of certain countries of “particular concern” for 30 days. While it is not yet certain which those are, experts believe they include Syria and a number of other Muslim-majority countries. (It has also been noted that the countries of particular concern are not countries where Trump conducts business.)
The overall effect of Trump’s latest executive order would be to put the U.S. back on to similar footing as the 1930s, when refugees most needed our help to escape persecution. Now, as Syrians, Yemenis and millions of others seek our help to find a safer, better life, President Trump is doing precisely the opposite.
Unjust and unfair orders such as the ones Trump signed this week only harm our country’s standing in the world and damage our national security in the long run.
As HRC President Chad Griffin stated, HRC will continue fighting to keep the doors of our country open for LGBTQ people and all others seeking refuge from violence and persecution. No walls, no matter how high, will block our fight for liberty and justice for all.