‘A Lot Of People Are In Panic Mode’
But winning asylum in the United States is no easy feat. Granted, the U.S. has recognized LGBT status as grounds for asylum since 1994, but the government keeps no records on how many claims it grants.
“It’s an unconscionably hard process to seek asylum in the United States of America,” says Melanie Nathan, a California-based lawyer who works on behalf of LGBT asylum seekers. She says it’s virtually impossible for someone to knock on the door of a U.S. embassy abroad and ask for and receive asylum.
“So what happens is, they come to America on other types of visas. They come to America on workshop conference visas, on visitor’s visas,” she says. “And once they are here, people have a year to apply for asylum. The average person — especially younger people in Uganda, for example — will never get that initial visa and don’t have money even to fly here.”
Still, based on her social media contacts in Uganda, Nathan estimates anywhere between 2,000 and 3,000 gay Ugandans will seek asylum in the U.S. or other countries.
Nathan says she has what she calls her “Schindler’s List” — “people that have been trying to escape.” Since the signing of the new law in Uganda, “my phone has been going crazy, my messages have been crazy,” she says. “A lot of people are in panic mode right now.”
For its part, the Obama administration calls the new Ugandan law “more than an affront and a danger to the gay community” there. And in a statement, Secretary of State John Kerry has called for a repeal of the law.”
“Bullied gay teen’s suicide note: Insight on EricJames Borges’ tragic death at age 19 — In an exclusive story on SDGLN, Contributor Melanie Nathan of San Francisco wrote about the tragic suicide of bullied gay teenager EricJames Borges, who worked for The Trevor Project and advocated against bullying of LGBT youth. Nathan attended one of the teen’s funerals, met his family and obtained a copy of one of his suicide letters. SDGLN Editor in Chief Ken Williams and Nathan discussed at length the merits of sharing Borges’ final thoughts, and came to the conclusion that his message needed to be shared for its insight and as a way to publish suicide-prevention tools for vulnerable teenagers. More than 21,000 people read the story, 384 people liked the story on Facebook, 34 people tweeted, another 37 shared on other Social Media, and dozens of people commented via Facebook. The story was picked up by countless LGBT and mainstream media sources.”