LGBTQ Immigrants Seeking Asylum

- A recent immigration crackdown by the Trump administration is making filing asylum claims more difficult, according to an Oakland group that works specifically on the asylum claims of LGBTQ Americans. Oasis Legal Services, which was founded in May of 2017, has already helped hundreds of LGBTQ people file successful asylum claims, and the group says it has a 99% success rate.

The four women who founded the organization attribute this to their 35 years of combined experience, and their knowledge of LGBTQ cases. Recently, though, the staff has experienced some new difficulties.

“There has been pushback on different groups of people, domestic violence survivors, which many of our clients are,” said attorney Caroline Roberts, one of Oasis’s founders. She attributes the new challenges to changes in policy put into place by the Trump administration.

Jessy D’Santos is a former client and now sits on Oasis’s board. She was illegally in the U.S. in 2008 when one of the founding members of Oasis took on her case. She escaped persecution in her home of Mexico City, where she says she feared for her life.

At the time, she was living as a gay man and had not yet transitioned to female. “I got beat up a couple times and I had to be in the closet and I was a shy person, and I was scared of everything,” she said.

When she visited Oasis and learned she had an asylum claim, everything changed. “I said. ‘Let's do it, I don't want to live in the shadows,” D’Santos said. “Less than one year later, they gave me my asylum and I was so happy.”

D’Santos is now a U.S. citizen and works as a program director for a nonprofit for Transgender women in San Francisco. She says there’s no doubt that Oasis changed her life for the better.

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