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LGBT asylum seekers stuck in massive immigration backlog

Immigrants living in Texas know that the road to U.S. citizenship can be long. However, some asylum seekers are finding it difficult to even get the process started under the Trump administration.

According to media reports, hundreds of LGBT immigrants seeking asylum in the United States are being held up by a huge backlog of applications at the Asylum Division of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Further, the situation has been made worse by a new Trump administration rule to give priority to the most recent applications, leaving people who filed months or years ago waiting in limbo. According to USCIS, the agency was facing a backlog of approximately 311,000 cases as of late January. Meanwhile, national LGBT immigration rights organization Immigration Equality reports that more than 500 of its clients are currently stuck in the asylum application backlog.

Asylum seekers are eligible to work in the U.S. six months after requesting asylum. However, they are typically not eligible for benefits like Medicaid, SNAP or public housing until their applications have been approved. This makes financial survival difficult for many of them. The backlog also keeps many families separated. For example, a Jamaican woman interviewed by the media has been waiting for an asylum interview for two years. She is currently living in a homeless shelter with her wife and daughter, but her two sons are not allowed to join her until her application is approved.

Individuals seeking asylum in the United States may benefit from working with an attorney who is familiar with immigration law. A lawyer could help an asylum seeker navigate the complex U.S. immigration system and represent his or her interests throughout all USCIS interviews and hearings.

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