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Leon Kaye headshot

LGBTQ Refugees Will Soon Have a Shot at Rebuilding Lives in North America

By Leon Kaye
LGBTQ Refugees

It’s no secret that the outgoing U.S. presidential administration has been hostile to the idea of welcoming refugees. And even though President-elect Joe Biden has plans to reopen the U.S. to people who have been forced to leave their homes, the wait to resettle can still be a long and frustrating one. The waiting and uncertainty can be particularly brutal for LGBTQ refugees, as approximately 70 countries still criminalize same-sex relations, and nine nations impose the death penalty.

Most of us think of refugees as fleeing war or political oppression, and that’s often the case. But many in the LGBTQ community are fleeing a personal hell marked by constant harassment, threats to their safety and even death.

But a new partnership between the U.S.-based Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and the Tent Partnership for Refugees, announced this week, could give these men and women hope.

Tent, created four years ago by Chobani’s founder and CEO Ulukaya Hamdi, says it has a plan to help those fleeing persecution for their sexual orientation resettle in a new home. HRC and Tent say they have the word of 23 companies to provide mentorship opportunities to around 1,250 LGBTQ refugees over the next three years.

The list of companies that say they will welcome LGBTQ refugees includes Accenture, Chobani, Hilton, IBM, Medtronic, SAP, Scotiabank, TD Bank Group, Under Armour and Warby Parker.

“Refugees have been disproportionately affected by the economic crisis, with many losing their jobs — and we know that LGBTQ refugees face even bigger hurdles,” Ulukaya in a public statement. “The business community must use its power to build more inclusive communities that protect the most vulnerable among us.”

Beyond the moral argument for providing these men and women with a safe place to call home and the chance to live a way in which they can feel reborn, data have long shown that refugees help build communities and local economies. One common hurdle, however, is the reality that most countries’ immigration laws require that new immigrants be self-sufficient and not “take” jobs away from locals — and that can be a challenge as licenses, certifications, and academic degrees do not necessarily cross borders with the ease the humans carrying them can.

Therefore, the Tent-HRC partnership is offering a way for refugees to harness their skills and build experience so they can adjust to their new lives in the U.S. or Canada (and Mexico — AT&T Mexico is participating in this partnership). To that end, all of the companies participating in this effort say they will strive to mentor at least 50 LGBTQ refugees, in part by granting them access to their LGBTQ employee resource groups.

“Businesses and communities thrive when our teams are inclusive, equitable and diverse," said Neil Blumenthal, co-founder and co-CEO of Warby Parker. "As business leaders, we have a responsibility to ensure that anyone entering the workforce has the opportunity and resources they need to achieve their professional goals. Mentorship plays a critical role in that, and our team is honored and excited to support LGBTQ+ refugees through this program. Our hope is that we can provide that support to the LGBTQ+ refugee community as they seek new and continued employment opportunities.”

Image credit: Gayatri Malhotra/Unsplash

Leon Kaye headshot

Leon Kaye has written for 3p since 2010 and become executive editor in 2018. His previous work includes writing for the Guardian as well as other online and print publications. In addition, he's worked in sales executive roles within technology and financial research companies, as well as for a public relations firm, for which he consulted with one of the globe’s leading sustainability initiatives. Currently living in Central California, he’s traveled to 70-plus countries and has lived and worked in South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay.

Leon’s an alum of Fresno State, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of Southern California's Marshall Business School. He enjoys traveling abroad as well as exploring California’s Central Coast and the Sierra Nevadas.

Read more stories by Leon Kaye