As West Hollywood celebrates its 30th birthday, let’s not forget how and why it all began -- our compassion for those less fortunate, and those needing a safe haven. A unique and special coalition between renters, LGBT Americans and Soviet emigrants worked together to create our city and continue to be the fabric of our community.
Due to anti-LGBT policies of Russian President Vladimir Putin, gay and lesbian Russians are facing violence, harassment and prosecution. As a result, applications for asylum have increased 34% in the past two years according to the Department of Homeland Security.
While many cities are working to help Russian LGBT asylum seekers, West Hollywood should be on the forefront as a national leader in helping asylum seekers, and be a destination for young gay Russians seeking to escape persecution.
As your City Councilmember, here are some of the things I would propose West Hollywood could do:
- Declare West Hollywood as "America's Safe Haven for Gay and Lesbian Russians" seeking asylum.
- Adopt a resolution asking the State Department to extend refugee status to LGBT people in Russia and expedite their work permits.
- Allocate money specifically to help Russian LGBT asylum seekers have a "soft landing" in America by connecting them with local Russian-speaking families and others who want to help, and by assisting with housing, legal fees and getting work visas.
- Partner with groups like Immigration Equality to promote West Hollywood as a welcoming destination for LGBT Russians.
Because of our City's history of welcoming asylum seekers from Russia and our leadership in promoting LGBT rights locally and globally, it is our responsibility to take a leadership role in helping LGBT immigrants seeking to flee oppression in Putin's Russia.