“Unsettled: Seeking Refuge in America” premieres as part of the San Francisco International Film Festival Wednesday, April 17th at 7:30 pm at the Victoria Theatre in San Francisco (it shows again Thursday at 8 pm in Oakland).
The film powerfully and heartbreakingly details the challenging process that LGBTQ refugees must go through to find safety and security while starting over in the US. One of the newcomers featured in the movie is a client of the Guardian Group, and a couple of his volunteer helpers appear on screen.
The inspiring new documentary profiles four people who have come to San Francisco to save their own lives. Over the course of this unforgettable group portrait, Subhi (from Syria), Junior (from Congo and our Guardian Group client), and Mari and Cheyenne (from Angola) experience roadblocks and triumphs as they reflect on their respective histories and try to create a home for themselves in an environment that is not always welcoming.
This important film shows what real refugees and asylum seekers are like, contrasted to the mythical boogeymen created by the President.
The need to support LGBT refugees and asylum seekers has only increased with the change of administrations in Washington. Rightly or wrongly, anxiety levels have increased among people who have fled to the United States because of violent homophobic conditions in their home country. These newcomers need people to listen and stand by them.
The Guardian Group’s emotional and practical support cannot affect Washington policies. But, we can offer frightened newcomers a community to talk to. We can also try to help refugees and asylum seekers find housing and jobs, and we can help them navigate state and Federal bureaucracies.
We continue to need people to volunteer as housing hosts, allowing an asylum seeker or refugee to stay with them for little or no rent. We need people to be the primary contact for a newcomer, to be a non-anxious presence in anxious times. We need other people to help us write grant requests, create policies, and outreach into the wider community. We also, of course, need money.
Our client from the Democratic Republic of the Congo — the only person who is public about working with us — has been discriminated against in this country because of the way he looks and acts. His experience has convinced him that the US needs to add legal protections to Federal laws protecting LGBT people.
The Guardian Group or the church doesn’t have an official position on the Equality Act that is being debated in Congress. But, we are proud that Junior is still fighting for equality and learning about the legislative process of his new home country.
Two of the Guardian Group’s clients received great official news in the past week.
Our Tunisian asylee received his Green Card in the mail last Friday. He is a permanent US Resident and on the path to citizenship!
Our friend received official asylum status in October, 2012, and he was eligible to apply for a Green Card after a year. He received his medical check ups and submitted the Green Card paperwork as soon as he could.
Finally, last week he received the official document!
The 29-year-old Russian man who had been told by the Immigration Judge that he would be given asylum if he cleared his background check received official asylum status this Monday.
He now has a two-year immigration document, permanent eligibility to work, and can apply for his Green Card in September, 2015.