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Washington Blade: Gay News, Politics, LGBT Rights: New corporate mentor initiative for LGBTQ refugees launched


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A flyer from the U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico, advises migrants who are fleeing violence, persecution, war or discrimination that have a right to apply for refugee status. A new initiative the Human Rights Campaign and the Tent Partnership for Refugees unveiled on Dec. 8, 2020, seeks to provide upwards of 1,250 LGBTQ refugees with mentorships at 23 companies across North America. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Nearly two
dozen companies in North America have agreed to mentor LGBTQ refugees as part
of a new initiative announced on Tuesday.

The
Baltimore-headquartered Under Armour is among the 23 companies in the U.S.,
Canada and Mexico that have pledged to mentor at least 50 LGBTQ refugees over
the next three years under the new initiative the Human Rights Campaign and the
Tent Partnership for Refugees unveiled during their virtual North American
Business Summit on LGBTQ Refugees.

Accenture, ADP, AT&T Mexico, Bain & Company, CIBC, CompuCom, GSK, Chobani, Finastra, Hilton, Huron, IBM, Ipsos, Kearney, Medtronic, Nomura, SAP, Scotiabank, Softchoice, TD Bank Group, Von Wobeser y Sierra and Warby Parker are the other companies that have joined the initiative in which roughly 1,250 LGBTQ refugees will participate. Former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power announced them during the summit in which HRC President Alphonso David and Chobani CEO Hamdi Ulukaya, who founded the Tent Partnership for Refugees, participated.

The companies will mentor the refugees through their respective LGBTQ employee affinity groups.

The nation’s capital, Los Angeles and San Francisco are among the cities in which the participating companies will offer mentorships.

“This is a wonderful first step,” said Power after she announced the companies that are participating in the program. “Each of you companies that made these commitments, you’re making it easier for other companies to do the same, by being first movers and so I just think have so many people’s personal gratitude, people whose names you’ll never know.”

The
Organization for Refuge, Asylum and Migration during the summit unveiled a
guide
that advises companies on how they can develop and implement
mentorship programs for LGBTQ refugees and asylum seekers. ORAM Executive Steve
Roth participated in the summit alongside José Luis Loera of Casa
Refugiados,
a Mexico City-based group that assists migrants, and Forouz
Salari of The519, a Toronto LGBTQ community center that provides services and
support to migrants and asylum seekers.

Journalist
Merryn Johns moderated the summit.

“LGBTQ asylum seekers and refugees are some of the most
marginalized communities around the world. Yet in spite of the hardships they
face, this community also demonstrates tremendous amounts of strength, hope and
resilience,” said Roth in a press release his organization released after the
summit.”

“I believe that there is a natural synergy with companies lending their expertise to help LGBTQ refugees develop new career skills and thrive,” he added. “We’re thrilled to be able to share these recommendations and best practices to help leverage that synergy.”

David was a teenager when he arrived in the U.S. after his
family fled political persecution in Liberia. David said American “kids were
looking for your tail and they said, ‘You’re from Africa, where’s your tail?’
And this came from children of all stripes, all colors.”

“There was a political and a social lack of awareness that affected my impressions of U.S. citizens or Americans at the time. And I think for immigrants and refugees that come to this country, they face such oppressive systems and philosophies that we have to do everything that we can to create a platform for them to succeed,” he said during the summit. “For me along the way I had mentors who invested in me and today I hope that the more than 1,000 refugees who will get mentors through this initiative, people will see the investment in them as well and they will see the investment that others will make in them.”

Hilton Chief Human Resources Officer Laura Fuentes in a press release said her company’s employees “are eager to demonstrate our values of hospitality and offer career guidance and skills development to our refugee partners; empowering them to bring their full, true selves to work each and every day.”

Former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power participated in a Human Rights Campaign-sponsored North American Business Summit on LGBTQ Refugees on Dec. 8, 2020.

HRC and
the Tent Partnership for Refugees unveiled the mentorship program less than 50
days before President-elect Biden’s inauguration.

President Trump continues to face sharp criticism over his hardline immigration policies that HRC and myriad other groups say has placed LGBTQ migrants and asylum seekers at increased risk. Power during the summit noted Biden has, among other things, pledged to reunify migrant children who were separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border and end the outgoing administration’s policy that effectively bans citizens of several Muslim and African countries from entering the U.S.

The Trump administration in October announced it will only allow up to 15,000 refugees into the U.S. in fiscal year 2021. Biden has pledged to raise this figure to 125,000 and will “seek to raise it over time commensurate with our responsibility, our values and the unprecedented global need.”

“It’s very inspiring to see what the president-elect has committed to,” said Power.

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