As incomprehensible as it may say seem to you and me, immigration reform is often completely overlooked as an LGBTQ issue.
Today there are at least 904,000 LGBTQ adult immigrants living in the United States and over a quarter of million without a path to citizenship.
Although asylum status is available to some LGBTQ immigrants, many fail to meet an arbitrary filing deadline — one year from the date of their arrival into the country. Because of missed opportunities, many LGBTQ immigrants face the choice of living here illegally (and therefore without any ability to get a good paying job) or to return to a country where they fear persecution.
Among those LGBTQ immigrants who do qualify for asylum, many have family – biological or chosen — who don’t qualify, and therefore have no path to citizenship.
Individuals that overstay their visas for any reason, whether to stay with family members, because they fear returning to the country of their birth, or for any other reason, face deportation. Every day 1,100 undocumented immigrants are separated from their loved ones and deported.
While awaiting a deportation hearing or asylum determination, many LGBTQ immigrants are sent to detention facilities, despite low risk of flight and lack of danger to the community.
LGBTQ immigrants in detention experience increased rates of physical and sexual abuse in detention facilities compared to the general population; similar to the prison population, where LGBTQ inmates are 15 times more likely to be assaulted.
The National LGBTQ Task Force is doing something about it. Creating a path to citizenship IS an LGBTQ issue. We’ll continue to play a leadership role by partnering with immigration rights organizations and advocating for the many areas of comprehensive immigration reform that affect our community, including security for binational same-sex couples, respectful and appropriate treatment of transgender and HIV-positive immigrants; and ensuring that families aren’t separated for years on end as a result of our immigration laws.