The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force has released a letter that GLAAD and other LGBT advocacy groups have signed on to appealing to the President to provide administrative relief for many of the 11 million undocumented immigrants, 267,000 of them estimated to be LGBT, in the US. The measures would impact communities that are currently plagued by fear of deportation, unsafe detention, separation of families, lack of access to healthcare and deportations back to countries that in many cases have laws and policies that enshrine discrimination against LGBT people. Although these actions would do much to improve the lives of immigrants and their communities, they are stopgaps that would be put in place until comprehensive, humane immigration reform legislation is passed in Congress.
The letter defines the immigrant population based on estimates, noting that according to Heartland Alliance's Rainbow Welcome Initiative 5,000 LGBT refugees came to the US in 2010. This number is probably higher because some LGBT immigrants do not disclose their sexual orientation or gender identity for fear of persecution, many as a result miss the one year filing deadline for asylum. The Williams Institute estimates that there are 267,000 LGBT immigrants in the US.
In 2012, the President created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program which potentially impacts 1.9 million eligible youth, some of them LGBT, allowing them to pay fees and fill out forms that permit them to come out of the shadows although it does not permanently fix their status. These youth are not alone and the letter asks the President to extend DACA to their siblings, spouses, parents and family members thus easing the fear of deportation and keeping families together so that they can continue to contribute to our communities.
Immigration Control and Enforcement (ICE) works with local police authorities to identify undocumented immigrants in many states. As a result of the 34,000 bed quota in place since 2007, undocumented immigrants working, going to school and otherwise forming a part of our communities are targeted for detention and deportation, making them less likely to report abuses, or crimes. Many of the detainees are placed in the private detention system that has been developed to fulfill the quota. This system has been accused of 1) not providing HIV positive detainees with medication, 2) placing pregnant women and LGBT detainees in solitary confinement-increasingly shown to be problematic and traumatizing, 3) failing to protect detainees from sexual assault, especially transgender women and gay men, 4) failing to provide transgender detainees with medication, and 5) assigning transgender women to men's prison populations. Many detainees face these conditions without representation, because there is no guarantee. The letter asks the President to ensure that ICE use alternatives to detention especially for vulnerable populations such as LGBT immigrants and pregnant women, end solitary confinement and issue a guidance to judges that would advise them to use discretion ensuring that those immigrants that are eligible can be paroled if they are eligible.
These changes would positively impact the lives of immigrants, many of them LGBT, their families and our communities.
Here is the list of the current signatories:
National Gay and Lesbian Task Force
Alliance of Multicultural Bisexuals of DC (AMBi DC)
American Civil Liberties Union
Bisexual Resource Center
Centerlink: The Community of LGBT Centers
Consortium of Higher Education LGBT Resource Professionals
Family Equality Council
GLMA: Health Professionals Advancing LGBT Equality
GMHC (Gay Men’s Health Crisis)
Harvey Milk Foundation
Human Rights Campaign
International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC)
Marriage Equality USA
National Black Justice Coalition
National Center for Lesbian Rights
National Coalition of Anti‐Violence Programs
National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC)
National Minority AIDS Council
National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance (NQAPIA)
Pride At Work, AFL‐CIO
The Trevor Project
Transgender Education Network of Texas