EI Blog

October 22, 2021

Immigrant Justice is LGBTQ Justice!

By Mony Ruiz-Velasco

Immigration is an LGBTQ issue. There are an estimated 1.3 million LGBTQ immigrants in the United States and more than 22% of are undocumented. There are approximately 128,500 same-sex binational couples that include at least one foreign born partner/spouse. In addition, the U.S. is a destination for LGBTQ asylum seekers who come seeking safety and fleeing persecution or death based on their sexual or gender identity.

Immigration officials detain hundreds of thousands of people each year in more than 200 detention centers around the country. Treatment at detention centers is particularly harsh for LGBTQ people. Transgender and HIV positive people are often denied health care. Many transgender people are also placed in solitary confinement or detained in facilities that do not match their gender identities. One in four verified cases of sexual assault in immigration detention involved a transgender person. In addition, LGBTQ immigrants seeking protection from persecution based on their sexual or gender identity face discriminatory practices in the immigration court system that leads to denials, longer detention, and deportation to places  where they are likely to face harm, torture, and death.

And now, the Biden administration is reinitiating one of the Trump era’s most harmful asylum policies, the so called “Migrant Protection Protocols” (MPP), also known as the Remain in Mexico program. This policy forces already vulnerable asylum seekers to remain in Mexico living in inhumane and dangerous conditions. This program, in addition to another Trump era program that denied entry to the U.S. to asylum seekers under Title 42, in effect shut down the asylum system. These policies instituted by the Trump administration and now upheld by the Biden administration perpetuate the harm that those seeking protection already face, and in particular, it places LGBTQ asyulm seekers in even more dangerous situations and at risk of further persecution and even death.

Illinois leads the nation in ensuring meaningful protections for immigrant communities in the state. The state has enacted limitations on collaboration between law enforcement and immigration officials, protection for immigrant crime victims, and has provided access to financial aid to undocumented and transgender students. In addition, this year, Governor Pritzker signed into law the Illinois Way Forward Act which bans immigration detention in the state. However, to ensure protection from deportation and family unity, Congress must take action now.

In this moment, Congress has a unique opportunity to ensure that many of 1.3 million LGBTQ immigrants living in the U.S. including those who are undocumented will be able to continue living in the U.S. with their families. That includes nearly 40,000 LGBTQ young people who participated in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, also known as “Dreamers” will not be forced to return to a country where they have not lived and where many of them will face persecution.

I am the queer daughter of Mexican immigrants and I spent my childhood in Mexico and the U.S. feeling unsafe to be who I am until much later in life when I found family members who stood by me and created a beautiful chosen family who loved me. It should not be a privilege to live authentically, safely, and with dignity, rather, it is a fundamental human right. As an immigration lawyer and advocate who has counseled and represented hundreds of LGBTQ immigrants, I have personally witnessed that there is no such thing as humane detention and the barriers faced by members of our community who confront the immigration system are oftentimes insurmountable.

Because immigrant justice is LGBTQ justice, we stand in solidarity and raise our voices calling on federal elected officials to do what it takes to protect immigrant communities and call on the Biden Administration to dismantle racist policies that deny access to asylum and protection for those most vulnerable, in particular our LGBTQ community members who face persecution and harm if forced to return to their countries of origin.




Mony Ruiz-Velasco
Deputy Director
Pronouns: She/Her/Ella

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