Continuing the Fight for Immigration Reform
June 12, 2014 by Jennifer Pike, Senior Public Policy Advocate
Fixing our broken immigration system and achieving equality for the LGBT community are both urgent civil rights issues facing our nation. Undocumented LGBT people live at the intersection of the civil rights battle facing both of these movements, making them some of the most vulnerable individuals in our country.
The Supreme Court decision in United States v. Windsor, which struck down part of the Defense of Marriage Act, was a victory for the LGBT community. Because of this ruling, for the first time, a U.S. citizen or permanent resident can now sponsor their same-sex spouse for family based immigration. But family visas are only one piece of the broken system that LGBT immigrants face. Many more inequalities disproportionately impact LGBT immigrants, and comprehensive immigration reform is needed to protect their health and safety.
One-Year Filing Deadline: Individuals who are escaping persecution from their home countries in the United States must apply for asylum within one year, but often LGBT immigrants are unaware of their eligibility. Refugees who miss this strict and arbitrary deadline are forced to live in permanent limbo, subject to deportation back to the country where their safety is threatened.
Detention: LGBT immigrants are subject to deplorable conditions in detention. Studies report that they experience extraordinary levels of abuse and harassment, and they are often placed in solitary confinement "for their own safety." Detainees also have difficulty receiving medical care, and many LGBT immigrants are left without access to treatments for HIV/AIDS and medically necessary hormone treatments.
Pathway to Citizenship: According to a study by the Williams Institute, there are close to 1 million LGBT adult immigrants, of whom about one-third are undocumented. Despite their hard work to improve their lives and our economy, undocumented adults are forced to live in the shadows of society where lack of access to employment opportunities, healthcare and education weakens our communities overall. In addition, an estimated 65,000 undocumented youth, many who are LGBT, graduate from U.S. high schools each year. These hardworking young people have lived in the U.S. for all or most of their lives and simply want to be recognized for who they are: Americans who continue to contribute to our national life.
Comprehensive and inclusive immigration reform is necessary to remedy these injustices. HRC will continue to work with our coalition partners to push Congress to pass this critical legislation as well as encourage the Obama Administration to take any and all steps to help alleviate these problems.
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