LGBTQ People and Immigration

From the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force
Fact Sheet Series
Originally located at
2 February 2018

LGBTQ immigrants face fear of being sent away from their families, assault and abuse in detention, and potential deportation to a country where their sexual orientation or gender identity is a crime.

Where We Are:

  • Of the 11 million immigrants in the U.S. living without a path to citizenship, at least 267,000 are adults who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer (LGBTQ).
  • Over 75 countries have discriminatory laws that target LGBTQ people.
  • In 7 countries, a person can be put to death for having sex with a person of the same gender.
  • Around the world, LGBTQ youth are at higher risk of torture and trafficking due to persecution and rejection.
  • Every year, thousands of LGBTQ people apply for asylum in the U.S., fleeing fear of punishment (including flogging, incarceration and death) if they are forced to return to the country they grew up in. Of these, only about 1,000 are admitted annually.
  • Every day 1,100 undocumented immigrants are separated from their loved ones and deported.

Barriers and Misconceptions:

  • 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 do not 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.
  • 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.
  • Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detains 33,400 immigrants every night. Because of the “Detention Bed Mandate,” which the agency believes is required by law, ICE “sweeps” up immigrants for whom detention is unnecessary just to fill up empty beds.
  • Private corporations get millions of dollars from the federal government to detain immigrants. Of the 34,000 immigrants detained by ICE nightly, almost half are housed in facilities run by private corporations.
  • The Corrections Corporation of America, the largest of the private corporations, earns over $210.2 million per year from contracts with ICE to house immigrants on behalf of the U.S. government.
  • 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.

Current Actions:

  • Immigration reform is stalled in Congress. Numerous attempts to pass both narrow and broad reform have been unsuccessful.
  • President Obama announced his intention to provide broad administrative relief. No indication has been given about when the relief will be put into effect.
  • The Task Force continues to participate in actions and rallies to press Congress and the President to act on immigration reform.

What Can You Do?

The National LGBTQ Force is working with a broad coalition of LGBTQ and immigrant rights groups to push Congress and the President to act on fair immigration reform. Here are a few things you can do to help out:

  • Stay informed. Misinformation is rampant in the immigration context.
  • Educate others. Share this information.
  • Take action. Write to your Congress members asking them to support comprehensive immigration reform.