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In nearly 70 countries, it is still a crime to be LGBTQ. In many more, it is fundamentally unsafe. LGBTQ and HIV-positive immigrants face heightened levels of harassment, discrimination, physical and psychological abuse, and sexual assault while in government run and private immigration detention facilities. In fact, according to a recent Center for American Progress report, LGBTQ migrants in federal detention centers are 97 times more likely to be sexually assaulted than other detained persons. The United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) often fail to provide basic health care services to this vulnerable population, including life-saving HIV medication and transition-related treatment. Nevertheless, DHS and ICE are largely indifferent to these conditions and let them persist.
We envision a future where every LGBTQ and HIV-positive immigrant and queer family can build a life anchored in freedom, justice, and dignity. Where the people of this nation celebrate the innovative spirit and remarkable contributions of immigrants and refugees. Where every person -- regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or HIV status -- is empowered to freely express their true self and to love whom they choose. And where safety, opportunity, and the hope for a better future are an everyday reality for all of us.
To achieve this future, Immigration Equality (ImEq) has a dual focus of direct representation and impact work. Every day, calls come from clients who need immediate help. Simultaneously, ImEq is at work to change the systems that have lasting impact on how LGBTQ/H immigrants are treated.
COVID has also had a dramatic effect on our 630+ clients, most (99%) who live at or below the poverty level. Forty percent are under the age of 30, and 22% are living with HIV. In 2020, we answered 7,000 calls for help including more than 3,000 detention calls. Not only are community members looking for representation, but they're also seeking out resources and guidance related to the public health crisis, such as "I lost my job and I need money to keep paying my rent," "Do I qualify for the stimulus check?" "Where can I apply to get food?" and "I am undocumented. Will I get arrested if I go to the hospital?" Our legal staff has also heard callers say they're so grateful to talk to someone as "nobody else is picking up the phone.”
Immigration Equality takes a three-pronged approach to creating change for LGBTQ/H immigrants.
Direct Legal Services
In order to escape grave dangers to their lives and health, many queer, trans, and HIV-positive people seek protection by applying for asylum in the United States. After they arrive, they still confront countless barriers to securing safe haven, including dangerous conditions in immigration detention facilities and difficulty navigating the complex asylum process.
Law and Policy
We work in coalitions to advance bills that serve our clients, and educate policymakers on the particular dangers that queer, trans, and HIV-positive individuals face. Our client-advocates share their powerful personal stories before members of Congress to drive home the real-world impact of laws and policies.
Through our impact litigation, we seek to change discriminatory policies affecting LGBTQ and HIV-positive people. We currently sued the U.S. State Department on behalf of four same-sex couples—including two bi-national couples— whose children were denied U.S. citizenship from birth. Through these cases, we aim to change an unlawful and unconstitutional U.S. State Department policy that discriminates against queer families.
We helped end the HIV travel ban, led the successful fight to secure green cards for LGBTQ families, and directly represented more than 1,500 LGBTQ asylum seekers.
Donors can help us achieve the following outcomes for our community:
- Improved access to free legal help for LGBTQ/H immigrants.
- Shift public attitudes and opinions toward LGBTQ/H immigrants through public education campaigns.
- Win reforms of immigration law, policy, and practice that most impact LGBTQ/H immigrants and asylum seekers.
- Secure the release of LGBTQ/H people from immigration detention centers.
Five Ways Donors Can Get Involved:
- Support Immigration Equality to help queer immigrants obtain free legal services.
- Join our Pro Bono Network: Even experienced immigration attorneys may be unfamiliar with or insensitive to the unique issues of discrimination that confront the LGBTQ and HIV-positive immigrant communities. That is why we continue to grow our network of LGBTQ-friendly attorneys ready to take immigration cases pro bono. Immigration Equality can train and support you the entire way.
- Help out our staff: The Immigration Equality team is small but mighty. Our staff works hard every day to fight for the rights of LGBTQ refugees, but we could always use more support.
- Consider joining Immigration Equality’s Associate Board: A group of motivated and passionate young professionals who are committed to supporting the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and HIV-positive immigrant community.
- Subscribe to our email list: The Immigration Equality team will make sure you're among the first to know when something happens that impacts our community and what we are doing about it.