News / USA

    Gay Rights, Immigration Reform Closely Linked for Some

    Students Irvis Orozco, left, and Jorge Gutierrez hug outside the US Citizenship and Immigration Services at the Federal Building in Los Angeles Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2012.
    Students Irvis Orozco, left, and Jorge Gutierrez hug outside the US Citizenship and Immigration Services at the Federal Building in Los Angeles Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2012.
    Immigration and gay rights activists in the United States are both fighting for greater freedoms and protections, but what they don’t often see, advocates say, is that the two causes are intertwined.

    There are an estimated 904,000 lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) adult immigrants in the U.S. today, 30 percent of whom are undocumented, according to a new study published this week by the California-based Williams Institute.

    Mexican-born Jorge Gutierrez, an organizer with the immigrant youth network United We Dream, says building coalitions between the gay rights and immigration reform movements is crucial.

    “Equal rights doesn't mean just equal rights for same sex partners. It means standing up for queer immigrant workers,” he said at a forum discussing the new report at the Center for American Progress in Washington. 

    Gutierrez, who came to the U.S. illegally when he was 10 years old, said he was fortunate enough to have a mother who supported him after he came out as gay, but not everyone is as lucky.

    “What happens when an LGBT undocumented youth comes out to their parents and he or she gets thrown out of the house?” he asked, suggesting the immigration and gay rights movements could work together to propose a new pathway to legalization for this group.

    Changing the game

    Undocumented immigrants under the age of 31, like Gutierrez, got a boost when U.S. President Barack Obama passed a memorandum last year deferring the deportation of some individuals who immigrated illegally to the U.S. as children.

    Gutierrez and other activists now want that two-year reprieve to become a path to citizenship, and to include further protections for LGBT immigrants.

    It’s a controversial movement with strong opposition from critics who say granting anything like amnesty will only encourage more illegal immigration.

    Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas, who came out as undocumented in an essay published in The New York Times two years ago, says the LGBT community, especially the “big money” groups in Washington, needs to be more visible addressing issues of immigration.

    “You don't have to be gay to care about gay issues. You don't have to be undocumented to care about undocumented issues,” said Vargas, who is gay. “We're living in this fascinating age of intersectionality … where ethnicity, sexual orientation, immigration status are all coming to a head.”

    A vulnerable class

    Immigration lawyer Michael Jarecki said he hopes that crossroads will help the undocumented LGBT immigrants in the U.S., which he described as an extremely vulnerable class.

    “When they suffer sexual violence, they don’t have a place to report this,” Jarecki said, adding that if these individuals are detained for immigration violations, for example, their gender identity often is not respected or understood.

    “Prisons want to jail according to birth gender instead of gender identity,” he said.

    In that situation, Jarecki noted, a transgender individual will often need protection from other inmates, so they will be put in solitary confinement.

    Undocumented LGBT immigrants face other challenges, including discrimination in the workplace, poor access to reproductive healthcare, and an often confusing asylum application process, which has to be completed within a year of arrival in the U.S.

    Jarecki said people who flee persecution for their sexuality in their home country might not be able to learn about the U.S. asylum provisions or be able to come out to themselves that quickly.

    “They might have been beaten, traumatized,” he said. “This could be a lifelong process, if not a one year process.”

    Making them count

    Gary Gates, who authored the Williams Institute study, says the actual number of undocumented LGBT immigrants in the U.S. is probably higher than the quarter-million he recorded.

    He said people living illegally in the U.S., or who have not publicly identified their sexuality, are less likely to report their status. But he said someone needed to start the tally so that their issues could begin to be addressed.

    “I have a very strong belief that in this country, a lot of things don't count unless people are counted,” Gates said.

    You May Like

    UN Observes International Day of Peacekeepers

    The U.N. honors 3,400 peacekeepers killed since first mission in 1948

    Video Rolling Thunder Tribute to US Military Turns into a Trump Rally

    Half-million motorcycles are expected to rumble Sunday afternoon from Pentagon to Vietnam War Memorial for rally in event group calls Ride for Freedom

    The Struggle With Painkillers: Treating Pain Without Feeding Addiction

    'Wonder drug' pain medications have turned out to be major problem: not only do they run high risk of addicting the user, but they can actually make patients' chronic pain worse, US CDC says

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora