An abstract of a recent article I wrote highlights the discrimination LGBT persons experience abroad that prompt many to seek safe haven in the U.S.:[1]

LGBT persons experience discrimination in various settings and in a wide variety of contexts. Drawing from a recent immigration case involving a removal proceeding as an example, the author examines the potential impact of discrimination LGBT persons encounter in Peru in a woman facing deportation to Peru along with her bisexual husband. Discrimination based on sexual orientation is widespread in Latin America and countries around the world as noted in the recent governmental publication: U.S. Department of State, 2011 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices May 24, 2012. Many persons who have experienced persecution in their country or have a well-founded fear of persecution seek refuge in the U.S. and apply for refugee or asylum status. Training is necessary to prevent further discrimination as these cases are processed.

People outside of the United States must apply for refugee status. People who have already made it to the United States border or the interior can apply for asylum status. There are five qualifying categories:

  • Race
  • Religion
  • Nationality
  • Membership in a particular social group
  • Political opinion

LGBT refugee and asylum applications are rooted most frequently in the “membership in a particular social group” category noted above. There are many jurisdictions that recognize that homosexuals may constitute a particular social group; this also may extend to bisexuals and transgender individuals, albeit less commonly.

Federal circuit courts In the U.S. have ruled consistently that individuals persecuted because of their sexual orientation or gender identity are protected under the Refugee Act.

But how safe are they in the U.S.?

There is a well-documented trail of abusive treatment undocumenteds face borne of subtle and not so subtle stereotypes, and downright prejudice and hatred. And pejorative terms such as, “anchor babies”, permeate the news and Internet. A Google search gave approximately 4.5 million hits.

Make room now for a recent derogatory term: “UndocuQueer” (approximately 16,000 hits on Google).

Meaning? Undocumented + queer.

And youths are particularly vulnerable. Many must hide in two “closets”: the “undocumented closet” and the “gay closet.” As bad as it is to face discrimination in either category, can you imagine the burden of “double dose” discrimination stemming from both

From the New York State Youth Leadership Council:

Being UndocuQueer we live under laws that treat us as less human, we are scapegoats to society’s problems, are misrepresented, and feel unsafe or vulnerable due to policies, institutions, and attitudes that keep us on the margins. Our every day lives are a reflection of these intersections…

Available at:

Less you think this affects a small number at the “intersection” of both, think again.

The Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Law and Public Policy at UCLA School of Law released a report in March of 2013 that provided an estimate that of the approximately 10 million LGBT persons in the U.S., 267,000 are undocumented.

Available at:

Of these 267,000, approximately 131,500 – 49% – are under age 30 (18 – 29).

But how many are even younger? Estimates are that 5-6%, or 2.25 to 2.7 million, of American students are LGBT.

Available at:

It is unclear how many of these youths are undocumented.

Immigration reform and gay rights both are hot topics in the U.S. Fighting for both rights poses a most formidable challenge.

See When Immigration and LGBT Rights Come Together, Which One Wins?
Available at:

Add the unique needs of youths into the equation, and we are left to consider just how vulnerable undocumented LGBT youths are, and how far more difficult their plight is. Psychologists and other mental health professionals must consider – consistent with their ethical tenets – how to meet the emotional needs of this not so small disenfranchised group of people.

[1] LGBT Discrimination in Immigration Cases



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