THE BLOG
03/11/2013 06:18 pm ET | Updated Feb 02, 2016

Not All LGBT Immigrants Are Married to Americans

The inclusion of gay couples in comprehensive immigration reform legislation has turned into a highly contentious issue. The reality, however, is that there are more lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) immigrants than the estimated 32,300 individuals married to American citizens or legal permanent residents.

The Center for American Progress (CAP) reports that there are at least 267,000 undocumented adult immigrants who self-identify as LGBT. These individuals, because of their dual minority status as LGBT and as undocumented, are also among the nation's most vulnerable, subject to employment, wage, and income disparities. They also face specific challenges when dealing with the immigration system.

The CAP report builds on the findings of the Williams Institute which profiles LGBT adult immigrants in the U.S. According to the institute's research, in addition to the 2.7 percent of unauthorized adult immigrants who self-identify as LGBT, 2.4 percent of adult documented immigrants or 637,000 say they are LGBT. Gary J. Gates, the Williams Institute's Distinguished Scholar, stressed at a CAP panel last week that these are conservative estimates and there could easily be more than 904,000 adult LGBT immigrants, both documented and undocumented. He also pointed out that about 11,700 lesbian and gay couples are both non-citizens, 58 percent of whom are raising over 12,000 children.

Jose Antonio Vargas, founder of Define American and undeniably the most high-profile undocumented immigrant in the U.S., also brought attention to queer undocumented youth who may not be counted among the 267,000 undocumented adults. Moreover, he highlighted the fact that many of the founders and leaders of the undocumented youth movement, the DREAMers, are LGBT themselves.

The CAP report argues that "passing an immigration reform bill with a direct road map to earned citizenship would lift these immigrants out of the shadows, treat them with the dignity they deserve, and enable them to become full and equal participants in our society, economy, and democracy."

LGBT undocumented immigrants live in the shadows, marginalized by society's bias based on sexual orientation or gender identity and immigration status. Shedding light on their numbers is a start in getting them out of the dark.

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