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LGBTQ immigrants in the United States encounter unique obstacles to securing protection and safety, particularly when caught up in the immigration enforcement and detention systems. One in four substantiated incidents of sexual abuse in immigration detention involved a transgender individual over a four-year period. Further, LGBTQ immigrants pursuing claims to protection that are related to their sexual orientation or gender identity often face discriminatory attitudes in the immigration court system that lead to denials of immigration protection and longer periods of detention.

NIJC's LGBT Immigrant Rights Initiative provides legal services to LGBTQ immigrants across the country and engages in impact litigation targeting systemic flaws in the immigration system including the discriminatory adjudication of sexual-orientation and gender identity based claims and errors in the interpretation of refugee and asylum law.

    Recommendations

    1. DHS should not detain LGBTQ immigrants, who are more vulnerable to abuse in confinement.
       
    2. DHS should expand use of alternatives to detention that are community based and appropriately designed for vulnerable populations.
       
    3. Congress must repeal the one-year filing deadline, which disproportionately impacts LGBTQ asylum seekers, to ensure that refugees are not denied protection based on a technicality. The deadline is unnecessary, arbitrary, and a violation of the U.S. government’s commitments to refugees’ basic human rights.
       
    4. DHS should safeguard the rights of all non-citizens in the United States to present a claim for asylum. The agency’s current interpretation of the law precludes individuals who have previously been deported from seeking asylum. This interpretation is at odds with the federal immigration statute and international human rights norms.
       
    5. Appoint counsel to everyone in immigration proceedings. Access to counsel is critical to help people, especially children, individuals in detention, and vulnerable populations, navigate the complex immigration system.