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Idea of the Day: We Need Immigration Reform that Helps LGBT Undocumented Immigrants

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When Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist José Antonio Vargas came out as undocumented in an essay published in The New York Times in the summer of 2011, he was “coming out” for the second time in his life. The first time occurred when Vargas raised his hand in history class during his junior year of high school after watching a documentary on Harvey Milk—the first openly gay person to be elected to public office in California—and told his classmates and teacher that he was gay. And while we’ve known that there are thousands of people like Vargas who are undocumented and who also identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender, or LGBT, we’ve known little about their actual numbers or demographic characteristics.

In a first-of-its-kind analysis, the Williams Institute at UCLA—which researches sexual-orientation and gender-identity law and public policy—today estimates that there are at least 267,000 LGBT-identified individuals among the adult population of undocumented immigrants. Undocumented people who identify as LGBT are more likely to be male and younger; less likely to be Hispanic; and more likely to be Asian than the overall undocumented population. And because LGBT undocumented people find themselves at the intersection of two already marginalized groups—the LGBT population and the undocumented population—they are among society’s most vulnerable individuals.

A new CAP report builds upon the Williams Institute’s demographic findings by first unpacking demographic characteristics of the population, and then detailing the disparities and hardships that make the LGBT-identified members of the undocumented population among the most vulnerable members of our society. These issues—including employment insecurities, wage and income disparities, and health inequities—would be significantly lessened if undocumented LGBT immigrants were given a chance to earn legal status and, eventually, citizenship.

For more on this topic, please see:

To speak with our experts on this topic, please contact:

Print: Liz Bartolomeo (poverty, health care)
202.481.8151 or

Print: Tom Caiazza (foreign policy, energy and environment, LGBT issues, gun-violence prevention)
202.481.7141 or

Print: Allison Preiss (economy, education)
202.478.6331 or

Print: Tanya Arditi (immigration, Progress 2050, race issues, demographics, criminal justice, Legal Progress)
202.741.6258 or

Print: Chelsea Kiene (women's issues,, faith)
202.478.5328 or

Print: Beatriz Lopez (Center for American Progress Action Fund)
202.741.6255 or

Spanish-language and ethnic media: Rafael Medina
202.478.5313 or

TV: Rachel Rosen
202.483.2675 or

Radio: Sally Tucker
202.481.8103 or


This is part of a regular column: Idea of the Day

For more from the same column, click here