Report outlines harm facing transgender immigrants, asylum seekers, refugees


WASHINGTON — On the heels of the U.S. House introduction of an immigration proposal and ahead of the “National Day of Dignity and Respect” — a day of action scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 5 — the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) has issued a new report outlining the barriers and harms transgender immigrants face while navigating the U.S. immigration system.

transgenderThe report, “Out Moment for Reform: Immigration and Transgender People,” identifies four key challenges facing transgender immigrants:

Employment Insecurity: Undocumented transgender people are severely limited by living in the dual shadows of transphobia and their undocumented status. They are often unable to obtain legally authorized work in the U.S. or face exploitation by employers when they do manage to find employment. The National Transgender Discrimination Survey found that 39% of undocumented transgender people had lost jobs due to bias compared to U.S. citizens (26%).

Income and Housing Insecurity: Employment insecurity results in high levels of poverty and homelessness among undocumented transgender people. Despite being more likely to have college-level education, undocumented transgender people are far more likely than transgender US citizens to live in poverty, and many more times as likely as the general population to live on less than $10,000 a year. Income insecurity paired with anti-transgender bias has resulted in over one in five undocumented transgender people (21%) having being evicted at least once due to bias, twice the rate reported among all transgender people.

Lack of Health Care Access: Like their non-transgender counterparts, undocumented transgender immigrants experience a high rate of being uninsured (36%)–more than twice the rate of the general population. Like all transgender people, undocumented transgender people who can obtain insurance coverage regularly face discrimination in the scope of their coverage. Four percent of undocumented transgender people experienced physical assault in a medical setting, twice the rate of the overall sample.

Creating a Pathway to Citizenship: Of the 267,000 undocumented LGBT people living in the U.S. today, an estimated 20,000 – 50,000 are transgender. For transgender and non-transgender immigrants alike, a pathway to citizenship would provide legal certainty that they will not be deported or separated from their families and communities, while improving their ability to earn a living and continue contributing to society.

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The report also identifies key failings in the current immigration system that can have especially harsh effects on transgender immigrants and their loved ones.

“The case for immigration reform is clear,” said NCTE Executive Director Mara Keisling. “It’s time for the House of Representatives to act reasonably and vote on common sense immigration reform. Immigration reform is good for our country because our country does better when each of us is participating. The time for common sense immigration reform is long overdue.”

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