No Gaiety Here: The Plight of Undocumented LGBT Youth in America

Author:Eviana Englert
Position:Is a third-year J.D. candidate at Vermont Law School
Pages:1011-1044
SUMMARY

At least 267,000 undocumented Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) adults currently live in the United States. This figure does not include those undocumented LGBT immigrants under the age of eighteen. Placing these youth in immigration limbo only compounds the high rates of violence at home, familial rejection, and homelessness that LGBT-identified youth already face as compared to... (see full summary)

 
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e Indonesian Journal of International & Comparative Law
ISSN: 2338-7602; E-ISSN: 2338-770X
http://www.ijil.org
© 2014 e Institute for Migrant Rights Press
1011
e author would like to thank Professor Arthur Edersheim for his guidance through the
researching and writing of this paper.
NO GAIETY HERE
THE PLIGHT OF UNDOCUMENTED LGBT YOUTH IN AMERICA
EVIANA ENGLERT
Vermont Law School
E-mail: evianaenglert@vermontlaw.edu
At least 267,000 undocumented Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT)
adults currently live in the United States. is gure does not include those
undocumented LGBT immigrants under the age of eighteen. Placing these youth
in immigration limbo only compounds the high rates of violence at home, familial
rejection, and homelessness that LGBT-identied youth already face as compared
to heterosexual and cisgender children. is article discusses proposed immigration
reform that passed the United States Senate last year—and what it does to further the
progress of LGBT youth advocacy, whom it helps, and whom it leaves unprotected. In
addition, this paper contains a practical component addressing the unique diculties
confronting undocumented LGBT youth such as establishing a new immigration
court system specic to LGBT youth, establishing better detention facility standard-
operating procedures through investigative regulations and enhanced consequences,
and increasing federal funding for comprehensive training and oversight of legal
advocates.
Keywords: LGBT Rights, Migration Reform, Gay Rights, Citizenship, Sexual
Discrimination, Civil Rights.
The Indonesian Journal of International & Comparative Law Volume I Issue 4 (2014) at 1011–1044
Eviana Englert
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I. INTRODUCTION
Yenny, now twenty-two, ed Peru at age ten to escape her father’s brutal
beatings because of her sexual identity.1 She came to the United States
seeking a better life and a safer home with her mother and brother, leaving
behind her grandmother, a woman who was her “inspiration.2 Her new
life proved to be equally challenging, if in a dierent way. Her “double
minority status”—as both undocumented and queer3—was agonizing,
and many friends and family members pushed her away. She had trouble
securing employment because she could not show work authorization.4
Yenny dreamed of becoming a social worker, but her aspiration seemed
increasingly unattainable as each day passed.5 At times she thought about
ending her own life.6
Yet Yenny got involved in the ght for change when she heard of Joaquin
Luna’s story—about an undocumented young Texan who committed
suicide and left behind letters of despair about his undocumented status—
allowing her to escape her hopelessness and isolation.7 She joined Make
the Road New York8 and obtained lawful immigration status through the
Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS), which allows abused, neglected
or abandoned undocumented youth to receive a green card and remain
in the United States.9 In 2012, Yenny joined the Queer Undocumented
1. I rst learned of Yenny’s story in a report published by the Center for American
Progress. Crosby Burns, Ann Garcia & Philip E. Wolgin, Living in Dual
Shadows: LGBT Undocumented Immigrants, C F A P
i, 11 (March 8, 2013), http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/immigration/
report/2013/03/08/55674/living-in-dual-shadows/. After contacting Yenny and
speaking to her about her experience, she approved the inclusion of her story in
this paper.
2. Id.
3. “Queer” is used as an umbrella term and can include any individual who identies
as non-heterosexual or non-cisgendered (identifying as the gender one was assigned
at birth), or feels somehow outside of the societal norms with regards to gender or
sexuality. e term queer is used here because that is how Yenny self-identies.
4. Burns. Garcia, & Wolgin, supra note 1.
5. Id.
6. Id.
7. Id.
8. M  R N Y, http://www.maketheroad.org (last visited March 2,
2014).
9. Jim Dwyer, Searching for a Way Out of Limbo, N.Y. T (Jan. 29, 2013), available
Eviana Englert
No Gaiety Here: The Plight of Undocumented LGBT Youth in America
1013
Immigrant Project,10 familiarized herself with the immigration system
and available forms of advocacy and relief, and joined the ght to pass
comprehensive immigration reform.11 While Yenny has secured at least
some peace of mind and no longer lives in constant fear of being returned
to Peru and to the hands of her father’s brutality, many LGBT youth are
not as lucky.
At least 267,000 undocumented Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and
Transgender (LGBT) adults currently live in the United States.12 is gure
does not include those undocumented LGBT immigrants under the age
of eighteen.13 Placing these youth in immigration limbo only compounds
the high rates of violence at home, familial rejection, and homelessness
that LGBT-identied youth already face as compared to heterosexual and
cisgender children.14 All immigrants confront overwhelming roadblocks
to obtain lawful immigration status in the United States, but LGBT
immigrant youth also “must endure the same ‘coming out’ process as
their American counterparts, . . . [while] living undocumented or facing
deportation if their families reject them.”15 Moreover, an individual’s
sexual orientation or gender identication itself may become an issue in
the immigration process.
Particular challenges facing undocumented LGBT youth include:
• Denial of asylum based on non-conformance with asylum
at http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/30/nyregion/immigrants-search-for-a-way-
out-of-limbo.html?_r=0.
10. Queer Undocumented Immigrant Project (QUIP), U W D, http://
unitedwedream.org/about/projects/quip/ (last accessed March 2, 2014).
11. Burns. Garcia, & Wolgin. supra note 1.
12. Gary Gates, LGBT Adult Immigrants in the United States, T W I
 UCLA (March 2013), http://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/research/census-
lgbt-demographics-studies/us-lgbt-immigrants-mar-2013/.
13. Burns. Garcia, & Wolgin, supra note 1, at 6.
14. Susan Hazeldean & Pradeep Singla, Out in the Cold: e Challenges of Representing
Immigrant Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Youth, 7 B’ I. R.
642, 642 (2002) (“LGBT young people are more likely to face violence in their
homes, to be rejected by their families, and to end up living on the streets than
heterosexual children. LGBT immigrant youth must endure the same ‘coming out’
process as their American counterparts, but they also face the additional burden of
living undocumented or facing deportation if their families reject them.”).
15. Id.

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