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Direct Legal Services

In over 80 countries, it is a crime or fundamentally unsafe to be LGBTQ or HIV-positive. Worldwide, individuals face violence, prison time, or the death penalty due to their sexual orientation or gender identity.   

In order to escape grave dangers to their lives and health, many queer, trans, and HIV-positive people seek protection by applying for asylum in the United States. After they arrive, they still confront countless barriers to securing safe haven, including dangerous conditions in immigration detention facilities and difficulty navigating the complex asylum process. 

Legal Services for LGBTQ and HIV-positive Asylum Seekers

The biggest factor in whether someone wins asylum is whether they have high-quality legal representation. For that reason, Immigration Equality provides free legal services to LGBTQ and HIV-positive asylum seekers.

Each year, we connect over 750 individuals with pro bono attorneys, and our staff trains and works with those lawyers to help their clients. Since we started our asylum program, our in-house attorneys and large pro-bono network have won asylum for over 1,500 individuals. Notably, we win 99% of our cases, halting deportations and securing asylum victories and release from detention.

We also answer thousands of calls for help each year from around the world, taking on cases and giving legal advice and referrals to LGBTQ-friendly immigration attorneys and organizations.

Detention Program

When asylum seekers arrive in the U.S., the government often places them in immigration detention where they face inhumane conditions.  

For the queer, trans, and HIV-positive community, immigration detention is extremely dangerous. Detention officials and other detained individuals often mistreat them based on their sexual orientation, gender identity and HIV status. LGBTQ people are 97 times more likely to be sexually assaulted in immigration detention than other detained people. 
Transgender women are at the highest risk of abuse. They are sometimes placed in all-male facilities where they are humiliated and attacked. The government’s response is often to place them in solitary confinement purportedly “for their own protection” which amounts to psychological torture.  

Even in facilities that have special housing for trans women, they continue to face abuse. For example, ICE routinely fails to provide adequate medical care. Many people living with HIV cannot access appropriate treatment. Tragically, asylum seekers like Roxsana Hernandez and Johana Medina have died after receiving negligent care in ICE custody. 

Due to the life-threatening conditions queer asylum seekers face in immigration detention, Immigration Equality provides legal assistance through our detention hotline. Since our dedicated detention program started in 2019, we have helped release dozens of LGBTQ asylum seekers from detention. We file complaints on behalf of queer, trans, and HIV-positive individuals and advocate in Washington for their liberation from inhumane conditions.  We also work with detained people to secure release from detention, prepare unrepresented individuals for credible fear interviews, assist with credible fear redetermination requests, and prepare people for their asylum hearings.