There are an estimated 904,000 LGBTQ immigrants in the United States, which means that more than one in ten LGBTQ adults are immigrants.

Nearly one-third of LGBTQ immigrants are undocumented. These 267,000 LGBTQ undocumented immigrants face unique barriers when it comes to education, healthcare, and economic opportunity. Because LGBT undocumented immigrants lack legal status, they are ineligible for health insurance subsidies and benefits offered by the Affordable Care Act, and as a result often lack affordable options and forego care entirely. Similarly, in many states undocumented immigrants are ineligible for financial aid or in-state tuition fees, making higher education less accessible. For LGBTQ immigrants, these challenges are compounded by discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

Over the past decade, an estimated 3 million people have spent time in U.S. immigration detention centers. These detention centers often offer especially harsh treatment for LGBTQ detainees. HIV-positive people and transgender people are often denied medically necessary healthcare in detention.  Transgender detainees are frequently placed in gender-segregated facilities that do not match their gender identities, and incarcerated transgender individuals are 13 times more likely to be sexually assaulted. LGBTQ people are often placed in solitary confinement to protect them from harassment by other detainees, creating another layer of mistreatment.

The United States has also become a destination for LGBTQ asylum seekers from around the world, who come here fleeing persecution in their home countries. These LGBTQ asylum seekers also have unique needs often unaddressed by the immigration and asylum system. Because being in detention makes it more difficult to obtain legal services, LGBTQ asylum seekers in detention are more likely to lack access to the asylum system, and as a result may be sent back to countries where they will be subject to imprisonment, torture, or execution.

In 2014, foundations awarded nearly $3.2 for LGBTQ immigrant communities in the United States. This is a six-percent decrease from 2013, when LGBTQ immigrants received more than $3.4 million.

Nearly two-thirds of funding for LGBTQ immigrants was for advocacy, and 19 percent was for research. About five percent of funding was devoted to each of three strategies: capacity building and training, culture and media, and direct services.

Funding for LGBTQ Immigrants, by Strategy Funded (2014)


An in-depth analysis of foundation funding for LGBTQ immigrants may be found in Pathways Forward: Foundation Funding for LGBTQ Immigration Issues, a report released by Funders for LGBTQ Issues in July 2014
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In 2014, the top 10 funders for LGBTQ immigrants in the U.S. awarded about $3.1 million, including dollars intended for re-granting. This amount is 91 percent of the year’s total funding for LGBTQ immigrants. Most of the top funders of LGBTQ immigrants are also among the top funders of LGBTQ issues generally.

Top Ten Funders of LGBTQ Immigrants (2014)

1.     Anonymous Funders — Various Locations $900,000
2.     Arcus Foundation — New York, NY $455,000
3.     Ford Foundation — New York, NY $425,000
4.     Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund — San Francisco, CA $385,000
5.     NEO Philanthropy — New York, NY $365,000
6.     Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice — New York, NY $245,000
7.     H. van Ameringen Foundation — New York, NY $100,000
8.     The California Endowment — Los Angeles, CA $100,000
9.     Horizons Foundation — San Francisco, CA $93,750
10.  Liberty Hill Foundation — Los Angeles, CA $77,500

In 2014, the top ten grant recipients of funding for LGBTQ immigrants received $2.4 million, or three-quarters of all funding for LGBTQ immigrants that year. Nine of the top ten recipients were organizations working at the national level.

Top Ten Grant Recipients for LGBTQ Immigrants (2014)

1.     Center For American Progress (CAP) — Washington, DC $600,000
2.     United We Dream Network — Washington, DC $362,500
3.     Organization for Refuge Asylum and Migration (ORAM) — San Francisco, CA $306,500
4.     Immigration Equality — New York, NY $238,580
5.     Political Research Associates — Somerville, MA $200,000
6.     National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association — Washington, DC $160,000
7.     National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance (NQAPIA) — New York, NY $150,000
8.     New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice — New Orleans, LA $150,000
9.     National LGBTQ Task Force — Washington, DC $120,000
10.  Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) — Los Angeles, CA $115,000

For funders seeking to advance the wellbeing of LGBTQ immigrants, there are a number of community assets to build on:

Building on these assets, funders have several opportunities to improve the wellbeing of LGBTQ immigrants:

  • Fund advocacy and coalition-building around LGBTQ/immigration issues for the long term. With major reforms of the immigration system unlikely in the near future, it is crucial to sustain and build a strong ecology of organizations to collectively mobilize diverse communities around the rights of LGBTQ immigrants. Over the short term, strong LGBTQ-immigrant coalitions will be crucial for advancing pro-LGBTQ and pro-immigrant policies at the state and local level, and at the national level through effective implementation and continuation of administrative relief. Over the longer term, these coalitions will be essential to successfully advancing policies for social change at the national level, ranging from comprehensive immigration reform to nondiscrimination protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
  • Support and develop LGBTQ immigrant leaders. A number of leaders from the LGBTQ immigrant youth movement are now entering positions of leadership in various social change movements. Many of these young leaders are natural and effective spokespersons as well as adept and authentic coalition-builders. Funders have an opportunity to support and develop these leaders as a strategy for building stronger and more interconnected social change movements.
  • Strengthen state and local LGBTQ immigration advocacy. Many key policies around LGBTQ and immigration issues are shaped at the state level, yet funding for organizations working at the state and local levels constitutes only about one-fifth of LGBTQ immigration funding. There is a particularly great need to strengthen state and local infrastructure in the Southeast and Southwest, where policies aimed at curtailing the rights of LGBTQ people and immigrants are being pursued.
  • Strengthen agencies and networks serving LGBTQ asylum seekers and immigrants. Demand for services for LGBTQ asylum seekers and undocumented immigrants far exceeds the current capacity of the handful of organizations working to address this population’s needs—which include not only legal services but also housing, health care, and employment opportunities. Funders have an opportunity to build the capacity of the burgeoning set of faith-based groups, community centers, and networks seeking to address the unique needs of this population.
  • Increase cultural competence of immigration service systems. Most LGBTQ immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers are likely to interact with mainstream service systems, including government agencies and mainstream immigrant service providers. Funders have an opportunity to increase the cultural competence of these systems to address the unique needs of LGBTQ people. The LGBTQ cultural competence of mainstream service systems will become especially important if and when comprehensive immigration reform is passed; millions of immigrants will require services and processing in the same period, including hundreds of thousands of LGBTQ immigrants.
  • Provide financial assistance for immigration applications. Initiatives such as the LGBT Dreamers Fund not only covered the direct costs for young LGBTQ immigrants to apply for DACA, it also helped raise awareness of the program. As immigration policy evolves, DACA renewal, DAPA implementation, and comprehensive immigration reform may provide opportunities for funders to financially assist low-income LGBTQ immigrants in attaining a recognized legal status.

Additional details on the above recommendations are provided in Pathways Forward: Foundation Funding for LGBTQ Immigration Issues.