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Immigration Processes and Challenges Especially for LGBTQ+ Persons

By EduardoMorales, Ph.D.


The Department of Homeland Security has a complex system for registration for those who are non-immigrating as well as those who are immigrating to the U.S. For those who have permission to work in the U.S. with a green card are required to register each year until their status is reviewed and changes. In some instances, the changes can take two years and for other more than seven years. Consequently, each year the person must renew their green card registration, submit an I-90 form and pay a minimum of $540 in fees until their status is changed. The process is quite challenging due to the extensive regulations and categorizations as part of Homeland Security bureaucracy. Most persons who initiate registration either as a non-immigrant or immigrant usually need an attorney or someone highly specialized in the application process so that the forms are properly completed so that the Department of Homeland Security can decide and complete the process.

Until recently persons seeking entry into the U.S. had to request a visa at the U.S. Consulate Office in their country of origin. Lately this process was changed so that persons make a request at the Homeland Security Office near where they are residing. Some LGBTQ+ persons seek political asylum due to the conditions in their native country. Estimates are that about 3.8% to 4.6% of refugee asylum seekers identify as LGBTQ+. The San Francisco Asylum Office estimates that 5% to 10 % of claims are based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Of interest, the highest rates of attacks and murders to transgenders in the world with 90% of reported cases of violence directed toward Latinx gay males. U.S. processing representatives may assume LGBTs can return to their country provided they relocate within their country, become discreet, and avoid being targets of violence. As they apply for proper documentation, there are challenges in accessing public assistance, health care, housing, employment, and social support systems for their well-being and survival.

There is a bill that is being proposed called SB 85 that would increase the number of case management days a person can receive in California. The Biden administration announced it would admit 125,000 refugees under the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program. For California it is expected that at least 17,500 will be considered as refugees under this new program. Meanwhile the federal government funds only 90 days for case management services. This new proposed California bill led by State Senator Scott Wiener will extend the case management services for up to 360 days. Currently Utah, Oregon, and Colorado have instituted Extended Case Management Services. This increase will assist persons needing to complete their renewal processes and provide more case management assistance given the complexity of the application process. Meanwhile the U.S. Congress has been reluctant to change the laws to that the processes are simplified and more relevant to current requests.

Currently no race nor ethnic group constitutes most of the California’s population. In California 39% are Latinx, 35% are white, 15% are Asian American or Pacific Islander, 5% are African American while 4% identify as multiracial and fewer than 1% are Native American or Alaska Natives according to the 2020 U.S. Census. In 2021 Latinx identified persons became the largest racial or ethnic group in California. Meanwhile the U.S. that includes Puerto Rico is the second largest Spanish speaking nation in the world with Mexico being the largest Spanish Speaking nation according to a report on January 1, 2023, by the Language Next Centers of Foreign Languages.

It is unclear how Brazilians identify themselves in the U.S. Census even though they are considered Latinx. For urban areas like SF Bay Area the lack of accurate demographic data of Brazilians complicates their access to health care and having the county health departments provide comprehensive services in Portuguese. For example, SF AGUILAS, an HIV/AIDS prevention, and workforce development agency located in the SF LGBT Center, is the only service agency in SF County that is funded by the S.F. Department of Public Health and offers all types of services in Portuguese to meet the needs of LGBTQ+ persons.


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