The United States immigration system touches the lives of millions of families, including transgender immigrants. Transgender immigrants come to the US for many reasons including seeking safety from persecution in their countries of origin, and for a chance at a better life. Some transgender people come to the US through legal processes and possess documents that verify their acceptance into the US as immigrants, refugees or temporary guest workers. However, a significant number of transgender immigrants are unable to obtain legal permission to migrate and arrive in our nation as undocumented immigrants. According to the UCLA Williams Institute, there are approximately 267,000 undocumented LGBT immigrants in the US and we estimate that between 15,000 and 50,000 of these are transgender. The actual number may be higher because many transgender people may be reluctant to identify themselves as transgender for a variety of reasons. Among an already marginalized community, the 2011 National Discrimination Survey showed that undocumented transgender people face higher risks of discrimination and violence in employment, housing, health care, when seeking services, and even in their own home.
NCTE’s immigration work focuses on three distinct areas: 1) providing technical assistance to immigration attorneys and legal services regarding transgender matters; 2) working with federal agencies that administer and carry out asylum and refugee determinations as well as the border patrol and immigration detention systems; and 3) supporting the work of grassroots activists and communities of transgender immigrants across the country who seek legal protection and services for their communities.