LGBT Asian Immigrants Are Nearly Invisible. The Haas Fund Wants to Change That

The Evelyn & Walter Haas Jr. Fund believes in uplifting the voice, leadership, and civic participation of immigrant communities. In the 15 years since the launch of their Immigration Rights and Integration Program, the fund has donated more than $35 million to support key organizations educating the public about the need for immigration reform, while at the same time investing in California-based immigrant groups working on this issue.

A big focus of this work is building awareness about the experiences of LGBT Asian Americans and LGBT Asian immigrants. According to the Williams Institute at UCLA, there are an estimated 267,000 LGBT-identified undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. A least 15 percent of these individuals are Asian or Pacific Islander. And among the documented LGBTQ immigrants, 35 percent are Asian or Pacific Islander. Both of these groups account for a significant portion of the population, and especially in San Francisco, where Haas does the majority of its funding.

However, despite these realities, visibility for Asian Americans—and the diversity within the community—remains largely underrepresented in the media as well as within the broader LGBT community. 

That’s why, for the third time in as many years, the Haas Fund is supporting initiatives like the South Asian Film Festival, which unites as many as 5,000 audience members, 80 percent of whom are of South Asian descent, to promote interactions among South Asians who speak different languages, represent different ethnic groups, and adhere to a variety of faiths on issues of gender identity and sexuality from varying perspectives.

As well, the foundation is supporting photographer, videographer, and educator Mia Nakano’s collaboration with Hyphen Magazine, a nonprofit news and culture magazine that dispels stereotypes about Asian Americans, to create “The Visibility Project: Faces, Stories, and Histories of Queer Asian American Women and Transgender Communities.”

The project is a new LGBTQ online section at Hyphen, as well as community snapshots of LGBTQ API communities in the U.S. South and Midwest. Nakano will publish her work on the website, present it in an exhibit, and publish a book.

But that’s not all. Beyond these two investments that provide increased visibility for LGBT Asian Americans and LGBT Asian immigrants, the foundation is engaged in a number of other efforts: supporting non-lobbying educational activities to create greater understanding about the need for federal immigration reform through organizations such as California Immigrant Policy Center and MALDEF; working to increase nonpartisan voter engagement and organizing in immigrant communities; helping the immigrant rights movement’s national leaders, including the National Immigration Forum, United We Dream and Center for Community Change, craft messages and education campaigns that advance the cause of reform; and cultivating the leadership of the immigrant movement  through the Fellowships for a New California.

Through these initiatives, the Haas Jr. Fund is impacting the lives of more than 3 million immigrants living in California.