What LGBTQ Funders Are Doing on Immigration

The Supreme Court decision to strike down the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) opened the door for lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) couples to have their marriages recognized both at the federal and state levels. Currently, 25 states and Washington, D.C. either have legalized same-sex marriage or recognize it, and same-sex couples can now file joint federal taxes, claim their spouses for military benefits and federal employment benefits. Also, the decision assured the right of U.S. citizens to sponsor same-sex partners for green cards.  

Until last year, LGB citizens weren’t allowed to sponsor their same-sex partners for residency here in the United States. Shortly before the Supreme Court ruled DOMA unconstitutional, President Obama and the U.S. Department of Justice halted deportations of married undocumented immigrants, but stopped short of instituting any permanent solutions for LGBTQ asylum seekers or other LGBTQ undocumented immigrants. As a result, the immigration status for the estimated 250,000 LGBTQ undocumented immigrants currently living in the U.S. remains entangled in the larger political debate on immigration reform.

But the top funders for LGBTQ immigration issues aren’t simply waiting for Congress to figure out solutions to protect LGBTQ immigrants or their families. Most of the leading funders for LGBTQ immigrant issues are the same top funders for LGBT issues overall—Arcus Foundation, Ford Foundation, Gill Foundation. But over the past decade, funding in this niche has grown an astounding 2500 percent and in 2012 surpassed the $4 million mark. Among the standouts that year was the M.A.C AIDS Fund, which granted $350,000 for LGBTQ immigration issues, making it the fifth highest funder in this area. 

So what exactly are the funding goals? They vary by foundation and by grant, but most center on three areas: (1) national policy advocacy (2) state and local advocacy and (3) direct services to LGBTQ immigrants.

The top five LGBTQ immigration grantees in 2012 were: Immigration Equality, ($1.28 million), Political Research Associates ($1.2 millions), Heartland Alliance for Human Needs and Human Rights ($1.1), National Center for Lesbian Rights ($246,000) and the National Immigration Law Center ($125,000).