The U.S. has historically been seen as a place where those fleeing persecution in their countries of origin may find safety. NCLR was the first national LGBTQ organization to have an Immigration Project, which started in 1994, the same year the U.S. recognized that immigrants facing persecution on the basis of their sexual orientation could seek protection as refugees and asylees. Since then, NCLR’s Immigration Project has advanced immigration law and assisted thousands of LGBTQ immigrants in obtaining legal status in the U.S. and avoid being forced to return to their countries of origin where they would be targeted for abuse, violence, and even death because of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.
In addition, prior to nationwide marriage equality in 2015, the Immigration Project assisted many LGBTQ bi-national couples who would otherwise face separation, since many same-sex couples or couples with a transgender partner faced difficulties obtaining relationship recognition, and uncertainty in whether their relationship would be recognized by the U.S. government for immigration purposes.
Elias is a gay man from Brazil. He suffered bullying and harassment for being different for most of his childhood. At the age of 18, through a church program, Elias sought a sponsor to help him pay to study abroad so that he could leave Brazil. For 16 years, Elias has been studying abroad on student visas and has earned a Bachelor’s in the United States, two Master’s degrees from Austria and France, and studying and working in various other countries.