A Guide to Los Angeles for LGBTQ Asylum Seekers

Los Angeles, usually abbreviated to L.A., is a large city in southwest California (CA) most famously known for its beaches, movie studios, and American celebrities. L.A. is a popular spot for LGBTQ asylum seekers to want to live because of its fame, good weather, and diversity. Here are a few things to know about L.A.

Facts and Tips about L.A.:

  • Los Angeles means “the angels” in Spanish.

  • In 1848, California was acquired by the United States after the Mexican American War.

  • L.A. is the second most populous city in America after New York City and L.A. county is the most populous county in America.

  • The famous “Hollywood” sign originally read “Hollywoodland” and was an advertisement for a housing development.

  • There is a weekly street sweeping in L.A. If you have a car, be sure to pay attention to parking signs and be mindful of when you will need to move your car.

  • The city of West Hollywood is regarded as the thriving core of the LGBTQ community and nightlife in L.A. As of 2014, about 40% of its population identified as LGBTQ.

  • 37% of residents in L.A. were born in a country other than America.

  • 60% of its residents speak a language other than English at home.

Finding Transportation in L.A.:

L.A. has notoriously bad traffic and many asylum seekers can’t afford the additional expense of a car. Fortunately, there is a growing public transportation system to help alleviate the congestion.

Metro: Most public transportation is handled by Metro. They provide buses as well as subway and light rail lines.

  • To ride Metro trains and buses, buy a reusable TAP card here.

Metro Buses: Metro operates about 200 bus lines across the city and offers local, express, and commuter buses.

  • See here for maps and timetables.

Metro Rail: The Metro Rail network consists of two subway lines, four light-rail lines and two express bus lines. These lines service different sections of the city and all converge in downtown L.A.

  • See here for maps and timetables.

DASH Buses: These small, clean-fuel shuttle buses, run by the L.A. Department of Transportation, operate along 33 routes serving local communities. Many lines connect with other DASH routes; see website for details.

Bike Share: L.A. is new to the bike share scene, but its fleet of bikes under Metro Bike is quickly growing. Metro Bike is currently offering rentals in 30-minute increments on several different plans for one-time or annual users.

Car Share: L.A. has several different prominent car shares to choose from. BlueLA is a service that uses a fully electronic fleet of vehicles. Zipcar and Maven are also available.

Rideshare: L.A. also has both Uber and Lyft available to smartphone users.

Important Phone Numbers for LGBTQ Asylum Seekers to Have:

Here’s a list of important phone numbers that LGBTQ asylum seekers might find useful. It would be best to save these numbers to your phone or have them available at all times in case of an emergency.

Emergency- 911

Police Non-Emergency- 877-275-5273

L.A. City Services- 311

L.A. County Domestic Violence Hotline- 800-978-3600

National Domestic Violence Hotline- 800-799-7233

LAPD LGBTQ Liaison Officer- 213-486-6000

HIV/AIDS Hotline- 800-367-AIDS

General Local Laws for LGBTQ Asylum Seekers to Know:

While it’s important for everyone to follow the law, it’s especially important when seeking asylum because any infractions with the law could hurt or eliminate your chances of receiving asylum. Here are a few laws that can surprise people who are new to L.A.

  • Drinking age-21

  • Smoking- Outside of designated smoking areas, it is illegal to smoke in public places in California. The state also imposes additional taxes on the sale of tobacco products.

  • Marijuana- It is legal to consume marijuana in California but only in private residences. As of 2018, anyone 21 or older may purchase up to an ounce of marijuana at a time from a licensed dispensary with proper identification.

-Note: Marijuana is still illegal under federal law and that employers may fire or refuse to hire employees if drug tests reveal marijuana use.

  • Noise Laws- Local police in L.A. enforce excessive noise laws and there are specific quiet hours depending on the source of the noise. See this website for a complete list of noise laws in L.A. and this LAPD website for more information on reporting noise violations.

Important LGBTQ Laws to Know:

There are also some laws that focus on LGBTQ rights that asylum seekers should know so they understand how they are protected and when/if those rights are violated.

  • Ralph Civil Rights Act- Protects certain classes of people from hate crimes and violence and provides an outlet for legal relief. Classes include sexual orientation, sex, gender identity and expression, and perceived classes.

  • Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA)- Protects job applicants or employees from discrimination by their employer based on their sexual orientation, gender identity or expression. It also protects them from retaliation based on the assertion of their rights and provides outlets for relief.  

  • Gender Non-Discrimination Act- Added gender identity and gender expression to a list of existing protected classes of people protected under California’s larger anti-discrimination laws.

  • FAIR Education Act & School Success and Opportunity Act- Public schools are required to teach about the history of the LGBTQ community and transgender students are allowed to choose the appropriate restroom or sports team in regard to their gender identity.

  • Housing Protection- Housing discrimination against a person based on their actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender expression or gender identity is illegal in California.

  • California State Code- Clarifies protection of sexual orientation and gender identity or expression alongside other classes against hate crimes.

State Resources for Non-Citizens:

When moving to a new place, it’s easy to be overwhelmed as there’s a lot to know and things can work very differently. Here’s a list of resources that LGBTQ asylum seekers may want to take advantage of to help make the move to L.A. a little easier.

  • AB-60 Driver’s License- As of January 2015, California residents who cannot establish legal presence in the United States may apply for a driver’s license if they can show eligible proof of identification and residency in the state. These driver’s licenses may not be used for identification purposes.

  • By law no one may discriminate against a holder of an AB-60 license, or use this license to attempt to question the holder’s citizenship or immigration status.

  • CA State ID- Depending on your individual status in the U.S., you may be able to obtain a CA state ID while waiting for your asylum approval if you can show certain documentation.

  • Public Schools- Children of all immigration statuses may attend L.A. public schools. In May of 2017, the Unified School Board reaffirmed their dedication toward ensuring that schools are safe spaces for immigrant children and their families.

Helpful Links for LGBTQ Asylum Seekers:

In case there’s additional information that we didn’t cover, here are some additional links that you may find helpful if you’re a new LGBTQ asylum seeker in L.A.

Disclaimer: The contents herein are intended to convey general information only and not to provide legal advice. The contents should not be construed as, and should not be relied upon for legal advice. The information presented may not reflect the most current legal developments. No action should be taken in reliance on the information presented and AsylumConnect disclaims all liability in respect to actions taken or not taken in reliance on the contents herein. An attorney should be contacted for advice on specific legal issues.


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