WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama today announced that his Administration will no longer deport undocumented youth, and that news was immediately embraced by LGBT organizations.
Iván Espinoza-Madrigal, Lambda Legal staff attorney, said this major policy shift is huge. It, however, doesn't change any laws, but will give undocumented youth who qualify an easier path to citizenship.
"This is great news for millions of young people who will no longer live under the threat of being removed to countries where they may not ever have lived or even speak the language. Many of them openly identify as LGBT, and their work and activism shows how the movement for immigrants' rights is inextricably intertwined with the LGBT struggle for equality," he said.
"In fact, there is an indissoluble link between the struggle for immigrants' rights and the fight for LGBT equality, because the LGBT community encompasses not only binational same-sex couples and LGBT asylum-seekers, but also undocumented LGBT immigrants who are often trapped in a 'double closet.' Many of these young people have already contributed to our country in significant ways. They should not be deported to countries, where they may be at imminent risk of persecution on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity," Espinoza-Madrigal said.
"Although this is a step in the right direction, the new policy does not change the legal landscape for most LGBT immigrants. Because of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), binational same-sex couples are still unfairly denied the opportunity, afforded to different-sex couples, to request immigration protection and relief for a foreign-born spouse. DOMA is unconstitutional and should be repealed. We also need comprehensive immigration reform that is fair to everyone, and inclusive of LGBT immigrants and their families," he said.
Kate Kendell, executive director of National Center for Lesbian Rights, also saw the historical nature of the policy change.
"This is a monumental development that will change the lives of hundreds of thousands of young people who have already contributed so much to this country and who will now be free from the specter of being brutally removed from their families and homes. Young people who came to this country as children and want to work hard, go to school, defend this country’s constitutional ideals by serving in our military, and contribute to society should be given the opportunity to do so," Kendell said.
This policy shift once again shows that this administration is committed to improving lives and creating opportunity for all people. We applaud the President for extending relief to young people so that they no longer have to fear being torn away from their homes and families, and we join the administration in continuing to support the DREAM Act as part of a humane and comprehensive immigration reform," she said.
Earlier today, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said that effective immediately, that it would change its policy as part of efforts to enforce the nation's immigration laws in a firm and sensible manner.
Young people who were brought to the United States as young children, do not present a risk to national security or public safety, and meet several key criteria will be eligible to receive deferred action for a period of two years, subject to renewal, and will be considered for relief from removal from the country or from entering into removal proceedings. Those who demonstrate that they meet the criteria will be eligible to receive deferred action for a period of two years, subject to renewal, and will be eligible to apply for work authorization.
“Our nation’s immigration laws must be enforced in a firm and sensible manner, but they are not designed to be blindly enforced without consideration given to the individual circumstances in each case. Nor are they designed to remove productive young people to countries where they may not have lived or even speak the language. Discretion, which is used in so many other areas, is especially justified here,” DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano said in a statement.