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LGBT and Civil Rights Groups: Don’t Exclude LGBT Immigrants From Affirmative Relief

Reported Affirmative Relief Proposal Excludes LGBT Immigrants

WASHINGTON, D.C. – LGBT and civil rights organizations strongly urge President Obama not to exclude long-resident LGBT individuals from the forthcoming program of administrative relief to protect from deportation some of the nation’s population.  Last week, media outlets reported that a program was under consideration of relief for upwards of five million undocumented individuals—but only for those with children who are U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents.  This approach would disproportionately exclude the 267,000 undocumented LGBT individuals who have significantly lower rates of parenthood and higher rates of victimization in our nation’s immigration enforcement system.

While family protection is plainly within any Administration’s broad authority to exercise discretion in immigration enforcement, so is recognition of the inherent discrimination in a legal system that only recently began to recognize the legitimate family connections forged within the LGBT community. The law continues to prevent most LGBT undocumented persons from adopting children, but these immigrants have still developed deep and enduring family connections through long, peaceful residence in the United States. The organizations below call upon the President to include length of residency as an alternative stand-alone mechanism to provide administrative relief for long-resident undocumented persons as a means of ensuring that anti-LGBT discrimination is not further perpetuated in our legal system. LGBT individuals must not be penalized simply because they lack formal familial relationships to qualifying relatives.

“Our immigration system remains rife with discrimination on multiple bases, and there is clear legal authority to address such discrimination through administrative action,” stated Thomas A. Saenz, MALDEF President and General Counsel. “In implementing appropriate affirmative relief, the Administration must not allow the inexcusable inaction of the Congress to result in leaving any contributing immigrant behind.”

Jorge Gutierrez, National Coordinator of Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement, stated: “Any administrative relief that comes out of the White House must not continue to further criminalize LGBTQ undocumented people and their families. President Obama must ensure that our LGBTQ undocumented brothers and sisters are included in the administrative relief package he’s about to announce.”

Caroline Dessert, Executive Director of Immigration Equality, stated: “President Obama has the authority, ability, and responsibility to act on behalf of the 267,000 undocumented LGBT immigrants in our country.  We worked closely with the Administration to ensure the relief package recognizes the distinct barriers facing LGBT immigrants and guarantees equal access to relief.  The safety of individuals like Alejandro, a gay man from Mexico, depends on President Obama expanding his executive action to include all vulnerable LGBT immigrants, even those without familial ties to U.S. Citizens or Legal Permanent Residents: ‘I came to the U.S. when I was only 22 years old and lived here for the past 16 years,’ Alejandro said, ‘I am not married and do not have a child who is a U.S. citizen, but I feel that I am part of America. I want to come out of the shadows so that I can finish college and become a nurse. As a gay man, I am afraid of being deported to Mexico.’”

Francisco Dueñas, Director of Diversity, Inclusion and Proyecto Igualdad at Lambda Legal stated: “Lambda Legal joins with our sister organizations in commending the Administration’s efforts to enact meaningful and compassionate immigration reform.  We call on the Administration to ensure that compassion extends to LGBT immigrants.  Requiring people to have qualifying relatives, such as children or spouses, unfairly excludes undocumented LGBT individuals who are single or those who reside in states that do not recognize marriage for same-sex couples or that enacted formal or informal barriers to LGBT adoption.  We urge the Administration to use its executive authority to use its executive powers to provide deportation relief for immigrants who have built lives here whose familial ties may not be recognized, but whose long-standing ties to their communities are clear and well-established.  The thousands of LGBT immigrants living in this country cannot afford to wait any longer for humane immigration reform.”

David M. Pérez, President, Latino GLBT History Project stated: “The President’s upcoming decision will mark a historic occasion that will impact the lives of millions of hard working immigrants living in the United States.  The President must recognize the positive contributions of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) immigrants to society and ensure their lives are valued and considered in this important administrative decision.”

Mara Keisling, Executive Director, National Center for Transgender Equality, stated: “Relief that is tied exclusively to family ties and excludes anyone with a criminal record is not relief for LGBT people. Transgender immigrants, many of whom fled life-threatening persecution to make this country their home, contribute to our communities but suffer disproportionately from living in the shadows. Meaningful action must include us.​”

Rev. Darlene Nipper, Deputy Executive Director of the National LGBTQ Task Force commented: “Everyone deserves a fighting chance at the American Dream, including LGBTQ people. But because Congress has consistently failed to pass fair and comprehensive immigration reform, more than 267,000 undocumented LGBTQ immigrants live in constant fear of being uprooted from their homes and separated from their loved ones. Every President since President Eisenhower has taken executive action to address immigration issues, and now President Obama has the unique opportunity of providing relief to 11 million undocumented immigrants. We urge the President to exercise strong leadership on reforming immigration policy by taking immediate steps to protect all immigrants, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) immigrants and immigrants living with HIV and AIDS. Congress must also act to completely fix the broken immigration system.”

Arturo Carmona, Executive Director of Presente.org, stated: “The President needs to be bold and courageous and offer a solution that can stop the separation of our families and protect all immigrants, including the LGBT community.  Unfortunately rumors of an order for 5 million would not even deal with half of the problem.  The President has a huge opportunity in his hands to show real leadership and do what’s right.  Republicans will not show any mercy if it’s a full or half-a-loaf solution.”

The National Queer Asian & Pacific Islander Alliance and Asian Americans Advancing Justice AAJC also joined the statement in support.

This advocacy builds upon a letter previously sent to the Administration encouraging it to include LGBT immigrants. The letter can be found here.