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Immigration Reform Update: Advocacy, Civil Rights Groups Urge Obama to Ensure Executive Action Includes Undocumented LGBT Immigrants

First Posted: Sep 02, 2014 04:16 PM EDT
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A coalition of Latino, Asian-American and LGBTQ advocacy and civil rights groups have urged President Barack Obama to ensure the LGBTQ community is included in any potential action regarding undocumented immigrants.

The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund and 12 other organizations, including Immigration Equality, League of United Latin American Citizens, National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health and Presente.org wrote a letter to Obama as he potentially plans to announce executive actions addressing the immigration crisis and the influx of undocumented immigrant minors crossing the U.S.-Mexican border.

According to MALDEF President and General Counsel Thomas Saenz, the U.S. has made "great strides" in eradicating discrimination against the LGBTQ community with laws governing marriage and family, but policies should also recognize other continuing effects of discrimination.

"In implementing appropriate affirmative relief, the [Obama] Administration must not allow the inexcusable inaction of the Congress to result in leaving any contributing immigrant behind," Saenz said in a statement.

MALDEF noted more than 267,000 undocumented LGBTQ immigrants are in the U.S. and said they should not be excluded from relief for undocumented immigrants. The coalition of national civil rights organizations agreed that that the administration should provide relief to individuals who have long-term residency in the U.S. but don't have "state-recognized familial relationships" with citizens, lawful permanent residents or recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

The organizations also urge Obama to address the high conviction rates of undocumented LGBTQ immigrants.

"Inclusive affirmative relief is particularly critical for LGBTQ immigrants, who often face systemic abuse while in immigration detention, including excessive solitary confinement, repeated sexual assault, and inadequate medical care," said MALDEF Legislative Staff Attorney Jose Magaña-Salgado.

"Relief for undocumented Americans should not rely on separating out supposedly 'good' and 'bad' immigrants based on the circumstances they've faced and the choices they've made to get by -- especially not when it would disproportionately exclude LGBT people," said National Center for Transgender Equality's Racial and Economic Justice Initiative Policy Advisor Raffi Freedman-Gurspan.

Following recommendations from the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security, Obama is projected to announce an executive action in early September, but new reports suggest a decision could come after November's midterm elections.

"We want relief from an all out assault on Latino family unity -- we need more than lip service to combat the rampant racial profiling and deportations currently plaguing our communities. Anything short of relief for all 11 million undocumented immigrants in America will ensure ongoing mass-deportations and separation of Latino families," Presente.org Executive Director Arturo Carmona said in a statement.

"With the amount of hate against Latinos on display shown by Republican leaders in the House, we need President Obama to seize the opportunity and fight back against his 'deporter in chief' status," he added.

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