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Immigration Reform News Update: LGBT Organizations 'Deeply Disappointed' With Inaction from Executive Action - What You Need to Know

First Posted: Dec 05, 2014 09:45 AM EST
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While approximately 4.9 million undocumented immigrants may be eligible for President Barack Obama's immigration executive actions, one group did not receive as much protection from possible deportation: the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual (LGBT) community.

Obama has been commended for his executive actions, which included an expansion of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and creation of the Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA) programs, but national LGBT organizations expressed disappointment for plans that do not include LGBT immigrant families.

National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) Policy Director Maya Rupert, in a statement, welcomed Obama's immigration executive actions as a "first step" to fix the "broken and discriminatory" immigration system. According to Rupert, the broken immigration system has victimized, including approximately 267,000 undocumented immigrants who identify themselves as LGBT.

"We applaud the vision and courage of our President in making good on his promise to act on immigration reform. We know that this is a first step and we are gratified that many of the cruel policies of the past will be replaced with more humane and effective strategies," Rupert stated. "However, we remain deeply concerned that the plan leaves out too many LGBT immigrant families. LGBT families are less likely to have legally recognized or biological relationships with each other, and thus relief based wholly on familial ties will exclude too many LGBT families. In addition, many of the restrictions requiring consistent employment and limiting access for people with non-violent criminal histories will disproportionately impact LGBT immigrants, especially in the transgender community."

Immigration Equality also welcomed Obama's executive actions but the organization was "deeply concerned" for the LGBT immigrant at risk of deportation. Immigration Equality Executive Director Caroline Dessert said her organization celebrate the millions who will receive the opportunity to live and work without worries of deportation, but noted the LGBT community was "once again" excluded despite the executive actions' purpose being to protect vulnerable people.

"The President's choice to require formal familial ties to qualifying citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents appears to exclude LGBT immigrants from accessing legal protections," said Immigration Equality Legal Director Aaron Morris. "Our priority moving forward is to ensure that immigration law recognizes LGBT families and protects LGBT immigrants from deportation to homophobic and transphobic countries."

Lambda Legal's Diversity, Inclusion and Proyecto Igualdad Director Francisco Dueñas also praised Obama's efforts to improve the immigrations system but urged Obama to take steps to include the LGBT community.

"We urge President Obama to undertake reforms that are more LGBT-inclusive, such as recognizing length of residency as a stand-alone qualification," said Dueñas. "Thousands of LGBT immigrants, many who have fled countries where LGBT people are unprotected and subjected to horrific abuse and violence, have been waiting for humane immigration reform for years due to Congressional inaction and cannot afford to wait any longer."

"This effort by the President does not absolve Congress of its responsibility to provide a permanent fix to our outdated immigration system so that it is fair to all the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. today, waiting to be fully American," added Dueñas. "So while we commend this order for providing much-needed immediate relief to many undocumented immigrants, we note that requiring individuals to have children disproportionately excludes LGBT immigrants who are childless because the barriers to creating a family are higher for people who cannot afford assisted reproduction or are disqualified from adoption by antigay laws."

The Human Rights Council's (HRC) Chad Griffin noted the HRC has long called for the White House to provide relief for undocumented LGBT immigrants. Although Griffin recognized "thousands" of LGBT undocumented immigrants will be protected under the latest executive actions, many thousands more will remain "living in the shadows, in unsafe detention facilities, or facing deportation."  

"In addition to the challenges that LGBT undocumented immigrants share with all undocumented immigrants, many also face additional dangers if deported," wrote Griffin. "Many LGBT immigrants come from countries where LGBT people live in the shadows of society, fearing for the safety of themselves and their families. In fact, in nearly 80 countries around the world, it is a crime to be LGBT. Deporting people to those countries is placing them in danger of harassment, violence, arrest, or even death."

National LGBT organizations have continued press Congress to pass comprehensive immigration, including protection for undocumented LGBT individuals. 

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