NCLR Asylum & Immigration Project Director
For the first time since President Obama’s momentous announcement that undocumented youth will now be protected from deportation and granted work permits, the Department of Homeland Security has shed more light on the program’s implementation. This “deferred action” policy will take away some of the fear of deportation for many LGBTQ undocumented youth who are impacted by homophobic and unfair immigration laws.
One of NCLR’s Immigration Project clients, Jaime*, is a young gay man who was born in Mexico and has lived in California since he was a small child. He’s a college student in a committed relationship with a U.S. citizen. Because of Proposition 8, Jaime and his partner cannot legally marry in California. Even if they were legally married, the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) would block Jaime’s partner from sponsoring him for permanent residence. If Jaime were to return to Mexico, he would be at high risk of homophobic violence and harassment. But he cannot even apply for asylum because U.S. immigration law says that immigrants can only apply for asylum within one year of entering into the U.S.
While requests for deferred action may not yet be submitted, undocumented youth should begin collecting necessary documentation to prove that they (1) were under the age of thirty-one on June 15, 2012, (2) entered the U.S. when they were younger than sixteen, (3) have been continuously in the U.S. for at least five years as of June 15, 2012, (4) are in school, have a GED/high school diploma, or are an honorably discharged veteran, and (5) have not been convicted of a felony, serious misdemeanor, or three or more minor misdemeanors. The USCIS website provides updated official information on the application process, and youth thinking of applying for deferred action should first consult with a reputable immigration lawyer.
This new policy was made possible through the tireless activism and courage of undocumented youth, including many LGBTQ youth in organizations such as DreamActivist’s LGBTQ Student Caucus, United We Dream’s Queer Undocumented Immigrant Project, the Campaign for an American DREAM, CHIRLA, and the National Immigrant Youth Alliance’s UndocuQueer project.
Thanks to President Obama and countless young activists, Jaime and thousands of other LGBTQ undocumented youth like him will be protected from being torn away from their partners, lives, and homes as we fight for the repeal of DOMA, the passage of the DREAM Act, and comprehensive immigration reform.
NCLR Summer Law Clerk Olga Tomchin contributed to this piece.
*Not his real name