As many as 20 LGBT young people at Youth First Texas could take advantage of a new immigration policy announced Friday by President Barack Obama, according to YFT Board Chair Chris Cognetta.
Obama announced that the U.S. will stop deporting illegal aliens who were brought to this country as children, and they will be able to obtain work permits.
Effective immediately, the new rule will apply to people who are currently under 30 years old, arrived in the U.S. before they turned 16 and have lived here for at least five years. To qualify, they must have no criminal record and have earned a high school diploma, be in school or served in the military.
The provisions are similar to those proposed in the DREAM Act that has been before Congress several times but has not passed.
The change in policy could have an even greater impact for gay and lesbian youth. That’s because in many cases, a heterosexual sibling marries a U.S. citizen and can immediately apply for a green card and begin the naturalization process. The gay or lesbian sibling cannot be sponsored by a partner.
The executive order may affect as many as 800,000 people.
Cognetta said at YFT, the possibilities range from getting them into a Dallas County Community College to getting driver’s licenses and being able to work legally.
“One is in design school and can now obtain a degree under his own name,” Cognetta said. “Another is working under an assumed name. Two others are being exploited sexually to survive.”
He said that YFT has an attorney on the group’s board who will help the youth navigate government bureaucracy to obtain the necessary paperwork.
Several LGBT groups issued statements lauding Obama’s announcement.
Lambda Legal called the announcement great news for many 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.”
Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, said, “We applaud the Obama administration for taking this monumental and inspiring step. It shows true leadership. It is heartening to know that hundreds of thousands of young people will no longer have to live in daily fear of being forced out of the country, away from the life and dreams they have built. Our country will be better for it.”
Rachel B. Tiven, executive director of the LGBT group Immigration Equality, issued this statement: “Today’s announcement is great news for our country. The young people who will be positively impacted are our classmates, our colleagues, our friends. They are America’s up-and-comers: future entrepreneurs, scientists, and public servants. I can’t wait to see their vibrant potential realized.”
State Rep. Rafael Anchia called the order a common-sense, humanitarian approach.
“Not only does this directive stop the deportation of these individuals who pose no threat to this country, but it will allow them to apply for work authorization and thereby come out of the shadows and participate in the American dream,” Anchia said.