LGBT Youth and Spouses Benefit from Obama’s Executive Action on Immigration But Action Does Not Go Far Enough for General LGBT Immigrant Population
Executive action on immigration recently announced by President Obama does much to help LGBT youth and spouses, but other members of the LGBT community will not see new or expanded protections under this action.
The action expands rights under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), broadening the group of undocumented young people who can obtain work permits and protection from deportation. This compassionate fix to our broken immigration system is especially important for undocumented LGBT youth who are particularly vulnerable. They are often in the closet – with peers, family, and others, and they may have even been kicked out of the house or ostracized amongst their peers. Suicide prevention hotlines often receive calls from these doubly-despondent youth. In fact, Navid Dayzad has been invited to train crisis counselors to help them better understand immigration implications when they take calls.
The executive action also brings relief for married immigrants, including those in the LGBT community whose nuptials were recognized for federal benefits – including immigration benefits such as green cards – under the historic 2013 Supreme Court case, Windsor. The executive action is the first time that gays and lesbians are able to enjoy the same benefits as their straight peers in immigration reform. For example, spouses of H-1B professionals will be able to apply for work permits. Spouses of employees caught in the backlog of employment-based visa numbers will be able to apply for work permits. Spouses of green card holders can take advantage of a streamlined “waiver” application process.
But many LGBT immigrants will not be protected, primarily because they do not qualify under Deferred Action for Parents (DAP), which helps certain undocumented parents with U.S. citizen or permanent resident children obtain work permits and protection from deportation. Instead of basing the benefit on an individual’s merit, the benefit is tied to procreation. Gay and lesbian undocumented individuals are at a stark disadvantage. They face many hurdles to becoming parents—from biology to states prohibiting them from adopting or refusing to recognize their marriages.
Congress should act on comprehensive immigration reform for the remaining seven million undocumented immigrants who will not see benefits under the current executive action. This is especially important for undocumented LGBT individuals, because their deportation can have even more dire consequences than for their straight peers. In nearly 80 countries around the world, it is a crime to be LGBT; deporting them to their country puts their lives at risk. A study by the Williams Institute of UCLA finds that there are close to 1 million LGBT adult immigrants, of whom about two-thirds are documented and one-third are undocumented.
Besides executive action, the administration has recently modernized the immigration system for LGBT applicants in other ways:
Even though President Obama’s executive action on immigration does not go far enough to protect all LGBT immigrants and more action is urged, he has been working on behalf of LGBT immigrants in other ways. And, this action does take a large step toward expanding rights won with recently passed laws, including the 2010 law that allowed entry into the U.S. for HIV+ immigrants, and the 2013 law recognizing gay marriage, thus preventing gay and lesbian spousal deportation.
BIO: Navid Dayzad
As an immigration attorney, Navid Dayzad has come full circle. When he was a child, he and his mother and sister fled from Iran to the U.S. seeking safety. Then, at age 18, he was his own first “client” and obtained U.S. citizenship. As a gay immigrant and activist, Mr. Dayzad does not take for granted the immigration benefits he received from his adopted country—otherwise he would be in his birth country where gays and lesbians are cruelly hanged.
Navid Dayzad practices immigration and citizenship law exclusively and has been an attorney since 1999. He is dedicated to providing personal service to his clients, who inspire him and remind him that he is an immigrant too.
Throughout his legal career, Mr. Dayzad has been at the forefront of lesbian/gay/transgender immigration issues. He was elected to a prestigious position in the American Immigration Lawyers Association as Chair of a national committee of attorneys on LGBT immigration issues, and he continues to advocate on the committee. He has been working with the full spectrum of LGBT immigration solutions even before they were making headlines, including successfully obtaining green cards for the transgender community.
Experience and Honors
Mr. Dayzad’s enthusiasm for protecting and promoting the rights of immigrants extends beyond his office doors. He has volunteered for the following national and community-based organizations: Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, Immigration Equality, AIDS Legal Referral Panel, Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center, and American Immigration Law Foundation.
Additional information about his biography here