The Obama administration’s new immigration policy won’t help gay journalist Jose Antonio Vargas, who is a year too old to qualify — but Vargas has nonetheless praised the move.
An memo issued today by Homeland Security secretary Janet Napolitano removes the threat of immediate deportation for undocumented immigrants age 30 and younger who were brought to the United States before they turned 16, if they have been here for at least five continuous years, have no criminal record, and have graduated from a U.S. high school, received a GED, been admitted to college, or served in the military. They can apply for two-year work permits that can be renewed indefinitely.
Napolitano emphasized that the policy does not amount to amnesty or immunity for these immigrants, CNN reports. But observers noted that it puts into place many of the provisions of the DREAM Act, which has been stalled in Congress.
Vargas, a prize-winning journalist who came out as undocumented last year, having come here from the Philippines as a child, is 31, so the policy does not affect him. Still, he tweeted, “This is HUGE HUGE HUGE. #sohappy.” The journalist, who has a cover story on immigration in this week’s Time, also issued the following statement, as reported by The Atlantic:
“Today our country embraces upwards of one million young new Americans: DREAMers. They grew up here, they were educated here and they have so much to give back to the country they call home. With a stroke of President Obama’s pen, our country lives up to its ideals and finds a fair and pragmatic solution, ending the nightmare of a generation of young people who are Americans in all but documents. Every social movement in the world is led by young people, and DREAMers are the beating heart of this growing immigrant rights movement. Like generations of immigrants before them, they have insisted on a better life not just for themselves and their families but for the country they love. This is a victory for DREAMers and the members of their underground railroad — educators and faith leaders, friends and neighbors — who have aided and supported them. The journey is far from over for the remaining millions of undocumented Americans like me — at 31, I am past the age limit — but this is a big, bold and necessary step in the road to citizenship. Thank you, President Obama, for this principled and courageous act.”
The Atlantic notes that today’s announcement is a “second bold move” by the president, after his statement last month of support for marriage equality. Meanwhile, some LGBT rights groups praised the new immigration policy.
It’s “absolutely the right step,” said GetEqual executive director Robin McGehee, who took the opportunity to call on President Obama to issue an executive order prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, which he has so far declined to do. Added Felipe Matos, GetEqual’s field director and an undocumented immigrant: “I’m still reeling from the news and overjoyed by the announcement — but my heart has just enough room in it for an LGBT executive order.”
Kate Kendell, executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, issued a press release calling today’s move “a monumental development.” She added, “This policy shift once again shows that this administration is committed to improving lives and creating opportunity for all people. We applaud the president for extending relief to young people so that they no longer have to fear being torn away from their homes and families, and we join the administration in continuing to support the DREAM Act as part of a humane and comprehensive immigration reform.”