A coalition of LGBT groups has banded together to raise a sizable haul dedicated to helping young, undocumented immigrants remain in the United States.
Earlier this year, the Obama Administration began implementing Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, a plan that allows undocumented immigrants who first entered the country as children, have graduated from high school, college or serve in the military and have clean criminal records a chance to remain in America without fearing deportation.
However, in order to apply for a deferred action program, prospective participants must pay a $465 processing fee. This surcharge can be prohibitively steep for someone earning below minimum wage due to their undocumented status.
That's where the $75,000 raised by nearly 50 LGBT groups comes in.
"When President Obama rose above politics to do the right thing for these brave young people we were moved, grateful, and wanted to help. We need these hardworking, talented youth to build a stronger future, and they need and deserve a chance to stop living in fear and on the margins," Kate Kendell, director of the San Francisco-based National Center for Lesbian Rights, said in a statement. "But the reality is that most of these young people will not have a chance to apply because of the cost. This fund is at the core of what our movement is about--standing together and making a difference in the lives of people who are part of our diverse community."
Under the coordination of Kendell's group and the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center, organizations like the Human Rights Campaign, Lambda Legal and the Family Equality Council have pledged to assist undocumented LGBT immigrants eligible for the program who can't afford the fee.
Undocumented immigrants who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered have long faced additional struggles in their efforts to gain legal status--notably an inability to gain citizenship through gay marriage.
“I am extremely grateful for the outpouring of support from so many people in our community, who believe in us and are giving us an opportunity to achieve goals that seemed completely impossible for most of our lives,” said 28-year-old Jorge Gutierrez in a statement. “Coming out as gay helped me come out as undocumented, which has been so much more difficult and challenging."
Not everyone is so supportive of the recently announced deferred action program. Kris Kobach, Kansas Secretary of State and immigration advisor to Republican Presidential Nominee Mitt Romney, filed suit against the Obama administration last month. According to Kobach, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement employees will be forced to break the law by not arresting the undocumented immigrants when they submit their applications.
"It places ICE agents in an untenable position where their political superiors are ordering them to violate federal law," he told the Associated Press. "If they follow federal law, they will be disciplined by their superiors."
While the program gives people the opportunity to live and work in the United States, it doesn't offer the right to vote nor does it offer a direct path to full, legal citizenship.
In the three weeks since Obama announced the deferred action plan, the government reports it has received over 72,000 applications. Even so, the administration was prepared to receive 250,000 in the first month alone--a smaller than anticipated turnout that many have blamed on the associated fee.
The New York Times notes that the California is leading the nation with the most applicants, followed by Texas, New York and Florida. The majority of the hopefuls originally hail from Mexico.
The Department of Homeland Security estimates it will take between four and six months to process most applications, although a handful have already been approved.
The fund, overseen by the Liberty Hill Foundation, is available on a first-come, first-serve basis and will begin accepting applicants for monetary assistance on September 21st and are still accepting donations.
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