By: Valerie Ploumpis, National Policy Director
In theory, Dreamers — undocumented young people whose parents brought them to the United States before December 31, 2016 and before their 16th birthday — are safe until March 6, 2018 because Trump promised that none would be deported until his six-month deadline for Congress to “fix” the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program had passed.
But in practice, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has been arresting and detaining Dreamers for weeks now. An unknown, but undoubtedly significant, percentage of people who are caught up in ICE are LGBTQ. This is because, as numerous studies have demonstrated, LGBTQ people have higher rates of contact with law enforcement due to a combination of discriminatory realities and laws. LGBTQ youth facing lack of acceptance and hostility in their communities, schools and in their own homes are more likely to drop out of school and leave their homes, leading to astoundingly high rates of LGBTQ homelessness and unemployment and leave many in our community with few other options than to turn to survival sex and illegal substance sales to provide for themselves.
Once arrested, local jails in many jurisdictions routinely verify immigration status and hold immigrants for ICE, some because they are required to do so by statute.
Equality California and a wide range of LGBTQ organizations have been urging Senate and House leadership to pass the Congressional “fix” that Trump demanded before year’s end. We estimate there are nearly 75,000 LGBTQ Dreamers in California alone.
There are several DACA-related bills pending, but by far the best is the bipartisan DREAM Act (HR 3440), introduced by California Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA-40), because it would provide eligible Dreamers with an eventual path to permanent legal status. Roybal-Allard’s proposal, cosponsored by virtually every House Democrat and a handful of Republicans, is widely supported by corporate leaders, particularly those in the tech industry, labor, universities, the faith community and progressive organizations.
The current Congress seems unlikely to pass a “clean” Dream Act (i.e. one that does not contain onerous amendments such as funding for the border wall or a militarization of the border) as stand-alone legislation. But chances are good that a legislative solution for Dreamers will be appended to an omnibus spending bill in December, which will probably include additional border security provisions.
But serious harm has already been caused in the weeks since Trump slammed the doors shut. Nearly 22,000 others (one in seven DACA recipients) did not reapply by October 5 deadline – some were afraid, others could not afford the $500 application fee, many were dislocated by hurricanes and California wildfires, and still others mailed in applications but they were not received in time. They are now frozen out of the system and are at high risk for arrest and deportation.
As a result, every single week since October 5, some 850 young people have been losing their DACA protections which have allowed them to legally work, attend school, receive in-state tuition and drive. And of course, thousands of others were ineligible to apply for DACA in the first place, including those who had been brought to the U.S. between the ages of 16 and 18 – still minors, but too old to qualify.
LGBTQ people who are deported to their “home countries” – places they may never have lived and have few connections – could find themselves with little to no legal rights and at risk for anti-LGBTQ violence and possibly death. Nearly 80 countries criminalize same-sex relationships and many without explicit anti-LGBTQ laws are very dangerous. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights reported, for example, that nearly 600 people died from anti-LGBTQ violence in Latin America in just one 15-month period (January 2013 to March 2014).
In the absence of far more generous and comprehensive immigration reform, Equality California has called on Congress to pass a clean Dream Act before year’s end. We are also committed to supporting statewide efforts to protect undocumented people, including the parents and family members of Dreamers.
Equality California: https://www.eqca.org/equality4all/
United We Dream: https://unitedwedream.org/
CHIRLA, Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights in Los Angeles: http://www.chirla.org/