By Francisco Dueñas, Director of Diversity and Inclusion & Proyecto Igualdad
This week is Welcoming Week across the U.S.; a week of activities designed to bring immigrant and non-immigrant communities together to interact and get to know each other. Think of it as a massive communal intervention against the xenophobia that helped fuel Donald Trump’s campaign.
As LGBTQ people, we understand the importance of not only being “out,” but also the importance of having our communities really know us, understand what we face and acknowledge what we bring to the table.
Throughout U.S. history, many parts of civil society have helped to integrate immigrants into their new home. Welcoming America, the national organization that supports local welcoming efforts around the country, is reviving these traditions. And their work is so needed, especially for LGBTQ immigrants.
LGBT immigrants, numbering close to a million – of whom only a quarter are estimated to be undocumented – may not be comfortable being out in their immigrant communities, and their local LGBTQ community may not know about their particular cultural or linguistic needs. You can hear directly from LGBTQ immigrants in this wonderful oral history project from Immigration Equality.
Efforts like Welcoming Week and the LGBTQ New Americans Project help make immigrant communities more LGBTQ-friendly, and help make LGBTQ communities more immigrant-friendly.
As you help make your own community a more welcoming place for LGBTQ Immigrants, here are four recent developments that you should know about.
1. You can still renew DACA!
Two weeks ago, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the end of the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) program that provided some protection against deportation for undocumented immigrant youth (over 75,000 of whom are LGBTQ) that were brought to the U.S. as kids.
New applications for the program are not being accepted. However, current beneficiaries whose DACA benefits expire before March 5, 2018 (around 150,000 people) can still apply to have their DACA status renewed. NOTE: You must do this by October 5, 2017.
2. A partial block of Texas’s anti-immigrant law.
At the end of August, a federal court judge blocked parts of Texas’s new anti-immigrant law (SB 4) from being enacted. The law, as passed, requires local law enforcement to comply with constitutionally questionable federal immigration detainer requests, and penalizes local officials for failing to comply.
This ruling is only a temporary reprieve as the case makes its way through the courts. Still, the most controversial aspect of the law–the “show me your papers” provisions – is not enjoined, meaning law enforcement officers in Texas can ask anyone they stop about their immigration status, and they can then share that information.
Unfortunately, many state and local agencies – including law enforcement agencies – already facilitate our unjust immigration enforcement system. Law enforcement officers, however, cannot act as immigration officers themselves and arrest someone based on the information they receive.
If local law enforcement officers in Texas inquire as to your immigration status, you don’t have to answer.
3. Prepare for potential raids.
While a majority of U.S. immigrants are documented, many undocumented individuals are part of families where some members have legal status and some do not–at least not yet. Even with access to scarce immigration-related legal services, our current immigration laws can make it virtually impossible for someone to gain legal status, even when other family members have it.
Earlier this month, news outlets reported leaked plans for a massive immigration raid that would have targeted over 8,000 immigrants. This prompted LGBTQ advocates like the Transgender Law Center to issue Know Your Rights fact sheets for trans immigrants.
These resources help community members prepare for potential interactions with immigration enforcement and help preserve any legal options trans immigrants may have to defend themselves against deportation.
4. Some good news from California.
The Center for American Progress has written about how LGBTQ immigrants end up in immigrant detention (even though, in most cases, it’s not in the public’s best interest) because of Congress’ mandated bed quota of detained immigrants and provisions in the contracts that the Department of Homeland Security signs with private prison companies for “guaranteed payments for a set number of beds, regardless of whether or not they are used.”
In California, LGBTQ leadership, including Lambda Legal, joined together with immigrant advocates to help pass the California Values Act (SB 54), a new law shoring up the separation between state agencies and federal immigration enforcement. The state is making sure that its finite resources are not being coopted by efforts to break up families and deport California’s immigrant residents, including LGBT immigrants, who contribute much to the state