ICYMI: LGBTQ Dreamers Fear Detention and Deportation and Need DACA’s Protections

Since its inception in 2012, the DACA program has allowed more than 800,000 young immigrants who came to this country as children — including at least 66,825 individuals who identify as LGBT — to earn critical deportation protections and work authorization.

Why it matters: DACA has allowed LGBTQ-identifying immigrants to live free from the daily fear of deportation and improve their economic security and educational attainment. Many fear that if they are deported to their countries of birth they will be subjected to discrimination and violence. In 72 countries, same-sex sexual relations are criminalized, and sometimes punishable by death.

  • 66 percent of LGBTQ DACA recipients reported that they have become more involved in their community and 62 percent reported becoming more politically active after their DACA application was approved.
  • Less than one-third of LGBT survey respondents reported that they have an immediate family member still living in their country of birth.
  • 74 percent of survey respondents reported thinking about “A family member being detained in an immigration detention facility” about once a day or more.

Biggest development: Stripping LGBT DACA recipients of these protections would have disastrous effects on their lives. According to 80 percent of survey respondents, “In my country of birth, I would be concerned about the physical safety of myself and my family.”

Yazmín Irazoqui-Ruiz, a queer DACA recipient and medical student studying obstetrics at the University of New Mexico, expressed in a testimony before the House Judiciary Committee that she faces “the reality of [her] future as a physician being pulled out from under [her].”

“The United States is my home. I live here, my entire life is here. I have a future planned out in my head,” said Mo, an LGBTQ Dreamer who faces the tragedy of deportation after nearly a lifetime in the only country he’s ever known. “I don’t know anyone in Mexico. Going back would really mean just me arriving without any kind of plan. So, it’s terrifying,”

Catalina Velasquez, a DACA recipient and transgender woman from Colombia who worked on the LGBT policy team for Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign, said “Right now I’m petrified. I’m beyond scared. Colombia is not a welcoming place for a trans person. For some LGBTQ people, deportation means ‘a death sentence.’”

What to watch: Given the disproportionate risk of abuse that LGBTQ people face in immigration detention and the widespread risk they face in much of the world, the fears expressed by LGBT survey respondents are serious.

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