NEW YORK, NY — Today outside Gotham Hall, where the Democratic National Committee’s LGBT Leadership Committee held one of its largest fundraising events of the year, LGBTQ and immigrant rights groups GetEQUAL, Queer Undocumented Immigrant Project, a project of United We Dream, Immigration Equality, and Make the Road New York risked arrest in order to call on President Obama and the Democratic Party to stop deportations and grant administrative relief to undocumented immigrants in the United States. President Obama was on-site as the keynote speaker. Though the protesters blocked the street in front of the fundraiser as the presidential motorcade passed by, the New York Police Department refused to arrest them.
Barack Obama’s administration is responsible for over two million deportations — more than any other administration in U.S. history. Many of those deportations have been LGBTQ immigrants, who face extraordinary discrimination within the detention system and who are often deported to countries in which they face harassment, abuse, violence and sometimes, death due to their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Just yesterday, the day before this fundraiser, the Obama Administration announced plans to sign an executive order barring discrimination by federal contractors on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. While this news is welcomed, it will not impact the estimated 267,000 undocumented LGBTQ immigrants who live in the shadows each day for fear of deportation under President Obama’s administration.
Each year, LGBTQ donors contribute millions of dollars to the Democratic National Committee, and are sold a bill of goods that they are helping to elect pro-LGBTQ leaders. Many strides have been made in the past six years, including yesterday’s announcement about the federal contractor executive order, yet there is still much that the Obama administration can do to ensure that LGBTQ individuals — including LGBTQ immigrants — have legal protections.
Today’s action called for an end to deportations so that yesterday’s announcement will benefit LGBTQ Americans like Joselyn Mendoza — a transgender woman and leader with United We Dream’s Queer Undocumented Immigrant Project ( QUIP ) who was fired when she began her transition, then was exploited and abused at work with the threat of deportations always present. Additionally, Immigration Equality’s pro bono asylum client, Roxana, shared her story of surviving extreme transphobic violence and abuse in her country of birth. She had to flee Honduras to save her life and turned to the United States as a safe haven. As a transwoman, Roxana shared her story in order to prevent more transgender people from facing the grave consequences of LGBTQ deportation
Those who risked arrest outside of tonight’s fundraiser are listed below, with a short version of their biography/story:
Patrick Fierro is one of GetEQUAL’s Texas state leads who is taking action on behalf of his family, friends, and those in the LGBTQ community who face their fear of deportation every day — including his father, who was deported several years ago. In this country, built on the immense contributions of immigrants, he knows that it is important to give voice to collective struggle that heals our hearts and mends our wounded spirits.
Julián Padilla, an LGBTQ Justice Organizer for Make the Road NY in Brooklyn, is the grandchild of four undocumented Mexicans. They are a genderqueer chican@ born into a legacy of transgressing colonial genders and borders.
Caleb-Michael Files is a queer organizer and Missouri native who fights for what’s right, even in the face of adversity.
Matt Cordiero’s grandfather was an undocumented immigrant from Portugal who would have been deported if he had not been a veteran of the U.S. Army. Matt is participating in memory of his grandfather.
Uruj Sheikh is an educator and organizer in New York City, working primarily on issues of militarization as it impacts our community here and abroad. She stands firmly in solidarity with the undocumented community in challenging the ways queerness and documentation status intersect in ways that dehumanize us, and she stands up against the Democratic Party and all other political parties that target and scapegoat queer, POC, & working class communities.
Yenny Quispe is a dreamer by heart who ran away from Peru because her father didn’t accept her sexual orientation. She is taking action in support of her LGBTQ family, all of whom deserve to stay in this country and be respected.
“As members of the LGBTQ community, we are very excited to see years of work from LGBTQ activists come into fruition through the federal contractor executive order announced yesterday by the White House,” said Felipe Sousa-Rodriguez, co-director of GetEQUAL. “We are thankful for these new protections, but these privileges do not extend to all LGBTQ people in this country. Many LGBTQ immigrants still live in fear of deportation every minute of their lives. We need President Obama to halt deportations immediately and grant administrative relief so that LGBTQ immigrants can fully join in the American dream.”
“I have benefited from President Obama’s use of executive action to take administrative action on behalf of immigrants — as a recipient of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, I know the power of President Obama’s pen,” said Dagoberto Bailon, a queer undocumented DACA recipient who organizes with the Queer Undocumented Immigrant Project. “As long as my LGBTQ community continues to be persecuted by the immigration machine and continues to be inhumanely treated in detention centers, many thousands of us are still in danger.”
“As someone who is gay and undocumented, I know what it is like to live most of your life in hiding — our community lives under the constant threat of deportation,” said Marco Quiroga, National Field Officer of Immigration Equality. “At Immigration Equality, I work side by side with the most vulnerable members of our community who cannot return to their country of birth out of fear that they will be harassed, abused, attacked, and in some cases, killed. Roxana is one of the thousands of LGBT immigrants who would be in great danger if deported due to the lack of action from our elected leaders. Today, we call upon President Obama to take immediate action and make LGBT-inclusive administrative relief for undocumented immigrants a reality. We simply can’t wait.”
“Today I make my back a bridge — I put my body upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers and upon all the apparatus that inhibit freedom of movement for my gender non-conforming siblings, my trans sisters and my trans brothers,” said Julián Padilla, an LGBTQ Justice Organizer for Make the Road NY. “I won’t stop resisting until all people may move through our own minds, our own homes, our own streets, and our own continents with peace.”