With the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program expiring in October, more “Dreamers” are stepping into the light to share their stories.
Among them belong to the LGBTQ community, who, unfortunately, appear to be facing more hurdles than most in the event of deportation.
The fact is, LGBTQ “Dreamers” might be heading to their home countries that are not as tolerant with their identity, and consequently, lifestyle.
The move, announced by the Trump administration last week, affects about 75,000 LGBTQ individuals eligible for the program, and some 36,000 currently enrolled, according to research group The Williams Institute at UCLA.
One of them is Tony Choi, a native of Seoul, South Korea, who identifies as gay.
“For a lot of us, going back to our home countries isn’t an option because of our queerness,” he told the outlet. “If I were to go to Korea, I would have to do the two-year mandatory service in the military, and the law prohibits sodomy.”
Tony came to the U.S. with his family when he was 8, living in Hawaii for a year before moving to New Jersey. His father took construction jobs, while his mother worked at a restaurant and nail salon.
Years later, Tony was able to attend Berea College in Kentucky under a full-tuition grant for undocumented students. During these years, he worked at a sushi restaurant for $5 an hour, helping out around the household after his parents divorced. His mom, who survived cancer and suffered arthritis, could not work for some time.
Now, Tony works as a social media manager for 18 Million Rising, an organization that empowers Asian American and Pacific Islander communities. He recognizes why less than 30% of eligible Asians, as per data from the Migration Policy Institute, apply for DACA.
“Asian nonprofits might not be as good at outreach, even though there are organizations doing wonderful work,” he told HuffPost. “Resources are often not being pooled into Asian groups. We’re isolated. We haven’t come to terms with the fact that immigration is our issue. There’s also always been a sense of shame.”
As an undocumented Asian immigrant, Tony’s life — and those in a similar situation — would turn as the Obama-ordered program comes to a close in six months. And it appears to get worse for those who identify within the LGBTQ spectrum.
For one, there is the prospect of being detained, where LGBTQ individuals are over two times as likely than the general population to be sexually victimized, according to statistics from the Department of Justice.
“We’ve been documenting the horrific abuse LGBTQ people face in immigration detention since 2013 and conditions have only worsened under Trump,” Sharita Gruberg, associate director of the LGBT Research and Communications Project at the Center for American Progress, told HuffPost.
Then there’s deportation, which can literally be a “death sentence.” Catalina Velasquez, a transgender woman who’s currently enrolled in DACA, fears abuse in her home country of Colombia.
“Right now I’m petrified. I’m beyond scared,” she told PBS NewsHour. “Colombia is not a welcoming place for a trans person.”
The LGBTQ+ community is just one of the many groups among 787,580 individuals hoping for DACA’s best outcome. For now, Tony finds peace in that, despite the Dreamers’ different stories, they are fighting the same battle:
“There are undocumented folks from all corners of the planet living in the U.S. We don’t follow the exact same story. We’re not here for all the same reasons. But we’re fighting the common fight. We’re struggling all together.”
While not every one may agree on controversial issues or each and every voice within the Asian, Asian American, and minority communities, NextShark stands with Dreamers of all identities and ethnicities.
Images via Instagram / tonykchoi