A vocal contingent chanted “If they don’t let us dream, we won’t let them sleep!” during a rally at the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in Pasadena on Tuesday (May 15) in support of preserving the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
The rally took place outside as appellate judges inside the courthouse were due to hear arguments in a DACA case (Regents of University of California v. Department of Homeland Security) that’s seen as critical in determining if thousands of current DACA recipients will have the right to renew the protections that allow them the remain in the U.S. legally.
Last September, the Trump Administration announced an end to the Obama-era policy that had allowed young people who came to the U.S. as children to remain in the country legally to work and attend school. More than 700,000 immigrant children are protected by DACA, including nearly 40,000 who are LGBTQ.
“A judge is going to decide what’s going to happen to about 250,000 DACA recipients in California and if they are going to start losing their jobs, losing their education, and start being deported,” said the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s Policy and Operations Manager Maria Melo, who was among the rally’s participants. “They work with us, they go to school with us, and they might be gone in a few months.”
The Center was part of a coalition of groups represented at the rally that included the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA), California Dream Network, Fair Immigration Reform Movement (FIRM), UCLA Dream Resource Center, San Diego Border Dreamers, National Immigration Law Center, Public Counsel, LGBT Center Orange County, and UCLA’s Improving Dreams, Equality, Access, and Success (IDEAS).
Last December, the U.S. Congress failed to pass the DREAM Act of 2017 which would have prevented youth and LGBT undocumented young people, often referred to as Dreamers, from being deported to countries where their lives might be in danger due to homophobia and transphobia.
“I am a DACA recipient who identifies as a gay man,” said rally speaker Luis Gomez, Immigration Resources Specialist for LGBT Center Orange County. “Removal of LGBT DACA recipients could mean a death sentence if they are removed to countries that are hostile to this community.”
There are anti-LGBT laws on the books in more than 70 countries, including death sentences in at least eight of those countries.
“As DACA recipients we have come forward to the government and provided all of our information, paid a hefty fine, continue to pay a hefty fine every time we renew and also undergo rigorous background checks,” Gomez said. “Now the administration is seeking to perhaps use this information for our removal. This is unfair, this is cruel, and, quite frankly, unnecessary.”
Another gay man, Israel Serrato (pictured), shared with the crowd how he and his husband, Marco Villada Garibay, were unexpectedly split apart earlier this year because of the uncertainty surrounding DACA.
“We met and fell in love six years ago and have been married for four years and built a home here in Pasadena,” Serrato said. “For the past four months, we’ve been separated because of politics and because of the failures of our country’s immigration system. We are fighting and will continue to fight with everything we have to bring Marco back home. But the fact remains that our lives have been turned upside down.”
Marco had become a DACA recipient in 2013. Shortly after their wedding in 2014, they started the process of applying for a spousal visa. This past January, they traveled to Juarez, Mexico, for what they thought was the last step in the process: an interview with the U.S. consulate to obtain Marco’s visa.
“We were so excited to come back and start a family of our own,” Serrato said. “But instead, Marco’s visa was wrongfully denied and he was barred from entering the U.S. We are devastated. Right now, Marco is stuck in a country where he doesn’t belong, away from me, away from our families. He just spent his first Mother’s Day away from his mother and our first wedding anniversary away from me.”
After the rally, Serrato acknowledged the emotional toll it takes to speak out at rallies and to the media to get his husband’s story out there.
“It’s a little overwhelming any time I share the story. It brings back the reality of what we are going through right now,” he said after the rally. “But this isn’t just something that’s affecting us. It’s affecting so many people and so many families. I think it’s important for everyone who can speak out about it to speak out.”