EDUCATION & ACTION DURING COVID-19 SERIES
Defending LGBTQ Immigrants
A ruling to end the DACA program would be catastrophic not only for DACA recipients and their families, but also for the nation
The public health threat of COVID-19 has shown us now, more than ever, the importance of mutual aid and community care. As part of our commitment to speed equality and opportunity for all, MAP will be publishing a series of Medium blog posts that advance the conversation around vulnerable communities who may be particularly at risk to the effects of the virus and the economic downturn. In the middle of an unprecedented global pandemic that affects us all, this series will shed light on the particular challenges facing all of our communities, as well as resources from partners and allied organizations to support you through the pandemic.
From healthcare workers and delivery drivers to farmers and grocery store clerks, more than 200,000 recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program¹ are working to contain the COVID-19 pandemic and to provide vital goods and services to help keep America running. Depending on the outcome of a U.S. Supreme Court case that could put the future of the program at risk, DACA recipients could lose their ability to lawfully work in the United States and become vulnerable to deportation.
A ruling from the Supreme Court in favor of the Trump Administration’s decision to halt the DACA program, expected at any time, would be catastrophic not only for DACA recipients and their families, but also for the nation.
Since 2012, the DACA program has granted more than 825,000 undocumented people the ability to work and go to school without fearing deportation. In a recent survey examining the experiences of DACA recipients, 14% identified as LGBTQ. And although the exact number of DACA recipients who are LGBTQ is unknown, the Center for American Progress estimates that nearly 67,000 LGBTQ individuals have received protection under the program.
These DACA recipients are among an estimated 900,000 LGBTQ-identified immigrants in the United States, of whom 267,000 are undocumented. LGBTQ undocumented adults, who are more likely to be male and younger, represent 2.7% of the undocumented immigrant population. While the majority of the undocumented LGBTQ population is Latinx (71%), 15% of undocumented LGBTQ adults are Asian or Pacific Islander.
For LGBTQ DACA recipients, so much is at stake:
- The employment rate for LGBTQ recipients increased with DACA, jumping from 56% to 95%. Recipients obtained higher-paying jobs with benefits, with a 74% increase in wages.
- Among students, 93% pursued education opportunities previously not available to them, with 78% pursuing a bachelor’s degree or higher.
DACA has also played an instrumental role in LGBTQ recipients’ feelings of inclusion in the U.S.:
- 65% reported that after their DACA application was approved, they felt more like they belong in the United States.
- 66% reported that they have become more involved in their community, and 62% reported becoming more politically active.
By effectively terminating this program during the COVID-19 global health crisis, thousands of DACA recipients, LGBTQ and not, would be at risk of losing their deportation protections and work permits. DACA recipients, and especially those working on the frontlines of the crisis, should not have to worry about their immigration status and the health and safety of their parents, families, and themselves.
With U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services offices closed, the Trump administration has made accommodations for DACA recipients to renew their status for another two years during the pandemic. However, immigrant rights advocates have urged the federal government to consider automatically extending DACA status for recipients whose permits expire in 2020 to avoid lapse or deportation, since many do not have access to adequate information and legal assistance.
If you’re a DACA recipient, here are some helpful resources:
- COVID-19 USCIS Office Closures Guidance: What You Need to Know
- Healthcare Access for Undocumented Folks in the Time of COVID19
- List of Resources (National & By State)
- Use your voice to urge SCOTUS to delay the DACA decision during this national health emergency.
- Be counted in the 2020 Census. While the Census will ask basic questions about each person living in your household, it will not ask about immigration or citizenship status. The results of the Census determine the allocation of billions of federal tax dollars for schools, hospitals, roads, and more.
- If you’re able, donate to United We Dream’s NationalUndocuFund to help provide financial assistance to undocumented people and their families who aren’t qualified for the economic assistance programs recently authorized by Congress.
- Join HRC on April 30th at 5pm EDT for a webinar in Spanish around the social impact of COVID-19 on Latinx gay and bi+ men.
¹ DACA recipients are immigrants who came to the United States as undocumented children. Along with protection from deportation, the program allows recipients to lawfully work and attend school. DACA status is renewable, lasting two years at a time.