In my home country of Mexico, I endured discrimination for being a transgender woman. When I was 24, I decided to move to the United States, both to reunite with my mother and in search of a country that would accept me for who I am. In Mexico, I was abused and discriminated because of my gender identity.
But even in the U.S., the land of opportunity, my undocumented status and my gender identity led to further criminalization and discrimination. I was unjustly fired from my first job for reporting inappropriate behavior from coworkers, who made fun of me for who I was. In my next job, I was physically abused by one of my managers and I was afraid of speaking out or telling anyone.
I have had enough. I knew I had to speak out and take action, not only for myself but for the more than 267,000 undocumented LGBTQ immigrants across the country, who have two closets and two stigmas to fight every day.
I was arrested outside of the Democratic National Committee’s Women’s Leadership Forum Conference last week. As leaders of the Democratic Party, including President Obama, spoke on family values and the importance of women’s role in shaping America’s future, they seemed to forget the plight of immigrant mothers, sisters, and LGBTQ people who the president has allowed to be deported and detained.
Inside, the conference was highlighting the work and leadership of women within the party, but unfortunately, leaders like Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have stood idly by as mothers and children are torn apart.
Outside, I stood alongside seven other powerful women, each of us fighting for our families and our community. I fight for our trans sisters and brothers, who are in detention facing deplorable conditions, such as solitary confinement and (often) being prohibited from receiving essential hormone therapy. I fight for my mother, Lucia, who has sacrificed so much for our family, to make sure that my family can fulfill our dreams.
It was only a few months ago that President Obama promised to give deportation relief to millions of undocumented immigrants. When I heard President Obama give his speech from the Rose Garden, I dreamt of the day I would not have to live with the constant fear of discrimination. I thought I could finally live a life out of the shadows and live with dignity. I’d have similar relief like that of my younger brother, who is eligible for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival, a program that has given him a new outlook on life and new opportunities.
Instead, the president, with cover from Democratic leadership, has asked our community to wait. He’s told my mother and me that our lives are expendable and we don’t matter. By delaying action, he leaves millions at risk of unjust deportation. He leaves LGBTQ immigrants under imminent threat of deportation, which for many could mean abuse or even death.
Until the president acts, we’ll continue escalating across the U.S., fighting for justice, our families, and our lives. We’ll confront any politician who stands in the way of justice, because justice delayed is justice denied.
JOSELYN MENDOZA is a leader within United We Dream.