Congress must pass the Dream Act. So much is at stake for LGBTQ undocumented young people.
In September, Donald Trump said he would cancel the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (program unless Congress passes the Dream Act. President Obama created DACA, which has helped thousands of LGBTQ undocumented young people to work, study, and improve their lives in this country without the fear of deportation. Many of them come from Asian counties.
The Dream Act will preserve DACA and will provide LGBTQ undocumented young people with employment opportunities, educational opportunities, and even a path to citizenship. Asian-Americans, South Asians, Southeast Asians, and Pacific Islanders are the fastest growing racial group in the United States today and the largest segment of new immigrants.
Over 169,000 APIs are eligible for DACA; 267,000 undocumented immigrants are LGBT, of which a disproportionate share is API. According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, over 16,000 people from South Korea, the Philippines, India, Pakistan, and China have benefited from DACA.
Trump’s cancellation of DACA will subject 800,000 potential beneficiaries to again live in fear of deportation. For LGBTQ people, the stakes are even higher unless Congress passes the Dream Act. Thousands of LGBTQ young people could be deported. Many of them to countries where they cannot live their full and authentic LGBTQ lives.
Many counties in Asia and the Pacific prohibit same-sex relations, such as Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Pakistan, Malaysia, Myanmar, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, and Tonga. In Indonesia, police shaved the heads of trans women and publicly caned a gay couple for having consensual sex. In most Asian and Oceania countries, transgender people cannot legally change their gender markers on their IDs, and LGBTQ people are not protected by anti-discrimination laws.
Tony Choi is a 24-year-old gay South Korean DACA beneficiary from New Jersey. In 2010, his options were to live a closeted life taking care of his mother with cancer in the U.S. or return to Korea where his LGBTQ identity would subject him to harsh hazing for two years in the mandatory military service. Korean military penal law also criminalizes homosexuality. Because of DACA he is serving the community right here in New York.
Bupendra Ram is a South Asian Dreamer from Fiji who came to the United State when he was only two years old. He is the first person in his family to attain a college degree.
A broad coalition of civil rights groups, businesses, educational institutions and religious communities support the Dream Act. The National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance has been pushing for a clean Dream Act with no enforcement provisions, mobilizing 10,0000 postcards, phone calls, and emails to senators and representatives.
GLENN D. MAGPANTAY is executive director of the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance, a nationwide federation of LGBTQ Asian American, South Asian, Southeast Asian, and Pacific Islander organizations. The organizations seeks to build the organizational capacity of local LGBT API groups, develop leadership, and expand collaborations to better challenge LGBT-bias and racism.