Why We’re Blacking Out Our Facebook and Twitter Tonight

by Kory Masen

Tonight, we are blacking out our social media profiles to show solidarity with Dreamers — immigrants who arrived as children and call the U.S. their home, but have no path to citizenship.

For five years, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program has allowed Dreamers to obtain work permits and live free from the fear that they will be deported from the country they have called home for most of their lives. This freedom has allowed so many young immigrants to not only come out of the shadows, but also come out of the closet, knowing they could find real opportunity in this — their country.

Since the Trump/Pence administration ended DACA in September, 122 Dreamers have lost their DACA protections every day, totaling nearly 12,000 young people with expired DACA status to date. Every morning, these young people wake up knowing that they face losing their livelihoods, being separated from their families, or deported to a largely unfamiliar country.

For the tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants who are transgender, deportation has risks beyond those faced by any young person who is forced to start over in a new country. For transgender Dreamers, deportation also has the potential to be a death sentence if they are sent to one of the over 70 countries that still criminalize LGBTQ identities. Even in countries where it is not illegal, being trans can still come with a high risk of harassment and violence.

Even in the United States, undocumented transgender people face significant disparities. The 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey (USTS) found that undocumented respondents…

  • …were more than twice as likely (69 percent) as the general sample (29 percent) to be living in poverty. The U.S. poverty rate was 12 percent at the time of the survey.
  • …were nearly three times as likely (32 percent) as the general sample (12 percent) to have experienced homelessness in the past year because they were transgender.
  • …were more than twice as likely (49 percent) as the general sample (15 percent) to be unemployed. The U.S. unemployment rate was 5 percent at the time of the survey.
  • …were more than three times as likely (29 percent) as the general sample (9 percent) to have worked in the underground economy, such as doing sex work, selling drugs, and doing other work that is currently criminalized.
Image credit: Jason Arrol/NCTE

The Dream Act would create a pathway to citizenship for 2.1 million Dreamers — 72,000 of whom are estimated to be a part of the LGBTQ community — and it would alleviate other pressures that currently increase the likelihood that undocumented immigrants will live in poverty, experience homelessness, and be at greater risk for violence.

Congress has passed interim measures to keep the government funded until December 22. Full funding for the government cannot happen unless it comes with a clean Dream Act — one without provisions for increased border militarization or other provisions that would harm immigrants instead of helping them. That means Congress has less than two weeks to ensure that Dreamers — our neighbors, teachers, co-workers, and family members — get the protections they rightfully deserve.

I’ve seen hundreds of young students pack Senate office buildings with their fists up accompanied by deafening silence and inspiring resilience. I heard parents who are undocumented advocate for their children, even if the proposed legislation continues to leave them at risk of deportation. I’ve seen pride in the eyes of youth as they chant, “Undocumented and unafraid! Undocumented and here to stay!”

Protesters advocating for a clean Dream Act in the Hart Senate Office Building, November 8, 2017. Photo credit: Jason Arrol/NCTE

Dreamers cannot afford to wait any longer, not when the very lives of LGBTQ immigrant youth hang in the balance. Congress must act now.

That is why this evening, we are joining members of Congress, businesses, educational institutions, religious organizations, and other non-profit organizations to black out our social media and call for a clean Dream Act.

If you want to take action as well, call your members of Congress and demand a clean Dream Act before the end of 2017.

Kory Masen is the Racial and Economic Justice Policy Advocate at the National Center for Transgender Equality.

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A joint project of the National Center for Transgender Equality Action Fund and the National Center for Transgender Equality. Also at ncteactionfund.org and transequality.org.

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National Center for Transgender Equality

National Center for Transgender Equality

We’re the nation’s leading social justice advocacy organization winning life-saving change for transgender people. Also at https://transequality.org.

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