President Trump has announced that he will be ending a program allowing the children of undocumented workers to remain in the United States. That decision was quickly condemned by LGBTQ advocates as “discriminatory,” as well as an attack on the LGBTQ immigrants who rely on the program as a pathway to citizenship.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions stated in a Monday press conference that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Program will be officially shut down in March. That leaves six months before the estimated 800,000 undocumented youth enrolled in the program, which Sessions referred to as an “unconstitutional exercise of authority by the executive branch,” face deportation.
He claimed, however, that those currently enrolled in the program have until October to reapply.
But in the meantime, LGBTQ advocacy groups warned that there are too many lives hanging in the balance. A recent report from UCLA’s The Williams Institute, a pro-LGBTQ think tank, estimated that 75,000 queer and trans people receive support from DACA. That number doesn’t factor in the number of immigrants who are not enrolled in the program.
Rebecca Isaacs, executive director of Equality Federation, claimed in a statement that these LGBTQ immigrants could be sent back to “countries where their lives could be in jeopardy.”
“That any young person could be ripped away from their parents, siblings, friends, loved ones, and colleagues is the antithesis of the American promise of fairness and opportunity for allthe very reasons why many immigrants move here to provide a better life for themselves and their children,” Isaacs said, adding that the consequences for LGBTQ people may be “especially dire.”
Kate Kendell, executive director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, called the decision’s impact on queer and trans immigrants “chilling.”
“In an announcement that lasted only minutes, this administration just turned the lives of tens of thousands of our community members upside down, putting their dreams, their futures, and potentially their safety at risk,” Kendell said in a statement. “We join with the millions of others who pledge to do all in our power to resist this brutally vicious and depraved directive and to stand with these young people.”
But Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, claimed that Trump’s repeal of DACA is just his latest strike against the LGBTQ community.
In August, Trump announced he would be reversing a year-old policy allowing trans troops to serve openly in the military. Prior to that decision, the Justice Department claimed that workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is permissible under federal law, breaking with recent trends in jurisprudence. The White House also backtracked on allowing trans students to use the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity in schools.
“Whether it’s transgender troops or young immigrant Americans, President Trump appears bent on singling out and harming people and families that he sees as different,” Kiesling said in a press release.
Sessions claimed that the decision is not based in animus toward undocumented workers.
“The nation must set and enforce a limit on how many immigrants we admit each year and that means all can not be accepted,” Sessions claimed. “This does not mean they are bad people or that our nation disrespects or demeans them in any way. It means we are properly enforcing our laws as Congress has passed them.”
In a statement, the POTUS further called on Congress to pass legislation before March to preserve the five-year-old policy. Trump, who repealed DACA in an executive order, has previously cited it as an example of Obama’s overuse of executive orders.
“We will resolve the DACA issue with heart and compassion, but through the lawful democratic process,” Trump claimed. “It is now time for Congress to act!”