Each day since September 5, 2017, 122 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients have lost their status. In his decision to end DACA, President Trump had no clear plan for the nearly 800,000 people enrolled in the program, of which 36,000 identify as LGBTQ.
On Sunday, the president tweeted that Senator Dick Durbin “blew” a DACA deal due to his unabashed denouncement of Trump’s “shithole” comments. The next few days may very well determine the fate of 36,000 LGBTQ identified DACA recipients and other undocumented young people. As with most things this president does, everything is speculative until it isn’t.
In the following series, I sought to find how being undocumented adds a layer of complexity and difficulty to people’s lives. The stories told reflect a small piece of the lives of those profiled; however, they remind us that the debate raging in Congress this week has real and lasting consequences.
Jose Granados was 18 years-old when he became homeless. He was not the first LGBTQ person to be kicked out of the house for being gay, and he will, unfortunately, not be the last. According to The True Colors Fund, 40% of youth experiencing homelessness are LGBTQ.
Being undocumented, however, did make Jose’s reality as a homeless person potentially harder.
“I was out on the street and I didn’t have DACA,” he said, referring to a program announced by President Obama, and rescinded by President Trump, which granted eligible undocumented young people the ability to obtain a work permit. “It was a scary time because I’m fully undocumented.”
“I don’t even have DACA to save me,” he continued.
Prior to being kicked out, Jose’s mom had her suspicions about him being gay. So when President Obama announced the DACA program, his mom didn’t allow him to apply. Instead, she used his status as a way to potentially punish him for his identity if he came out.
“She saw me not having DACA as a way for her to force me to go back to Mexico, so that she could basically intern me at a conversion clinic in Mexico…against my will,” he said.
Jose had been dating his boyfriend at the time for three months when his mom found out about their relationship after looking at his phone and seeing their messages.
“She connected the dots. It was just a night when she was being really abusive,” Jose recounted. “She just told me to leave and that’s what I did. It wasn’t a safe environment for me.”
Jose was kicked out of the house with nothing but a pair of shorts and sandals; no phone, and no identification. And while a phone costs money, it was something he found easier to get than an identification, seeing as in almost every state in the country, undocumented immigrants aren’t able to obtain a driver’s license or identification card.
Eventually, Jose was able to get help from his then-boyfriend and his then-boyfriend’s family, who loaned him the almost five-hundred-dollar application fee to file for DACA a few months later. Currently, Jose attends the University of Texas at Austin, where he works as a Spanish tutor.
When he talked about the possibility of losing his work permit, he shared a hopeful outlook: “There was a life before DACA. When I was homeless I didn’t even have DACA and yet I still persevered.”
“I was undocumented out on the street, with no work permit, no way for me to get a job,” he continued. “I don’t let things like that define me.”