The UndocuQueer movement is a powerful network of queer undocumented immigrant activists organizing for the rights of undocumented youth and their families. UndocuQueer activists came to the U.S. as infants or children. UndocuQueers struggle for the right to work, live, and love in the country in which they were raised and educated. Without documentation, even those who have earned college degrees are denied work in the above-ground economy and are subject to deportation. Given their precarious citizenship status, sexual orientation and transgender realities, visibility makes UndocuQueers vulnerable, however, they refuse to remain in the shadows.
Silence provides no protection against exploitation and anti-immigrant, anti-queer violence. UndocuQueer activists changed the immigration debate despite limited access to mainstream media channels, by skillfully creating and launching visual art & videos, (utilizing) social media and (organizing) live-in person collective action. Julio Salgado produced the “I Exist” collection within the Dreamers Adrift media project to the support of the DREAM Act by confronting the dehumanzing language of anti-immigrant discourse. Salgado explains:
“Nobody is paying us to do this…we’re doing it because there’s…this need…to create something and…. I don’t have the money to go bail people out. I don’t have the money to say, ‘hey, I wanna hire an attorney for you.’ But you know, through this, through media, through these videos, we are…showing the frustrations that we have as undocumented folks…in the U.S….and the people are getting that” (Salgado, “Interview Highlights: Dreamers Adrift and the “I Exist” Collection”).
The coordinating of UndocuQueers within the Immigrant Youth Justice League, Students Working for Equal Rights, National Immigrant Youth Alliance, Dreamactivits.org, Immigrant Youth Coalitiion, compelled President Obama to approve the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) in 2012 after the DREAM Act failed to pass.
Although UndocuQueers have been unwelcomed in LGBTIQ communities, the movement finds power in interconnected organizing. It emphasizes that “Immigration and LGBTIQ issues are controversial topics that have gained prominence in political and social circles throughout the nation and at the ballot boxes. These are not parallel movements, but intersecting ones in the fight for social justice. This is true for those who are undocumented and identify as queer, but also for those who are in one or the other (or neither) because of the interconnectedness of all those fighting for human rights” (Julio Salgado, 2012).
Research and Publications from the American Immigration Council
Image Credit: Julio Salgado