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Cristina Jiménez Headshot
Felipe Sousa-Rodriguez Headshot

We Won't Take No for An Answer, Mr. President

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Print leaders with United We Dream and GetEQUAL, respectively, we know that the movement for justice for the LGBTQ community and the immigrant community is a shared struggle. We stand shoulder-to-shoulder in a long-term fight for our families and our communities, knowing that it will take years -- perhaps even decades -- to secure victories that will fully protect and affirm the dignity and liberation of the LGBTQ and immigrant communities in this country.

But we also know that we face a moral crisis right now. Over 1,100 people are deported every single day, torn from their families, their homes, their jobs and their communities. Thousands of workers lose their job every year because of discrimination in the workplace based on their sexuality or gender identity. Every single day, undocumented immigrants live on the margins, prey to exploitation and discrimination. We know this reality too well. For many years, we woke up every morning not knowing whether we would be able to come back home to the warm embraces of our families. A simple trip to the grocery store or to school could lead to deportation and indefinite family separation. Too many gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender undocumented immigrants are marginalized in their community, ignored by our political leaders and exploited in the workplace.

We continue to push Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) -- legislation that would end workplace discrimination against LGBTQ people, including approximately 267,000 LGBTQ undocumented immigrants. But in addition, we are also calling on President Obama to sign executive orders that would halt the deportations of those who have made their homes here and would end LGBTQ workplace discrimination by federal contractors.

Under the Obama administration, nearly 2 million people have been deported -- hundreds of thousands of whom would have been eligible for a pathway to citizenship under legislative proposals which President Obama champions. And while the President advocates for marriage equality and against workplace discrimination, he refuses to sign an executive order that would protect more than 16 million American workers. It's hypocritical to support justice, but refuse to provide relief to our communities -- especially when it's clearly within President Obama's executive power to scale back the record number of deportations under his leadership. It's hypocritical to support equality, but refuse to protect LGBTQ workers.

With a simple stroke of a pen, President Obama could send a clear message to Congress that he means business, and to provide protections to the hundreds of thousands of workers who've been subjected to employment discrimination because of their sexuality or gender identity. And with another simple stroke of his pen, President Obama could put an end to the deportation of immigrant youth and their families.

As private prisons and companies make millions of dollars off of President Obama's reckless commitment to deport more people than any other president, millions of taxpayer dollars are also pumped into companies like ExxonMobil that have alarming track records of discriminating against LGBTQ workers. It's time for President Obama to stop turning a blind eye.

Our country relies on the labor of immigrants and they should be protected from deportation, employment discrimination and exploitation. It's simply un-American to subject people to living in the shadows or in the closet, fearful for their job or their safety simply because of who they are or the courageous decision they made to come to this country for a fresh start, a new life or a bright future.

Since President Obama's first presidential campaign, he has promised LGBTQ Americans that he will sign an executive order to prohibit federal contractors from discriminating against LGBTQ workers. He also promised the immigrant and Latino community he would lead on immigration reform. Since then, he's left us with unfulfilled promises and close to two million deportations.

In 2011, the Obama administration told immigrant youth leaders with United We Dream, both privately and publicly, that they could not do anything to stop deporting DREAMers. But our organizing efforts and pressure showed the country differently and President Obama announced the unprecedented Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in June 2012, conceding that he did have the authority to stop deportations of young immigrants. Likewise, President Obama knows that he has the Constitutional authority and obligation to protect every American, including LGBTQ people, from discrimination. What's missing isn't Constitutional authority -- it's courageous commitment.

We do not have the option of taking no for an answer when our lives and our families are on the line. We will not let our work be dictated by legislative timelines or partisan political games. We will keep organizing and speaking out to stop the pain and discrimination in our communities.