WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama will be met outside a Tuesday evening fundraiser focused on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights by activists who say his deportation policies are failing one part of the LGBT community: Undocumented immigrants.
From 50 to 80 immigrant and LGBT rights advocates with the groups GetEQUAL, United We Dream's Queer Undocumented Immigrant Project, Make the Road NY, and Immigration Equality plan to rally outside a gala fundraiser for the Democratic National Committee in New York during Obama's appearance there. Six people may risk arrest by stopping traffic, according to organizers. Their goal is to highlight Obama's detention and deportation policies that they argue are damaging the LGBT community in particular because LGBT immigrants may be abused in detention centers and in their home countries.
Obama "has evolved on marriage and he has evolved now on work discrimination, now we want him to evolve on the inhumane process of deportation," said Carlos Padilla, a coordinator for the Queer Undocumented Immigrant Project who traveled from Washington to New York for the protest.
News broke on Monday that Obama had directed his staff to draft an executive order that would ban workplace discrimination against LGBT employees of federal contractors. The move came after the House failed to act on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would ban employers from firing or harassing employees based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
While immigration groups applauded the move, activists also asked why the president doesn't act to help them. Immigrants, too, are faced with a House of Representatives that isn't moving on reform, but Obama has declined, for now, to make new executive actions. The president delayed a review that could have led to new policies to reduce deportations, and advocates are increasingly frustrated with the inaction.
"We are glad Obama is using his pen and phone more often to provide relief to communities across the county in the absence of a working Congress," Erika Andiola, co-director of the advocacy group Dream Action Coalition, said in a statement Monday after the LGBT announcement. "Just like the LGBT community, we undocumented immigrants across the country need his bold action immediately."
There are at least 267,000 undocumented immigrants in the U.S. who identify as LGBT, according to a 2013 report from The Williams Institute, a think tank at UCLA Law School devoted to law and public policy issues related to gender identity and sexual orientation.
Padilla, who identifies as queer, said that for many undocumented immigrants, deportation could lead to abuse or even death in their native countries. He came to to the U.S. from Mexico when he was 2 years old. Now, at 22, he can stay in the U.S. under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy, which allows young undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children to apply to stay and work legally for two years, with the ability for renewal.
Padilla said the activists want to urge Obama to stop deporting LGBT undocumented immigrants and provide more protections for them in detention centers.
"For many of these folks, when they are deported they're persecuted," Padilla said. "Many of them face the price of death because of their identity and gender expression. So for us, deportation is a very serious threat."