I find hope in intimate relationships that form during the darkest of times. I’m alive because my enslaved ancestors dared to reproduce despite being held captive. White supremacy has never stopped people of color (POC) from loving one another.
As Donald Trump’s administration targets historically oppressed communities with cruel legislation aimed to criminalize and dehumanize us, I wonder if I’m brave enough to follow in the footsteps of my ancestors. Can I raise children while the world burns, especially as a Black queer woman?
Thankfully, Oscar Contreras and Alberto Alfaro’s story reminds me that LGBTQ+ families of color deserve to exist, no matter how deplorable Trump’s actions are.
In 2012, former Pres. Barack Obama signed an executive order creating the DACA program. Around 800,000 undocumented young people benefited from DACA, which protects them against deportation and authorizes them to work in the U.S.
True to his campaign promise, Trump announced the end of the DACA program on Sept. 5, leaving 29-year-old Contreras and 30-year-old Alfaro in a constant state of fear.
“I’m just scared for Aaliyah’s future. We already have so many plans for our daughter, and now they might be gone,” says Alfaro, who lives with his husband and daughter in Tacoma, WA.
Raising a child with my wife might be challenging, but at least we have the privilege of citizenship. We don’t have to worry about being separated from our families because of our immigration status.
For Contreras and Alfaro, there exists an ever-present threat of being taken from their daughter.
The lives of undocumented LGBTQ+ POC parents are filled with barriers that are rarely highlighted in the media. Here are four issues they face because of their undocumented status, sexual orientation, gender identity, and race:
1. They aren’t allowed to adopt children.
Once Contreras and Alfaro began researching their options for having kids, they learned that immigrants with green cards can adopt, but undocumented immigrants can’t.
With adoption out of the picture, the couple of 4 years asked Alfaro’s sister to be a surrogate for them using Contreras’ sperm. His sister agreed.
After countless doctor’s appointments and three months of missing work due to pregnancy complications, she gave birth to their daughter.
Many LGBTQ+ folks aren’t able to find a surrogate (or sperm donor) as easily as Alfaro and Contreras, but those who are citizens may adopt one of the 100,000 youth in the foster system who need homes. Undocumented LGBTQ+ people don’t have that same right.
2. They’re discriminated against by people who don’t accept or understand undocumented LGBTQ+ families.
Contreras and Alfaro are fortunate to live in liberal-leaning Washington state, where there are numerous LGBTQ+ anti-discrimination laws and some legal protections for undocumented folks. They’re surrounded by queer families and friendly allies in their neighborhood.
However, they’re still subject to discrimination from people who aren’t used to interacting with families like theirs.
At one of Aaliyah’s recent checkups, the doctor was confused about what Alfaro’s relationship was to the baby since his name isn’t on her birth certificate. The doctor chose to list Alfaro as Aaliyah’s uncle instead of her dad, which deeply angered the couple and could very well have far-reaching consequences in the future.
Oppressive experiences in healthcare settings is a common problem for queer and trans folks, including non-immigrants. A 2010 Lambda Legal survey of LGBTQ+ people found that more than half of respondents reported being discriminated against by healthcare providers.
3. They can’t get health insurance through the Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare) or receive any other type of federal funding.
It’s difficult for undocumented folks to get health insurance. They can’t purchase health insurance from Obamacare’s state exchanges or receive Medicaid or Medicare, both publicly funded health insurance programs for Americans who are low-income, seniors and/or disabled.
Besides being barred from Obamacare, undocumented immigrants can’t reap the benefits of any other federally-funded program, despite paying both sales taxes and state and federal income taxes.
While Aaliyah is covered by her birth mother’s health insurance, neither Contreras nor Alfaro have any. Both medical assistants who work for the same company, the pair once received insurance through their employer, but their job no longer provides this benefit.
Paying full-price at the doctor is expensive, so they avoid going whenever possible. When Contreras ended up in the emergency room this past July, the doctors saw him for 20 minutes and prescribed him some antibiotics. He later received a whopping $600 bill for the visit.
Many undocumented immigrants rely on the emergency room and community health clinics to receive health care. Some of them have to resort to crowdfunding to get the medical care they need.
3. Their families can be torn apart by deportation at any time.
Contreras and Alfaro are educated, law-abiding, tax-paying American dads, yet they’re demonized by Trump and his administration.
On Sept. 28, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced they had arrested almost 500 undocumented people residing in “sanctuary cities,” meaning cities where the government has publicly refused to cooperate with ICE.
About 33 of the arrests were made in Seattle, less than an hour away from where Contreras and Alfaro live. While they were both able to renew their DACA for two years before the DACA renewal deadline on October 5, 2017, they worry about what will happen once these renewals expire.
The couple hopes they can find good schools for their daughter Aaliyah as she gets older — ones where she won’t be bullied because her parents are Latinx, undocumented, and gay. They also fear getting deported, which would shatter all of their dreams for her.
Ultimately, they just want a chance at life without the threat of deportation always looming over their heads.
“We’re pretty much like every other American, and we contribute to this country,” Contreras says.
Something all of us can do to make sure people, like Aaliyah’s dads, can stay in the U.S. is call, email, and Tweet our legislators to demand that the DACA program be reinstated.
We also need to pressure lawmakers to pass the DREAM Act, a bill sponsored by both Democrats and Republicans that’s been introduced in Congress several times since 2001. The act would create a pathway to citizenship for undocumented folks who entered the U.S. as children.
Neither DACA nor the DREAM Act are comprehensive solutions because they exclude undocumented folks who don’t meet certain requirements based on things like age, education, military service, and criminal history.
In fact, there are about 11 million undocumented people that don’t qualify for them.
So, when you’re supporting “Dreamers,” don’t forget about their undocumented relatives who remain in the shadows. Their voices aren’t being centered because they can’t be as open about their immigration status. They need legislation that moves far beyond DACA and the DREAM Act.
Ultimately, immigration reform is simply not enough. We need transformative immigration policies in this country so that all types of families can prosper, as they deserve to. We must defy and dismantle borders so that all of us can thrive.
Neesha Powell-Twagirumukiza (she & they pronouns) is an Everyday Feminism Reporting Fellow. Neesha identifies as an intersectional feminist, womanist, writer, community organizer, facilitator, dancer, freedom fighter, wife, and cat mama. She’s constantly conspiring in the name of liberated Black futures, queer and trans people of color power, solidarity economics, and transformative justice/community accountability. Neesha’s based in a suburb south of Seattle, where she lives, loves, and creates with chosen family.