Queer and Undocumented: A Powerful Force in the Dreamer MovementMonday, April 17, 2017
At her kitchen table in Oakland, Yahaira Carrillo leafs through an old photo album with faded pictures of a little curly-haired girl. The album is precious to her: She saw her baby pictures for the first time only a few years ago, when her aunt brought the album from Mexico. That’s because when Carrillo crossed the border as a 7-year-old with her mom, they left almost everything behind.
Growing up undocumented, first in California, then in Missouri, Carrillo, now 32, was taught to always be on her best behavior.
“Any sort of wrong moves could result in my parents getting deported or my getting deported, or ending up in foster care,” Carrillo said. “[My mom] was like, ‘Always be good. We have to be model citizens, model behavior. We have to be as normal, as American, as possible, instead of raising any red flags.’”
It can be a big risk for undocumented immigrants to admit they don’t have papers, especially now, when President Trump is targeting immigrants and vowing to deport them in record numbers. And yet, in the past decade, more and more young people who were brought to the U.S. as children have been doing just that — especially those who are LGBTQ.
As Carrillo grew up, she ran into obstacles because of her immigration status. When she went to college, she didn’t qualify for financial aid, so she had to work full time to pay tuition, and it took her nine years to graduate. The DREAM Act (an acronym for Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors) would have given undocumented young people like her a path to a green card. But years after it was first introduced in 2001, the bill still hadn’t passed. So Carrillo decided to start lobbying.
“We had reached a point where we had to tell our own stories, we had to speak for ourselves,” Carrillo said, “because it was suffocating, you know, living in this place of fear.”
Suffocating — like when you’re gay and in the closet. Carrillo also knew what that felt like. She came out as bisexual when she was 23.
“At the end of the day, both coming out as queer and coming out as undocumented, it’s about living life on your own terms,” Carrillo said. “[It’s about] you calling the shots about how you move about the world, and facing society head on, in your full truth, in both of those areas. And there’s power in that.” Continue Reading…