An undocumented, queer cancer patient explains why LGBTQ immigration issues can't wait

the voice and vision of a new generation
Image credit: Splinter

An undocumented, queer cancer patient explains why LGBTQ immigration issues can't wait

May 1, 2018

I want everyone to know the name Jose Steven Guevara. Jose is an undocumented queer activist from California and a DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) recipient, who, like many other DACA recipients, is at risk for losing his status. Jose Guevara is also battling cancer for the fourth time in his life.

From DACA, to his mother’s Temporary Protected Status (TPS), to his current health status, Jose’s life is in flux. But despite these obstacles, Jose continues to further his LGBTQ and immigration advocacy through his illness.

Queer undocumented folks like Jose are at constant risk of being deported to their home nations, which may be highly unwelcoming towards queer and trans folks. However, the safety of “undocuqueer” people is not only at risk when facing deportation: Accessibility towards healthcare, which is extremely difficult to obtain when undocumented, is also in jeopardy.

“There’s a lot of extra pressures that come from being in a mixed-status family,” Jose tells me over the phone. “My parents’ status as well as my own are in limbo. It adds an extra toll to worrying just about healthcare. I can’t just worry about my cancer, I have to worry about my immigration status.”

Amidst the DACA controversy and his challenging health issues, Jose remains steadfast in his commitment to the queer community and fellow undocuqueers.

“For me, the queer community must see immigration and healthcare as their fight. They must show up, make calls, use their votes. They must help free the chains and recognize the reasons why folks fled their countries. They must fight the rhetoric being sold by the administration. They must fight their racist coworkers, have uncomfortable conversations, educate. But most importantly, take care of each other—offer a helping hand and be kind to one another.”

There are so many communities within the LGBTQ community that are under attack: being black or brown, being a person with disabilities, being a woman, being femme presenting, being trans, etc. Often, I experience hardship first from being undocumented, then my queer identity as bisexual, and finally my femme identity. But to be honest, I feel like a lot of us in the LGBTQ community forget that undocuqueer individuals like Jose and I, who carry multiply marginalized, intersecting identities, exist.

After my call with Jose, I put together a list of ways we can show up for our immigrant community members:

1.      Participate in your nearest undocumented rally.

2.      Organize with your local immigrant rights organization. Listen and learn from their fight.

3.      Make the phone calls to your local representatives when asked in support of immigrant rights.

4.      Reach out to your undocumented friends and family members and check up on them. Please don’t judge them if they’re unwilling to be public about their status. Provide support, not criticism in their times of struggle.

5.      Read about individuals who carry multiple intersections of undocumented, like Jose Guevara, artist Julio Salgado, and follow stories detailing their struggles.

6.      Donate to organizations that help folks who embody intersecting queer identities. Some of my favorites include OLTT (Latinx Trans Organization in Texas)Undocublack Network, Pointe Foundation, and GLAAD.

7.      Donate directly to undocumented individuals facing deportation or struggling to cover costs of living and medical expenses, like Jose Guevara’s fundraiser for his cancer treatment.

Lizeth Urdiales is an amp Contributor and former GLAAD Campus Ambassador. Lizeth received a 2017 GLAAD Rising Stars Grant for her work to enhance media representation of undocumented queer youth. She gradutated from the University of Texas at Austin and currently works as a Recruiting Coordinator in the tech industry.

the voice and vision of a new generation