Without DACA, We Will Lose Fierce Advocates for Justice

Living the Dream-01 (2)

By David Castillo, New Media Manager, NCLR

Jesus Chavez at a 2013 immigration rally on the National Mall. Photo: Chavez Facebook page

Jesus Chavez at a 2013 immigration rally on the National Mall. Photo: Chavez Facebook page

As a gay undocumented youth, Jesus Chavez understands well the challenges of living with secrets. He grew up in California’s Central Valley always aware of his immigration status but forbidden from speaking about it.

At 14, Chavez vividly recalls watching coverage of the 2006 immigration reform rallies in cities and towns across the country. It was then that he realized why his parents had gone to great lengths to ensure that he and his siblings kept their undocumented status quiet. The rallies were in response to an anti-immigrant measure passed in the House of Representatives that would have ramped up enforcement measures and deportations.

“It made me realize how dangerous it was to reveal this secret,” said Chavez. “The idea of family separation…I couldn’t live in the United States without my mom.”

This early introduction to activism impacted Chavez’s college and career decisions. He had always been a bright student in school. He excelled in academics and also exhibited athleticism, which he still credits with helping him stay disciplined.

When it came time to apply for college, he knew his status would pose financial difficulties, so he hustled to find the money he would need to attend. When he graduated from high school, Chavez had managed to win $14,000 in private scholarships to help fund his academic career at University of California, Berkeley. It was a remarkable feat that showcased his tenacious spirit.

In college Chavez got involved with the undocumented youth movement, serving as the co-chair of Rising Immigrant Scholars through Education (RISE). When President Obama made his historic announcement on the creation of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), Chavez and RISE provided support to students who wanted to come out of the shadows. They worked with the law school’s immigration lawyer to help students through the application process.

Ironically, when it came time to apply for himself, Chavez realized he found greater joy in seeing others celebrate their deferred action. “At the time, I was working three jobs and wasn’t sure I would need DACA. I was happier for others because they realized they could now work legally, they could do study abroad programs,” he said. “Now that I am working for myself, having DACA has been amazing. I’ve been able to not just get jobs that I like, but also grow professionally. Having DACA is something I’m really thankful for.”

Jesus’s professional growth and activism has indeed gained him recognition in his young career. In 2013, he moved to Washington, DC, to intern with the National LGBTQ Task Force. Today, he works as the operations manager for PFLAG, another LGBT civil rights organization. He also held posts with the Latino GLBT History Project and attended the Union=Fuerza LGBT Latino conference.

Most recently, Chavez received the “Next Generation Award” by Washington’s LGBT magazine, Metro Weekly, for his commitment to improving the lives of all people. He admits to nearly rejecting the award because he didn’t think his experience warranted the honor. He ultimately changed his mind, but when speaking about the award, Chavez’s humility comes through.

“The Next Generation Award speaks to the undocuqueer movement and how they are using two identities to make themselves heard so we can reach equality,” said Chavez. “There are so many undocumented LGBT people who struggle, not only because they’re undocumented, but because they’re out and deal with lots of criticism. We need to keep fighting for what we think is right.”

Jesus’s story is certainly exceptional, and his accomplishments from college to now underscore the value of his contributions. The world is sorely in need of fighters like Chavez who are fiercely committed to advocating for what is right. Take DACA away and we lose a great talent.  Chavez is an excellent example of why we must keep fighting for the president’s executive action on extended DACA and DAPA.

NCLR is Working to Create Change

NCLR joined the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force last week for their annual Creating Change conference, which was held in Houston this year. The week-long event was jam packed with exciting plenary sessions, day-long institutes, dynamic workshops and top-notch networking.

La Union Hace La Fuerza at Creating Change: Wrap-up

Today, the Creating Change conference kicked off in Houston with day-long institutes on a variety of issues, including one dedicated to LGBT Latinos, La Union Hace La Fuerza. We’ve put together highlights of the 2nd annual event for you!

NCLR Joins 2nd Annual Latino Institute at Creating Change

This week, NCLR is in Houston for the annual National Lesbian and Gay Task Force Annual Conference, Creating Change.

The 2013 Latino Institute

The 2013 Latino Institute. Photo courtesy of Union Fuerza facebook page.

The annual gathering brings together thousands of activists from around the country who are committed to achieving equality for all people, regardless of sexual orientation. It’s an inspiring gathering of individuals who have put social justice at the forefront of their work.

The Task Force, long committed to working with other civil rights groups, will also play host to a day-long pre-conference event, La Union Hace La Fuerza: Latino Insitute. This second annual institute is designed to help queer Latinos build the necessary and crucial bridges across the social landscape. La Union Hace La Fuerza is also a bilngual institute that will provide skills trainings and spaces to foster strategic relationships to collectively advance equality for LGBT and Latino communities.

“As the demographic shift continues to underscore the opportunities and strengths that U.S. Latinos bring to national policy and action, it is important to ensure that Latino LGBT communities are included and this gathering at Creating Change is part of the process,” said David M. Perez, President of the Latino GLBT History Project and one of the co-organizers of the Institute. “Latino LGBT communities have much to share and contribute as they always have since the beginning of U.S. LGBT liberation movements and we have to make sure that those contributions are recognized, developed and documented in the halls of history.”

Throughout the day today and throughout the rest of Creating Change, NCLR will be covering the conference on our social media channels. You can follow along on Twitter for the Latino Institute at #LGBTLatino and for the Creating Change conference at #CC14. Follow along and join the conversation!

When People Work Together, the Possibilities Are Endless

By David Castillo, New Media Manager, NCLR

The 2013 Creating Change conference concluded a few days ago and the attendees are back in their communities, hopefully spreading the word about what transpired over the four-day confab.

This was my first time at the conference, and I couldn’t be happier to have represented the National Council of La Raza (NCLR). There were many great moments, but I was most struck by the enthusiastic embrace of immigration reform. If attendees didn’t receive the message that immigration reform is an LGBT issue as well , then they just weren’t listening. From the first-ever Latino Institute to the myriad sessions to the Saturday plenary, the subject of immigration reform was a hot topic that had everyone buzzing.

Union=Fuerza Latino Institute

A packed house at the first-ever Creating Change Latino Institute.

At the Latino Institute in particular, which is where my Creating Change experience started, I was especially surprised by just how many Hispanics were in attendance. In fact, there were more folks who participated than the organizers had expected! Seeing so many LGBT Latinos in one place was really a beautiful sight to behold.

“We were very pleased with the turnout of Hispanics who joined us for the first-ever Latino Institute,” said Latino GLBT History Project President, David Perez, the head organizer. “I think our presence at Creating Change was certainly felt, which enabled us to truly elevate the importance of Hispanic issues.” Continue reading