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Texas SB4’s Impact on LGBTQ South Asians – Why We Should Care

Texas SB4’s Impact on LGBTQ South Asians – Why We Should Care

By Amrit Uprety of KhushATX and Sasha W. of the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance (NQAPIA)

This past week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit upheld Texas Senate Bill 4 (SB4) one of the most rigorous anti-immigrant laws passed since Donald Trump took office.

Last May, Governor Greg Abbott signed SB4 into law which would allow racial profiling and subject anyone perceived to be an immigrant — in other words, all communities of color — to unlimited questioning about their immigration status, all by local law enforcement officials with little or no training in immigration law. It prevents any city in the state of Texas from becoming a “sanctuary city,”  and levies heavy penalties against local officials who push back against federal immigration authorities.

Resistance to the bill was clear and rapid.  Just one day after the bill was signed into law, city and county officials in Texas filed a lawsuit to block implementation. The four largest cities in Texas joined the lawsuit.  Then, LGBTQ Asian and South Asian  community groups in Texas, including KhushATX in Austin, Coalition of Houston Asian Americans, and Dragonflies in Dallas joined the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance to file anamicus brief illustrating the impact of the law on the LGBTQ and Asian American community.

According to the Census, South Asians and Asian Americans make up the fastest-growing immigrant groups in the country — we are the largest percentage of documented and undocumented immigrants coming to the U.S. And, as we know, many of our South Asian immigrant community is also LGBTQ. Nationally there are 267,000 LGBTQ immigrants from Asian countries, that includes various South Asian nations, including nearly 40,000 who are undocumented.

SB4 would subject South Asians and all people of color to profiling, discriminatory stops by police and interrogation about their immigration status. If the law goes into effect, our LGBTQ and South Asian community members will be caught in the crossfire.

As LGBTQ South Asians, we are no strangers to discriminatory policing and racial, ethnic and religious profiling. As queer people of color, SB4’s legalized profiling evokes the history of police raids of LGBT bars — Stonewall, which helped to catalyze the LGBT movement, which was a riot against this queer and transphobic policing. As South Asians, our communities have faced increased Islamophobia and profiling since 9/11, which has skyrocketed.  This kind of everyday profiling happens at airports, on public streets, and in our places of work and worship.

As queer and trans South Asians, we must fight back against being profile for “looking” immigrant, trans, queer, Muslim, South Asian, Latinx, Black. KhushATX, with other LGBTQ Asian American groups in Texas and throughout the South, worked with NQAPIA to oppose SB4. We hand-wrote 50 letters to government officials to block the law from taking effect, and we asked them to continue resisting this racist, xenophobic bill.

You can learn about what’s happening with our LGBTQ South Asian immigrant family in Texas. Don’t ignore the struggles and the beautiful resistance of the South. If you are in or have family in Texas, read and share this oped. And stay ready to support our family when we are called — whether it be in the form of a handwritten letter, a phone call, a protest, or a rally — to show up and hold space in solidarity with our LGBTQ immigrant family.

Learn More

Fact Sheet about Texas SB 4’s impact on LGBTQ Asian Americas and South Asians, and translation in Urdu.

Fact Sheet: Texas SB4’s Impact on LGBT & Asian Communities

What is Texas Senate Bill 4?

On May 4, Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed into law SB4, one of the nation’s most rigorous anti-immigrant laws passed since Donald Trump took office. It bans “sanctuary cities” where immigrants are protected in that local police officers are limited in asking for or disclosing someone’s immigration status.

The Texas bill would enable local police to ask about someone’s immigration status when they are initially detained — even if they have not yet been charged with a crime. Those who do not comply with the law could be fined up to $25,500 per day and face misdemeanor charges.

The bill is scheduled to go into effect on September 1, 2017.

What has the response been so far?

Just one day after Texas’ governor signed the bill into law, city and county officials in Texas filed a lawsuit against both the Governor and State Attorney General Ken Paxton. Since then, the four largest cities in Texas – Houston, San Antonio, Dallas, and Austin – have joined the lawsuit, along with other organizations throughout Texas. Supporters of the lawsuit argue that the bill would violate the Constitution by impeding free speech and equal protection. Several local and national civil rights groups, labor unions and legal experts have condemned the law.

How would Texas Senate Bill 4 affect LGBTQ and API communities?

Immigrants’ rights and LGBTQ rights are deeply intertwined.

Asian Americans are the fastest-growing racial minority group in the country. Asian Americans are also the largest segment of both legal and undocumented immigrants coming to the U.S. One million Asian Americans are undocumented. In Texas, 44% of the state’s population is Latino, Asian American, or Arab American. Texas SB 4 would equally subject both Latino and Asian Americans to illegal profiling regarding immigration status.

There is an estimated 263,000 LGBTQ API immigrants, of which nearly 40,000 are undocumented. Studies have found the LGBT undocumented immigrant population to be disproportionately Asian.

Texas SB 4 would subject LGBT people who are ethnic and racial minorities to discriminatory stops and unlimited questioning about their immigration status by local law enforcement.

Moreover, LGBT people have also been historically harassed by local law enforcement.  Not too long ago, same-sex sexual relations were illegal and police often raided gay bars.  We must take a stand against Texas Senate Bill 4, because no one should be singled out and discriminated against merely for looking Latino, gay, Asian, queer, Muslim, or trans.

What you can do?

First, read up on the details and an analysis of the bill here and know your rights under the bill, which are clearly explained here.

Second, help your LGBTQ and API family take a stand against the bill by writing a letter to city mayors, council members, and other local officials in Texas localities that have not yet joined the lawsuit challenging the bill. For instance, Fort Worth City Council has not yet voted on the matter.

Third, join the fight. NQAPIA works with several LGBTQ API community groups in Texas, including Coalition of Houston Asian Americans (CHAA), Khush-ATX in Austin, and Dragonflies in Dallas who are standing up for our community.

Read this in Chinese (NQAPIA Fact Sheet Texas SB4 Chinese), Urdu (NQAPIA Fact Sheet Texas SB4 Urdu), and Vietnamese (NQAPIA Fact Sheet Texas SB4 Vietnamese).

Immigration Injunction 101: What’s Happened So Far, and What We Are Waiting For Now

The process and language around the injunction blocking the expanded DACA & DAPA programs can get confusing. President Obama announced executive action on immigration in November 2014, but expanded DACA and DAPA have been caught in a legal debate ever since. Here are some fast facts for LGBTQ AAPI folks to stay informed!

Arpaio vs. Obama:

  • Joe Arpaio, our favorite xenophobic & racist sheriff from Arizona (remember S.B. 1070?) immediately filed a court case against the Obama administration. He claimed that the Executive Action would directly harm him because “criminals would not be deported” under the new law.
  • Arpaio lost this challenge.

Texas vs. United States:

  • 26 states filed a lawsuit against the United States, claiming that the Obama administration overstepped their constitutional authority with the Executive Action on November 20th.
  • The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas issued a preliminary injunction, or temporary block, of the expanded DACA & DAPA programs, pending a trial. This is why these programs have not yet opened for applicants.
  • In response the U.S. government asked the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, a higher federal court, for an emergency “stay,” or pause, on the injunction during the appeal process. In other words, the Obama administration asked the court to allow expanded DACA & DAPA to proceed while the lawsuit continues. On May 26th, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals denied the request for a stay. So for now, the new programs are still not running.
  • The U.S. government also appealed the preliminary injunction itself to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, on an expedited basis. A hearing for this appeal will take place on July 10th in New Orleans. This is the next big step in this court case.
  • If the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals rules to uphold the injunction against the Obama Administration, next steps for the U.S. government could include:
    • Asking for a review by all 15 judges on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. (Currently, only 3 judges are hearing this case.)
    • Appeal the decision of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court.
  • If the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals strikes down the preliminary injunction , and rules in the Obama administration’s favor, we expect the expanded programs will finally be open for applicants.

As a reminder: the injunction & court cases are only regarding expanded DACA & DAPA. If you qualified for DACA before Executive Action in November, you should still apply! Contact sasha@nqapia.org if you have questions or need support.