Saturday, February 13, 2010

Yes, Immigration Reform Is an LGBT Issue

I was ecstatic when I heard the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Executive Director Rea Carey in her State of the Movement address at the Creating Change 2010. It's not always that you see people who are fighting for one cause take on the issues that supposedly pertain to another.

But we all know that's not true. We need big, really big coalitions to achieve the equality that we need in society as a whole, and to fight the real enemies: inequality, socioeconomic disparities, environmental degradation, and racism.

So, yes, civil and human rights cannot – and should not – be parsed out and divided. Nor should anyone be given the right to decide over the human rights of others. And certainly, sadly, as with the case of civil rights and blacks, society can't wait for the majority to arrive at a consensus when the morality of the issue is overwhelmingly clear. Human rights can't be put to a vote.

Rea Carey said that they will stand by their allies in the immigration reform movement come what may. I applaud that and I hope the Latino organizations and people, and, yes, the churches will heed her advice and also stand by our allies in the LGBT community – and the black community, and the uninsured community, and the disability community – come what may.

Here is an important fragment of Carey's State of the Movement speech:

Take immigration.

If we are truly a community and a movement committed to freedom, justice and equality then reforming our nation's cruel and broken immigration system must be on our agenda for action.

Today, there are 12 million immigrants, including at least half a million lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people who are forced to live in the shadows of our society.

They are people like Harold, an 18-year-old gay man who came to this country from the Philippines with his parents when he was five years old. This is really the only country he has ever known. But today, because he is undocumented, he cannot get a driver's license, cannot get a job, cannot get a student loan, and is in constant fear of being arrested and deported to a country where he has no connections, no prospects and where he cannot speak the language.

They are people like Victoria Arellano, an undocumented transgender woman who was swept up by the immigration system, put into a detention jail where she was denied HIV medications and medical attention, even when she was vomiting blood. This cost Victoria her life. She died, chained to a hospital bed with two immigration guards at the door.

And, of course, there are at least 36,000 binational couples who cannot live together here in this country because federal law bans recognition of their relationships.

So, yes, immigration reform is an LGBT issue.

Read the whole State of the Movement speech.

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