Lisa Weiner-Mahfuz

A Call to Action: Immigration is a Queer Issue!

Filed By Lisa Weiner-Mahfuz | April 21, 2010 12:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics, Politics, The Movement, The Movement
Tags: movement, racial justice

On April 13, 2010 The Arizona legislature voted 21-to-35 to make it a criminal offense to be an undocumented immigrant in the state of Arizona. This measure also requires local police to determine a person's immigration status by establishing whether or not there is a "reasonable" basis for suspecting that person may be undocumented. The law would essentially sanction racial profiling on the part of the Arizona police!

This is just the latest in a very long line of anti-immigrant legislation to come down the pike. It is not the first hateful piece of state or federal legislation to be passed and it won't be the last. For more information on what is happening in the Arizona legislature you can check out this article check out Seth Freed Wessler's linked RaceWire article.

As you might well imagine this latest piece of disgusting legislation really pissed me off. It also reminded me of the many times I have heard queer folks, along with many of our national and state organizations, vehemently declare that immigration is not a queer issue. I'm not sure how one could come to this conclusion given that there are millions of immigrants in this country and it is estimated that 1.2 million of them are queer. This means that a significant numbers of people in our community are immigrants and experience daily hatred, isolation and discrimination in a country that has long been hostile towards immigrant communities. This alone should make immigration a queer issue since there are so many immigrants among us.

There are other reasons that make immigration a queer issue.

Immigration, reproductive justice and queerness are some of the top target issues for right wing and extremist groups and it is that way for a reason. The right wing links our issues together in ways that our movements often do not. Their mission in life is to exterminate, isolate and discriminate against bodies that do not fit the "norm." Yep, just about anyone who doesn't fit the normative white, Christian, male, upper-middle class, able bodied, ready-for-reproduction-at-any-moment, straight, immigrant BODY is on the target list. It would be a good day in progressive movement land if we all got with the program, learned about one another's issues and did some serious work around how we could be stronger allies to one another in fighting hate in all of its complex and multi-layered forms. The right wing does not have to have the leg up on connecting the dots--we too can be strategic and inclusive. What a concept!

Another reason immigration is a queer issue is because, in particular, people of Indigenous, African, Latin@ and Asian descent have built this country and continue to do so. An essential part of being an ally is recognizing the role that immigrants people play in every aspect of our individual and collective lives. Without immigrant labor this country would have come to a screeching halt a very long time ago. Yet the kinds of outright legal, workplace, economic, housing, medical and linguistic discrimination immigrants face in this country is a complete disgrace given the contributions they have made. If you are a US born queer person like me, immigration is your issue because together we are actively benefiting from the labor and legacy of immigrants ranging from everything we eat, to how we get to work, to what we wear.

Being an ally means recognizing where we have privilege and doing all that we can to ensure that no community is experiencing oppression while we benefit from their labor, ingenuity, resources and land. In this case, those of us who were born in this country have the privilege of citizenship. Our work is to ensure that this country is as just and welcoming as possible for people who come or are forced to come to the United States. This is a matter of economic justice and fairness.

So for all your fair minded queers out there, here is your call to action:

Yes, there is immigrant rights legislation that would specifically change the lives of LGBT people. The Uniting American Families Act (S.424 and H.R. 1024) would introduce the concept of "permanent partners" into U.S. immigration law. UAFA would allow LGBT couples in the United States to sponsor their foreign partners for immigration just like heterosexual couples have the right to sponsor each other. Currently this piece of federal legislation has 116 House co-sponsors and 22 co-sponsors in the Senate. Call your member of Congress today and express your support for UAFA.

Although UAFA is important, it is only one piece of the immigration puzzle. Asylum issues, along with a myriad of issues that would lead to a full and just path to citizenship, are all part of immigration rights work. This means that we all need to understand the complexity of the issue. Stay informed and seek out resources in the form of blogs, books and articles so that you can be up on the latest immigrant rights information. For example, check out this video pod from Rinku Sen, President and Executive Director of Applied Research Center. In it she talks about the kind of federal immigrant rights legislation we need to ensure that we are not just reinforcing bad power dynamics and policy between the United States government and immigrant communities. As you can see, there is much to study up on, my friends.

Let's not stop there.

Do something in your local community to support immigration rights. Lobby at your statehouse, support organizations like the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Association (NQAPIA), Unid@s the Latin@ LGBT Human Rights Organization (Unid@s), The Audre Lorde Project and many other LGBT people of color organizations leading the work on immigration rights. Finally, you can and join local and national immigrant rights marches. A little protest never hurts anybody!

There is much to be done inside and outside of the queer community to move forward a progressive immigrant rights policy that truly honors the history, legacy and contributions immigrants have made to this country. I call upon every fair minded queer person to join this important fight for justice!


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Giving same sex relationships parity with opposite sex marriage with regard to immigration is a queer issue. Repealing DOMA would go a long way toward rectifying the discrepancy. Broad based immigration reform is a human issue that some queers will care about and some won't.

Treating immigrants both documented and undocumented with dignity is a human issue that queers should care about.

The contribution of immigrants to this country is under appreciated. Immigration policy, however, needs to be based on the ability of our infrastructure to support both the people already here and those desiring to immigrate. To base it on anything else isn't very wise.

Yes, exactly, it's about human rights, therefore, we have a responsibility to defend it. Immigrant rights are human rights, queer rights are human rights. That should be our focus. If we want heterosexuals to care about queer rights, we have to care about the rights of non-queers.

When is the Mexican Government going to step in and send troops to protect its citizens in Maricopa County? Given the level of outrages, they would certainly have the right do...at least to free the detainees held in razor wire outdoor enclosures or "pens"

Cindy Gaillard | April 21, 2010 2:54 PM

Simply put - my partner is British, I'm American. We've lived together for 14 years in the states but if she cannot acquire an H1-B visa in the next year, her OPT runs out and we'll have to leave for England.

While that sounds romantic, I would leave my career, have to start over at 50, and be separated from my family. Immigration reform is MOST DEFINITELY a GLBTQ issue and we're living proof. Please, please, contact your representatives in DC and have them support the Keeping Families Together Immigration reform.

For those who are interested, Alto Arizona is hosting an effort to get the governor to veto the bill.

http://www.altoarizona.com/index.html

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | April 21, 2010 5:08 PM

Both parties have similar approaches to immigrant and imported workers and that's to ease their entry into a superexploited layer of the worker and to deny them the rights (such as they are) that other workers have.

Corporations of all kinds arrange for the transport of immigrant and imported workers from border areas, pay them substandard wages and benefits and fire them when they demand more.

1. Immigrant and imported workers, like all working people, should be protected by US labor laws, paid at trade union rates, encouraged to join trade unions, and treated in all respects as citizens including access to medical care.

2. They should have the right of dual citizenship and the right to vote here and in their country of origin.

3. The racist posse's on the border should be disbanded by force and their members indicted as terrorists.

Leaders of the Democrats and Republicans have generally the same racist views towards immigrant and imported workers and can't be expected to get past their own racism.

A promising development is the initial work being done in various places to revive El Partido Nacional de La Raza Unida, an independent political party that sprang into life in Texas, Colorado, California and elsewhere during the last radicalization in the early 1970's.

The apprach of 'working though' the Democrat or Republican parties is a loser's strategy. On the other hand a revitalized national RUP would make a good ally.

It always amazes me how many in our community can't look past the repeal of DADT and the ability to get married to see that there are a shit ton of other issues we need to address. And, sadly, all too often those who do pay attention to immigration issues only talk about relationship recognition when there are a whole host of other aspects that are interwoven with our community.

Randi M. Romo | April 30, 2010 8:45 AM

In addition to being human beings that want the same things; to protect and provide for our families, the immigrant and the LGBTQ community have some other things in common. If you are undocumented or LGBTQ you can be:

• fired from or refused a job
• refused the rental or sale of a home or be evicted
• forced to live in the shadows/closet
• targeted by legislators seeking to gain political power
• violently physically and verbally assaulted
• paying taxes with no rights
• denied access to a variety of government programs
• denied a legal marriage license

It is a time to stand in solidarity, to bring both of our communities out of the shadows. It is time to call for an end to the scapegoating and call for fair and just treatment regarding immigration reform, creating a path to citizenship for those who are here and providing full access to equal rights and responsibilities for the LGBTQ community.

It is a time for our own accountability regarding the ways that our respective communities have contributed to the injustice of each other’s community. Now more than ever, we must come to understand that justice isn’t about “just us”, it is about justice for ALL!