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!