As you likely know, scads of LGBT bloggers and activists have gathered in Vegas ahead of the Netroots Nation conference, which officially starts tomorrow. We've spent our day discussing a host of issues, like the seemingly eternal ENDA debate, HIV/AIDS and Don't Ask, Don't Tell. We've also been talking about immigration and I'd like to share some thoughts.
I just left a round table in which we discussed ways in which gay communities can get more involved in the immigration debate. And yes, we do need to be involved. In fact, everyone I've spoken with agrees that LGBT folk have massive amounts of untapped potential in moving immigration reform forward. After all, we queers come in a rainbow of colors, creeds and nationalities that can be tapped to personalize the message. And that's what we truly need to do: put a face -- or, rather, faces -- to the debate.
My face, as charming as it may be, isn't the most effective for this I don't think: I'm a white guy from Ohio. Not exactly an immigration poster boy. But that's the funny thing about immigration: it's not a black and white issue. Even if you were born in the States, chances are you have an immigrant past.
Mine's a bit more immediate than those whose ancestors came on the Mayflower: my father, who died 21 years ago today, was from South Africa. He left Cape Town to flee anti-Semitic attitudes that proliferated during apartheid and set up shop in the melting pot of New York City, where he become a successful doctor before moving to Cincinnati, which actually has quite a large Jewish South African community, a community in which I grew up. In that light, my seemingly all American life takes on an air of immigration.
Though there are likely millions of people with a more compelling, direct tale of immigration, I bring this up to simply to make clear that the immigration debate, even for red-blooded Americans, can and should be personalized. If it's not, then there's really no point in discussing it at all.