Jason Tseng

Immigration Reform: A Constellation of Challenges

Filed By Jason Tseng | March 31, 2013 12:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics, The Movement
Tags: binational couples, immigration, LGBT immigrants, LGBT immigration reform

Last Thursday, I spoke on behalf of a coalition of queer Asian/Pacific Islander (API) organizations at an Thumbnail image for immigration_now.jpegimmigration town hall organized by a number of important mainstream API groups like MinKwon Center for Community Action, Chinese Progressive Association, Asian American Bar Association of New York and others.

As the talks on immigration reform in Washington heat up, it's vital that as we fight for comprehensive immigration reform we continue to inject our LGBT stories into the debate. At the same time, it's important to expand the discourse of immigration issues in LGBT politics beyond simply the rights of bi-national couples.

The following are the remarks I made at the town hall, along with a video recording of the livestreamed event.

My speech comes in around the 43:30 mark.

Hello, my name is Jason Tseng and I live in Congresswoman Maloney's district, NY-12. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Asian and Pacific Islanders live at the crossroads of multiple oppressions. We have to fight for our racial, immigrant, and language issues in LGBT spaces and also battle for the recognition and acceptance of our love and our families in our home communities.

As a person who is one half of a binational couple, it would be easy for me to say that our priority should be spousal recognition.

As a person who lives everyday with the fear that my partner might lose his job and be sent back to his home country, it would be easy for me to push for the passage of the Uniting American Families Act.

As a person who can't risk any legal recognition for my relationship because it would jeopardize my partner's temporary work visa, it would be easy for me to ask for the overturning of Defense of Marriage Act so I could sponsor my partner's green card.

But my needs are but one point of a constellation of critical challenges that LGBT APIs face. The Williams Institute estimates that there are at least 904,000 LGBT adult immigrants in the United States, almost a third of which are undocumented. Of that group, an LGBT undocumented person is more likely to be male, under 30, and Asian... or someone a lot like me.

Someone llike me lives in fear of detention and deportation.
Someone like me has been kicked out of their home because we were honest about who we are and who we love.
Someone like me doesn't have a steady income or reliable access to healthcare.
Someone like me may experience violence which we're afraid to report.
Someone like me feels isolated living in dual shadows of oppression.

We need immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship, that ends discrimination against binational same-sex couples, fixes and protects family-based migration, and grants young people access to education and citizenship.
We need DOMA repealed. Not someday, today.
We need better rules for asylum seekers and recognition of the risk of persecution we face in some of our home countries.

But most of all, we need you to see us. Not only our representatives and elected officials. But everyone here in this room. We are your children, we are your cousins, your siblings. We sit next you in church, temple, or mosque. We take your orders and deliver your food.
We laugh at your jokes, we celebrate in your joys, and we share in your sorrows. We fight for your rights, we challenge you to grow, and we learn from your example. All we ask is for you to do the same.
We are tired of being ignored, and we demand our dignity. I want to acknowledge the other LGBT API folks who have come here tonight. We are organizing a Story Share event for LGBT APIs Thank you.


Video streaming by Ustream

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