Editor's Note: Guest blogger Amy Lin, 21, is a member of ASPIRE (Asian Students Promoting Immigrant Rights through Education), the first pan-Asian undocumented youth-led organization in the U.S. Amy identifies as queer and is a student at University of California, Los Angeles, where she studies political science and labor and workplace studies.
When I was in high school, the last thing I wanted was to have to hide my identity. I wanted to fit in, not stand out. But I had two secrets that I couldn't bring myself to share: I was queer and an undocumented immigrant.
My mom and I moved to the U.S. from Taipei, Taiwan eight years ago when I was 12 years old. We left because we were worried my dad would force me to quit school so I could work to provide for the family.
That wasn't the first time I wanted to get away from him. When I was in elementary school, I overheard my dad tell my mom that I didn't mean anything to him since I was a girl. As hard as it was to leave all of my friends and everything I knew behind, I realized going to the U.S. was my best shot at building a better life.
After high school, I attended the City College of San Francisco, where I was active in student government and involved in a campus group for LGBTQ students. I was also the campus organizer for the 2012 presidential campaign.
This year, I transferred to UCLA, where I have continued my activism and discovered a strong support network through Asian Students Promoting Immigrant Rights through Education (ASPIRE). ASPIRE is the first pan-Asian undocumented student group in the U.S.
Through ASPIRE, I'm continuing to tell my story and advocate for comprehensive immigration reform, an urgent priority for our nation. Every day, 11 million undocumented immigrants, including at least 267,000 LGBTQ immigrants, are forced to live as second-class citizens, and 1,100 families are torn apart.
Even though I have temporary permission to stay and work in the U.S. under the recent Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, I live in constant fear that I'll be separated from my mom, who has no opportunity to earn citizenship and could be deported at any time.
Too many undocumented LGBTQ immigrants like me are forced in two closets, one because of their sexual orientation and the other because of their immigration status. On one hand, I feel very lucky because my mom and my friends were very supportive when I came out as queer before I graduated high school. But I knew I wouldn't find that same acceptance when I revealed my undocumented status with my peers in college.
The worst part for me - and for countless other undocumented immigrants - has been the sense that people are constantly pointing fingers and shaming you for who you are. It's time for all immigrants, including LGBTQ immigrants, to be able to come out of the shadows.
Now, the LGBTQ community is standing side-by-side with allies in the immigrant rights community to pass immigration reform. Back in July, the Senate passed a bipartisan immigration reform bill that goes a long way in supporting the 11 million aspiring citizens. Recently, Democrats in the House of Representatives introduced a similar bill, which will vastly improve our broken and discriminatory immigration policies.
The bill includes many provisions that will particularly benefit LGBTQ immigrants, such as eliminating the one-year bar on applying for asylum, improving the conditions for people held in detention facilities, limiting the use of solitary confinement, and prohibiting the use of this practice based solely on a detainees' sexual orientation or gender identity. This is the best chance we've had in decades to pass common-sense immigration reform and provide a pathway to citizenship for all undocumented immigrants.
Even though every measure in the bill has support from Republicans and Democrats in Congress - including a majority in the House - GOP leadership continuously refuses to call a vote. Every day they stall, millions of families live in fear of being torn apart, including mine. It's time for Congress to put the political pettiness aside and allow a vote to help fix this broken system for good.
The reality is, even if there are differences on paper between me and other college students that are U.S. citizens, we're actually very similar. We all remember our awkward teenage years in high school. We enjoy hanging out with friends. We care about our communities and we want to make a difference.
My mom brought me here because she wanted a better life for me and knew I had the potential to shine. It's time for Congress to provide my family and the other millions of immigrants with a path to citizenship that gives us all the chance to succeed and find happiness.
Above-the-jump image via ASPIRE.