Five Important Similarities Between LGBT Americans and American Immigrants

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[Click here to watch all of Thomas Saenz’s speech.]

The opening plenary session at Creating Change featured Thomas Saenz, President of the Mexican-American legal Defense and Education Fund. He spoke at length about comprehensive immigration reform, reminding us that undocumented immigrants and the queer community have significant overlap and commonalities. (THERE ARE LGBT IMMIGRANTS AND THEY HAVE FAMILIES!)

In fact, all weekend, immigration has proven to be an important and salient issue. It’s important to be allies to other causes, of course, but the connection between these two issues informs the salience of talking about comprehensive immigration reform at a conference on LGBT Equality.

Saenz pointed out to us that there are five significant similarities to consider. Here they are, paraphrased:

1. Many members of both communities have to live in silence and the shadows about their status, with fear of violence and hate crimes and anxiety about whether law enforcement will step up and protect them.

2. Both communities have experienced the phenomenon of being characterized as single-issue movements.

3. Both face forces that seek to discount them in the 2010 census.

4. Both are victims of the “deficit of courage” in Washington, DC.

5. Significant portions of our communities remain outside constitutional law by not being identified as suspect classes.

Much in the same way we’ve seen in the Prop 8 trial that the court is the only check available against a voter initiative, there is similarly not due process for the immigration system. Congress has all of the power to determine how folks can immigrate.

One of the unifying opportunities to create progress for both our communities is the Uniting American Families Act, a bill that often goes unnoticed as an LGBT issue.

The most important goal is achieving full equality. We have to get there one way or another. Saenz pointed out that “We must demand comprehensive immigration reform, whether it’s one bill or many small ones.”

These issues aren’t just about sexual orientation or race and ethnicity. We are talking about families.

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