Down here in Dallas, TX at Creating Change, it’s easy to coin a cliché on top of a blog post like this. But for those of us in same-sex binational relationships, where one of us is an American citizen with absolutely no rights to sponsor our partner for a green card, talk about Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR) and the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) in the same speech – let alone their mention together several times is indicative that something is up.
Thomas A. Saenz , president and general counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), called for comprehensive and inclusive immigration reform at the opening plenary of the 22nd National Conference on LGBT Equality: Creating Change last night. MALDEF is a national organization whose mission is to promote the civil rights of Latinos/as in the United States.
Saenz identified five key similarities between the LGBT and Latino communities as reasons our communities need to stick together:
1) Members in both communities “live in silence and shadows”. In the Latino community this is the state of the undocumented worker; in the LGBT community, this is the state of continuously being marginalized. When an LGBT person is also undocumented – Houston (or Dallas), we have twice the problem.
2) Both communities are seen by the mainstream as “single issue movements”. For Latinos this is immigration reform; for the LGBT this is marriage equality. If both communities got these core reforms, folks over at Fox News and their ilk – on their best days – assume we will just go away.
3) We are both facing forces in Washington seeking to discount us in the 2010 census.
4) On the back of that both communities are “victims of the courage deficit” in DC. Continued failure most recently to repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT) and to get a truly inclusive comprehensive immigration reform bill in place, are but two examples of this.
5) Finally, significant portions of both our communities remain “outside the boundaries of constitutional law”. LGBT people and undocumented people do not have equal protection under US law.
Saenz called for inclusion of UAFA in upcoming CIR, and said the biggest flaw in the CIR bill introduced in Congress by Rep. Luis Gutierrez late last year was “its failure to include the Uniting American Families Act.”
“We must stand united that CIR includes everyone [and that it] is truly comprehensive and includes UAFA…. The Latino community, LGBT community and anyone who cares about civil rights needs to support UAFA.”
Saenz received a standing ovation from the nearly 500 LGBT activists who packed the room.
His tough talk on UAFA comes at the end of a week for those of us in the equal immigration fight in which we’re hearing about a new ten state grassroots campaign to mobilize support for UAFA co-sponsors, particularly among Hispanic caucus members in key states like Texas (C=IIR), as well as dealing with a rumor sweeping through our community within a community of same-sex binationals that we won’t be included in Sen. Schumer’s upcoming Senate CIR bill. [Call Sen. Schumer’s office now at 202-224-6542 and let his staffers know that comprehensive immigration reform means “inclusive” immigration reform – you can’t leave out one group of people who need this system fixed as much as the next group.]
And just to make sure our emotions are completely mixed, we get the good news the other day that we have another House co-sponsor for UAFA, Rep. Dan Maffei (D-NY-25; see post below). Rep. Maffei is a freshman Democrat in a district that had been held by Republicans for 40 years. Change in the air? Maybe so.