On Sunday, March 21, thousands of community leaders, advocates, and families converge on Washington, DC to March for America. We bring with us diverse perspectives, and divergent viewpoints to talk about comprehensive immigration reform. Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) and lesbian/ gay/ bisexual/ transgender (LGBT) communities have been present at many of these marches in the past.
We marched for LGBT equality from the 1987 March on Washington to the October 2009 March for Equality. We were at the Japanese American War Memorial after 9/11 to stand in solidarity against violence both against the U.S. and against our own communities who were targeted for hate crimes. We gathered at the Lincoln Memorial to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s historic “I Have a Dream Speech.” We know this and this is why we march.
For those of us who are both Asian American and LGBT, we proudly claim the mantle of activism of all these movements. We refuse to succumb to the idea that one has to suffer at the expense of the other. The National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance (NQAPIA), a federation of the 30+ Asian American, South Asian, Southeast Asian, and Pacific Islander LGBT organizations around the country, knows what it means to live at the intersections of these different movements. We know that some within the LGBT movement only embrace what they consider to be a “gay issue,” and we remind them that for LGBT people who are immigrants these are issues of our very survival. We also know that some of the most hate filled words and deeds committed against us have unfortunately come from our own churches, communities and even our families- often forcing us to “choose” between being a part of our ethnic community and being LGBT. We know this and this is why we march.
On Sunday, we take part in the March for America and bring our entire selves and the full scope of our experience to this movement. We stand on the principle that comprehensive immigration reform must be truly comprehensive and include ALL our families, straight and gay alike. We know that immigration reform,as well as LGBT equality, is a controversial issues on Capitol Hill and the intersection between them even more so. We know this and this is why we march.
We need a path to citizenship for all immigrants, including those who are LGBT. We need this for those LGBT people who have been in the U.S. since childhood and know no other home. We need the DREAM Act that would allow LGBT immigrant youth access to higher education. We need there to be better understanding of the homophobic mores and laws around the world that should be fully considered for LGBT asylum seekers. We need to stop the deportation of undocumented LGBT immigrants to hostile environments. We need relief for those in our communities who have fallen into the currently untenable system of enforcement that is focused on border enforcement and deportation at the expense of basic protections of due process and livable conditions in detention centers. And policy that keeps families together is critical. But, it should not be solely reliant on marital status, which itself is denied to LGBT American citizens. We need inclusion of the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) that would allow bi-national LGBT couples to petition for each other in the same way that straight married spouses can. We know this and this is why we march.
These are the issues at stake for us as both immigrants and LGBT families. We know they are, in fact, all “gay issues.” As we march and as the debate in Congress continues after we leave the National Mall on Sunday, what is required of us is not an analysis of LGBT issues in comprehensive immigration reform, but an LGBT analysis OF comprehensive immigration reform. By seeing what is at stake for us in all the provisions, we can articulate a social justice movement that really does include all of us. As a matter of principle, inclusiveness is the right thing to do. As a matter of coalition politics, it is also the smart thing to do.
We know this and this is why we march.
Ben DeGuzman is co-director of National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance