the two communities have been treated – or, more precisely, mistreated – throughout modern
“As queers and also as immigrants, one of our most pressing concerns is how our voices are
so often filtered, mediated through officially-sanctioned spaces and culturally reproduced in a
negative light,” Lal said. “We are either accused of ‘destroying marriage’ or ‘destroying
borders’ (neither of which is really a bad thing).”
Lal is also a Dream Activist, a group that is speaking out for undocumented youth (many of
whom are also LGBTQ) and urging lawmakers to include them in comprehensive reform, too.
“Many undocumented youth have had enough,” she told me. “A large number of the young
individuals currently leading the efforts towards immigration reform and the DREAM Act identify
as queer. Maybe due to this influence, many undocumented youth--regardless of sexuality--
are adopting language such as ‘coming out’ to describe their own experiences, something so
typically associated with the gay civil rights movement.”
“In light of this,” she added, “the DREAM Act community is celebrating March 10 as ‘Coming
Out Day’ followed by a National Coming Out of The Shadows Week, ending on March 21, to
highlight the pressing need to stop fearing an unjust system that persecutes us and build
mass public consciousness through our authentic voices.”
“I have heard from queer undocumented youth who were brought here without a choice,
rejected for being gay and left suicidal and homeless,” she said. “We have to navigate a rough
terrain as young people fighting a battle we were simply enlisted in without a choice, while
also backed up against the homophobia of a weak familial wall.”
For Rachel Tiven, executive director of Immigration Equality, the fight for reform should be a
“both/and, not an either/or, situation,” as she told LGBT bloggers and journalists recently in
www.ambiente.us MARCH | MARZO 2010
by Steve Ralls
Laurie Larson is marching again.
The D.C. resident, who joined a contingent organized by Immigration Equality for
October’s LGBT rights march, will be back on the National Mall this Sunday, March
21st. Her red shirt, emblazoned with the slogan “LGBT Families for Immigration
Reform” will make an encore appearance. And many of the people who stood with her
in October will be there this time, too.
In many ways, it will be déjà vu all over again. And that, for Larson, brings home the fact
that her two close friends, Steve and Joe, remain separated because of America’s
discriminatory immigration laws.
Larson, who lives in Washington, was forced to say good-bye to Joe last year when,
after losing his job and, subsequently, his work visa, he was forced to return to his
home country, leaving Steve – his American partner of nearly a decade – behind. For
Larson, their separation has been a call to action.
“I am marching again on March 21st as a part of the 2010 March for America for my
friends Joe and Steve who are partners,” Larson told
Ambiente. “Joe had to return to his country of origin because
he was laid off from his job here in the U.S. as a structural
engineer. Interestingly, he received his advanced degrees
from U.S. universities. If he and Steve were heterosexual, Joe
would still be here.”
April 17, 2010
Instead, Joe and Steve now live thousands of miles apart . . . which is precisely what has
brought Larson and other advocates together for the March for America.
The March, which will kick-off on Sunday afternoon in the nation’s capital, is expected to draw
tens of thousands of people to the National Mall. They will be calling on – indeed, demanding
– that the White House and Congress pass comprehensive immigration reform legislation
this year. And, for the first time in history, a visible, vocal contingent of lesbian, gay, bisexual
and transgender immigrants and their allies will be asking that their voices be heard, too.
Immigration Equality - an advocacy and legal aid group which assists LGBT immigrants and
their families with issues related to family unification, asylum and detention – has called
supporters to Washington to participate in the event. Hundreds of people, including Larson,
have signed up to join them.
For Larson, it is an opportunity to remind
lawmakers, and the immigrant community,
that a truly comprehensive bill can help LGBT
families, like Steve and Joe, too. By including
the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) as
part of the legislation, elected leaders can
bring couples like Steve and Joe back
together. UAFA – the bill with the most co
-sponsors of any single-issue immigration
measure in Congress – would allow LGBT
Americans to sponsor their foreign-born
partners for residency in the United States.
Under current immigration law, that is a privilege only straight Americans enjoy.
Fixing a broken immigration system, Larson says, should mean fixing it for everyone.
“Discrimination on any level is wrong and we must continue to do everything possible to make
sure that it gets eliminated,” she said. “Whenever injustice occurs, it is incumbent on each of
us to speak out. Participating in this march is one way for me to speak out in support of all the
Joe’s and Steve’s who are being discriminated against by our immigration policy.”
For Prerna Lal, the March is both a meeting of allies and an intersection on the road to equality
for both immigrants and LGBT people, too.
“As a young queer immigrant, I am marching with Immigration Equality on March 21 because I
believe the fight for LGBTQ and immigrant rights bring together two of the most pressing
issues facing our generation,” Lal told Ambiente. “Besides the obvious intersections, sexual
and gender minorities along with immigrants are mutually denied access to full citizenship
Lal, who is originally from Fiji, seeks striking, and startling, similarities between the way
“No reform is truly comprehensive,” she said, “unless it includes LGBT immigrants, too.”
An inclusive bill can, indeed, forge new alliances and bring new support to the immigration
movement. As President Obama begins to meet with key lawmakers on the issue – as he did
last week, just before the March is to kick-off – building a coalition for passage of the bill
seemed to be topic number one. And bringing LGBT allies from Congress to the table, with
their vote, could potentially help push reform across the finish line.
Sixty such Members of Congress recently released a letter to the President and
Congressional leaders calling on them to include UAFA in any comprehensive bill. The letter,
signed by members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Congressional Black Caucus
and Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, among other, noted that, “No one should
be forced to choose between the person they love and the country they call home. It is time that
our immigration laws kept families together instead of tearing them apart.”
That, says Tiven, is a strong sign that LGBT and immigrant allies understand that standing
together, and working for a bill that tackles common interests, can be key to winning reform.
“Passage of immigration reform will require every family standing with their neighbors and
loved ones to work for change,” she said when the letter was released. “The . . . letter signals
that our champions in Congress, and the LGBT community, are ready to work for passage of
reform that includes all families, including LGBT families. There are more than 36,000 lesbian
and gay binational families counting on us to get this work done.”
And getting that work done – for LGBT immigrants, undocumented immigrants, their loved
ones and families – is what is calling marchers like Larson and Lal to the National Mall on the
“By coming out, and more importantly being out, we hope to take back the mass
media production and reins of not just our cause, but our
lives,” Lal says.
And it is for better lives – for couples, young people and
families – that everyone is coming together again.
For more information on the Immigration Equality March for
America contingent, or to sign up, visit
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