Young immigrant and Queer rights activists join forces
by Shaun Knittel -
SGN Associate Editor
Galvanized by winning a momentous victory earlier this year with the creation of the deferred action policy and having earned their place at the forefront of the debate over immigration, 600 representatives of Americas more than two million undocumented youth gathered in Kansas City, Missouri, last weekend for the United We Dream (UWD) 2012 National Congress.
The congress also included a large national representation of undocumented Queer, or UndocuQueer, immigrant youth.
UndocuQueers and the immigrant youth movement have made a commitment to working together with the LGBTQ ally community to ensure that LGBTQ families are included in the next fight for family legalization from beginning to end, said Jorge Gutierrez, project coordinator of United We Dreams Queer Undocumented Immigrant Project. The immigrant youth movement has learned from past mistakes and will not leave LGBTQ families behind.
The 600 representatives at the UWD 2012 National Congress voted on an official platform, demanding protections for families and communities and pledging to fight for a roadmap to citizenship for the entire immigrant community, including LGBTQ families. These demands come in the midst of a renewed conversation on Capitol Hill around immigration issues, with both parties realizing that they need to respond to historic LGBTQ, Latino, Asian American, and immigrant voter turnout in the November election. Queer immigrant youth want to make it clear that DREAMers reject proposals like the Achieve Act, which offer even less than the DREAM Act.
United We Dream and the Queer Undocumented Immigrant Project have emerged as the conscience of the immigration movement, and were thrilled to be working deeply with Queer undocumented youth across the country to ensure that LGBTQ families are included in inclusive legalization for families in the next Congressional session, said Heather Cronk, managing director of GetEQUAL, a national grassroots civil rights organization fighting for the full legal equality of the LGBTQ community. We have seen efforts before to divide the LGBTQ and the immigration communities, with no regard shown for those who have one foot in both communities and both identities. We will not tolerate efforts to foster division among Americans, or to force some Americans to choose one identity over another. We look forward to working with UWD and QUIP to ensure that American families are fully valued in this country.
The platform voted on at the Congress includes demands for protections for families, access to higher education, and a roadmap to legal immigration status and citizenship:
" Fair treatment for DREAMers and our families and communities, including a roadmap to citizenship for 11 million Americans without papers and an end to senseless deportations and abuses;
" The ability to travel without fear, ensuring all immigrants have access to driver licenses and the ability to visit family in other countries;
" The elimination of barriers to higher education for immigrant youth by extending to DREAMers state and federal financial aid opportunities as well as in-state tuition rates available to our peers;
" An end to excessive and costly immigration enforcement policies which separate families and divide communities, such as Secure Communities, E-Verify, 287G, and roadside checkpoints;
" Access to health care, safe and fair working conditions, and equal protection under the law for all; and
" Growth and diversity of our movement for change, intensifying efforts to become more inclusive of non-Latinos, LGBTQ communities, differently-abled people, people of faith, and other groups.
TAKING IT TO D.C.
United We Dream affiliates across the country plan coordinated actions the week of President Obamas inauguration in January to highlight the plight of their families under an excessive and immoral immigration enforcement system and to tell the stories of their courageous parents who sacrificed for them and LGBTQ families that continue to be left out of the immigration reform conversation. UndocuQueers and undocumented youth will continue their role of leadership within the immigrant rights movement to build national momentum for policies and laws that protect all families and provide a roadmap to citizenship.
The fact that the inclusion of the LGBTQ community was part of the demands set forth in the United We Dream platform speaks to the great effort that those of us who identify as UndocuQueer have put towards the eradication of homophobic attitudes and behaviors within the immigrant rights movement. The demand comes at a crucial moment for those of us who identify as Queer. I am happy that United We Dream affiliates adopted the inclusion of my Queer identity as a demand, voiced Rocio Mora, a member of the San Fernando Valley Dream Team.
In addition to coalescing around political demands and strategies for 2013 and beyond, UndocuQueers and undocumented young people shared their stories, connecting with new leaders and building an even larger community of young people working shoulder-to-shoulder to win fair treatment and expand access to higher education, legal immigration status, and protections for families.
A NATIONWIDE MOVEMENT
Queer and undocumented youth and DREAMers from California, New Mexico, Washington, Florida, New York, Minnesota, Maryland, Rhode Island, Delaware, Virginia, New Jersey, Arkansas, Texas, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Wisconsin, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Alabama, North Carolina, Tennessee, Arizona, Colorado, Utah, and Missouri participated in the UWD 2012 National Congress.
United We Dream is the largest immigrant youth-led network in the nation with 47 affiliates in 25 states that organize and advocate for access to higher education and legal status for all.
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