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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, March 8, 2013 - Volume 41 Issue 10
Crossing borders - LGBT rights movement takes on immigration reform
Section One
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Crossing borders - LGBT rights movement takes on immigration reform

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Associate Editor An estimated five percent of undocumented immigrants are believed to be LGBT, and tens of thousands of Gay Americans have foreign-born partners. Immigration reform is not a foreign concept to LGBT Americans. It has always been an issue.

Now, with marriage equality victories on record, in Washington state and around the nation, LGBT advocates are building broad support for immigration reform. The move is seamless - both the LGBT rights movement and the so-called 'illegal' immigrants' struggle for citizenship have been cast in terms of human and civil rights.

'What we know is that marriage equality and anti-discrimination do not meet all the needs of our diverse community - that one of our most vulnerable communities is the immigrant community,' Josh Friedes, a longtime spokesman for Equal Rights Washington, told the Seattle Times recently.

'We are committed to the idea that no aspect of the LGBT community be left behind.'

PARTNERSHIP RIGHTS KEY
An estimated 30,000 to 40,000 same-sex couples would benefit directly from changes in the immigration laws to allow same-sex Americans to sponsor their foreign-born partners for lawful residency. Currently, that benefit is only enjoyed by straight couples.

There are an estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. About 600,000 of them are LGBT, including an untold number of young people brought to the U.S. illegally as children.

'We are keenly aware that many LGBT undocumented people come to America out of necessity and are being penalized for simply trying to survive and live with the dignity we here take for granted,' Friedes said.

WALKING THE WALK
Many organizations are doing more than just talk. They are raising money, too.

Seattle Gay News recently reported on a fund, to the tune of $100,000, to help young LGBT undocumented immigrants pay the application fees for a federal program that grants them relief from deportation and issues them a work permit (see 'Living the DREAM,' March 1). The fund received support from local LGBT service organizations Gay City Health Project and Pride Foundation.

Carlos Padilla, an undocumented immigrant student and sophomore at Seattle Central Community College, told the Seattle Times he's been advocating for immigration changes since he was a sophomore in high school.

But it wasn't until his freshman year in college that he felt he could also disclose that he is Gay.

In his presentations before students and others, he says, 'I'd talk about being Gay and get these blank stares. Now when I talk about it in terms of human rights - being able to have equality - it makes sense to people. People are now connecting the dots and seeing the connections. LGBT people and undocumented people are fighting for acknowledgment and acceptance in society.'

SOSEA OFFERS WORKSHOP
Social Outreach Seattle, the social justice nonprofit of which I am founder and board president, has joined the struggle. On March 28 at Gay City Health Project (517 East Pike), from 7 to 9 p.m., SOSea will present a workshop titled 'INTERSECTIONS: Immigration & LGBTQ Justice.' A $5 donation is requested at the door, but no one will be turned away.

INTERSECTIONS is a new initiative creating breakthrough conversations to equip and LGBTQ people and allies with knowledge and skills to engage the broader community in social justice for all. We are a bundle of multiple identities that makes each and everybody unique. Understanding our how issues affect us can create more holistic energy around understanding.

The event will include a discussion with panelists who specialize in immigration and asylum issues, both in general terms and those specific to the LGBTQ community.

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