Editors' note: Ben De Guzman is the co- director of The National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance.
On March 21 thousands of people converged on Washington, DC to March for America bringing diverse perspectives, and divergent viewpoints about comprehensive immigration reform. Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and lesbian/ gay/ bisexual/ transgender communities have been present at marches such 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 who are Asian American Pacific Islanders 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 identities and movements. To those within the LGBT movement who only embrace what they consider to be a "gay issue, we remind them that for LGBT people who are immigrants these are issues of our very survival. We also know that often the most hate filled words and deeds committed against us have 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 March 21 we took part in March for America and brought our entire selves to bear. We stand on the principle that immigration reform must be truly comprehensive and include all our families, straight and gay alike. Immigration reform, as well as LGBT equality, is a controversial issue on Capitol Hill and the intersection between them even more so. We know this and it is why we march.
We need a path to citizenship for all immigrants including lgbt undocumented immigrants. We need this for LGBT immigrants who have been in the US since childhood and know no other home. We need the Dream Act that would allow LGBT immigrant youth access to higher education. We need law enforcement to have a better understanding of the homophobic mores and laws around the world when giving consideration to LGBT asylum seekers. We need to stop the deportation of undocumented LGBT immigrants to hostile, homophobic and transphobic environments. And for those in our communities who fall into the untenable system of enforcement which is currently focused on border enforcement and deportation, while denying basic protections of due process and livable conditions in detention centers, those members of our communities will benefit from fixes to these in humane practices. And family recognition, reuniting families, 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, as a part of comprehensive immigration reform.
Justice for LGBT bi-national couples and families would remove an abhorrent example of discrimination against LGBT immigrant couples and families but this is clear: there is a broad set of issues for comprehensive immigration reform that would benefit our LGBT communities. We must keep them all in our sights. Provisions to provide a path to citizenship will let LGBT undocumented immigrants come out of the shadows and participate more fully in our communities and in their own lives. 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 marched and as the debate in Congress continued after we left 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.