Immigration Reform 2013: Why Are Immigrants and LGBT People Left Out?
I'm a Palestinian-American who deeply understands the injustice of the immigration system and and I am a queer American who deeply understands the injustice of the closet. I am a young college student who's looking out at the America I'm graduating into, wondering how this America — my America — can deny entire groups of people, including immigrants and LGBTQ people, access to this country. While claiming to be "the land of the free," I don't understand why our politicians continue to institutionalize "multiple Americas," in which the America you're given access to depends fully on who you are.
Looking at the latest iteration of this heated conversation, I'm left with a fundamental question — do the immigration reforms proposed go far enough to solve our broken system, or do they create more problems? Border security and unmanned drones don't solve the problem — making immigration less expensive, less oppressive, and and more supportive of victims of oppression is how we can finally and fully fix this broken system. If young people are the future of this country who are going to be left to implement this system, why are young people being left out of the conversation?
Senator Chuck Schumer, one of my Senators from New York, has taken loads of money from the immigrant and LGBTQ communities, but what has he done to protect us or help us? As he and others are cutting deals to get a bill passed, large groups of people are being cut out of vital access to and protections within our immigration system. Immigration reform is fundamentally an LGBT issue — as Schumer and others are cutting some people out of the bill, our elected leaders are asking us to pick and choose our identities. How do we reconcile being granted a pathway to citizenship, but not having our families fully recognized under the law? How do we reconcile our sisters and brothers being used as "bait" at the border, even as we see asylum rules being changed positively?
And how do we reconcile the fact that 267,000 LGBT undocumented folks currently in the United States can remain in this country if there is a clear and direct pathway to citizenship, but whose pathway will be exponentially harder without federal employment non-discrimination protections or federal marriage equality? How is that free and fair under the law? Curtailing progress and rights for groups of people is wrong and profoundly un-American.
I believe we can do better than this, and I will be working hard over the next few months to make sure that my immigrant sisters and brothers are able to fully live out their dreams, rather than being caught in a nightmare of red tape, bureaucracy, and justice delayed.