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What Is The Link Between GLBT and Immigrant Rights?

You may remember from our e-newsletters during this past month, but just in case:

Today, Basic Rights Oregon will join Oregon's immigrant community and its allies as protests around the country take place to demonstrate the economic power of immigrants and opposition to anti-immigration legislation and dialogue sweeping the country. Along with boycotting work and commerce for a full day, we will join the rally at 11 a.m. at the Oregon State Capital in Salem and at Pioneer Square in Portland. Then there is a march at 12 p.m.

What is the link between GLBT and immigrant rights? The truth is there is a long history of a shared struggle in Oregon between our communities. One of the ways that the GLBT movement in Oregon has succeeded in defeating anti-gay ballot measures in Oregon is through our coalition work with Oregon's immigrant community. For example, the immigrant community, especially Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste (Northwest Treeplanters and Farmworkers United) and CAUSA, worked diligently with us during Measure 36 fight. These groups distributed thousands of pieces of No on 36 literature along with their own, translated for us and made a real effort to reach the immigrant community with our issues. They were there from the beginning of these fights and even when other allies abandoned us during the last campaign, the immigrant community was there. We are all struggling against the same oppression-the subjugation of minority groups and attacks on fundamental equality. Immigrants have not abandoned us in our fight for equality and we cannot abandon them in theirs, because they are in essence the same.

As queer people, we share much common ground with the immigrant community. We all know what it is like to:

  • Live under laws that say we are less than human
  • Be afraid for the security of our families
  • Be a scapegoat for society's problems
  • Feel vulnerable and unsafe because of policies, institutions and attitudes that keep us on the margins.

    Unjust immigration policies have a profound impact on GLBT immigrants, particularly if we need to get legal status for our partners, have a visa that is contingent upon our employment, or are undocumented and face discrimination in housing, employment and education.

    The immigrant community is being attacked in the name of "homeland security" just as we are being attacked in the name of the "sanctity of marriage." We know from our own experience that civil rights are only rights as long as they belong to everybody - otherwise they become privileges.

    Many people have misconceptions about immigration-that all immigrants are from Mexico, that immigrants are in the United States only to receive welfare or other government assistance, that immigrants are all straight, etc. But in truth, immigrants are as likely to be queer as you or I. Sexual orientation is not limited to white, middle-class Americans. And although over a dozen nations do allow their citizens to sponsor their same-sex partners in immigration efforts, the United States is not one of those. And due to the Defense of Marriage Act, marriages that are legally recognized in places like Canada or South Africa are non-existent in this country. As a GLBT person, you would have no legal recourse if your émigré partner is denied entry at the boarder. Imagine falling in love with a British national, or French, or Peruvian, or anyone who cannot immigrate to this country without a sponsor. This legislation, which also requires, strict ID standards, would also have a devastating impact on trans Oregonians. For these reasons, the queer community is directly affected by the anti-immigration proposals on the table now.

    The root of the current social and political action lies in HR4437, the Border Protection, Anti-Terrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005, which was recently passed by the U.S. House of Representatives and is currently under consideration by the Senate. The passage of this bill would require the erection of 700 miles of fence along the U.S./Mexico border; the imprisonment of undocumented immigrants; employer verification of all employees' immigration status; and the elimination of the Green Card lottery. In addition, the passage of HR4437 would make housing undocumented immigrants a felony, punishable by no less than three years in prison. And perhaps most disturbing-if this bill is signed into law, immigrants could be automatically denied entry based on their political views. These are only a few examples of provisions HR4437 requires.

    We hope you'll join us today to stand in solidarity with the immigrant community when it is under attack. For more information on the lives of GLBT immigrants and the shared struggles of the GLBT and immigrant communities, check out these resources:

  • Immigration Equality

  • PCUN (Northwest Treeplanters and Farmworkers Union)

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  • By Anonymous cheryl, at May 01, 2006 2:27 PM

    being at the rally was wonderful and so uplifting! it was a BLESSING (literally!) to be in our group, holding our BRO signage, in support of immigrant rights . . . along the parade route . . . and to have marchers look me square in the eye - their eyes and face light up - and then raise a solidarity fist or peace sign to me - and mouth the word . . . "gracias".    

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at May 01, 2006 9:25 PM

    It was truly amazing! Very impressive to see thousands upon thousands of people marching for the cause. It was also great to have our group in attendance. Thanks guys!    

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at June 29, 2006 3:08 PM

    I am from Iowa but working for immigrant rights in Wisconsin for the summer. My sister is a lesbian and I have many homosexual friends so both gay rights and immigrant rights are very important to me. One of my goals for the summer is to build an alliance between the gay & immigrant communities in my area. Thank you so much for what you're doing. It is truly inspiring.    

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