It is long past time to reform our nation's cruel and broken immigration system. Today, there are 12 million undocumented immigrants, including at least half a million lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, who are forced to live in the shadows of our society.
They are people like Harold, an 18-year-old gay man who came to this country from the Philippines with his parents when he was five years old. This is the only country he has ever known or can remember. But today, because he is undocumented, he cannot get a driver’s license, cannot get a job, cannot get a student loan, and is in constant fear of being arrested and deported to a country where he has no connections, no prospects and where he cannot speak the language.
They are people like Victoria Arellano, an undocumented transgender woman who was swept up by the immigration system, put into a detention jail where she was denied HIV medications and medical attention, even when she was vomiting blood. This cost Victoria her life. She died, chained to a hospital bed with two immigration guards at the door.
And there are at least 36,000 binational couples who cannot live together here in this country because federal law bans recognition of their relationships.
Immigration reform is a national issue, an LGBT issue, and it’s long overdue.
The Uniting American Families Act is consistent with U.S. immigration law's existing policy of keeping families intact. Couples and their families have been kept separated or forced to live abroad. It’s unconscionable to ask any American to choose between family and country.
The DREAM Act will help ensure brighter and more secure futures for our young people, including countless LGBT youth, by providing them a path to citizenship. The United States is built on the belief that everyone should get a fair shake to fully participate in civic life, and to be able to build a future in the country they love and call home.
Our nation’s immigration policies must move away from hateful racial profiling laws such as Arizona’s SB 1070 and toward the direction of fairness and social justice.
The introduction of the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2010 marks a first step toward fixing this broken immigration system, but much remains to be done.
Federal lawmakers and the president need to move forward in fairly and humanely reforming this failed system.
Learn more about the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force at www.theTaskForce.org.
Rea Carey is the executive director for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force