Cuffs won’t stop us: Comprehensive immigration reform can’t wait

Unlike some of the women I sat with this morning, I am a documented U.S. citizen. But my action reflects the broad sentiment of the majority of Americans.  Poll after poll has shown that voters are in favor of a comprehensive immigration reform bill.  The U.S. Senate’s overwhelmingly bipartisan vote in July, while not perfect, bears this out. Now it’s time for the House to act. If women like the ones I sat with today are willing to risk being separated from their families, it’s not too much to ask that our elected leaders summon the will to do their jobs and take a vote.

My presence at the Capitol is not just on behalf of the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the shadows. I am also here on behalf of the 267,000 LGBT immigrants for whom comprehensive immigration reform is especially urgent. The Senate’s immigration reform bill includes many provisions that will particularly benefit LGBT immigrants, including an elimination of the one-year bar on applying for asylum; improved conditions for people held in detention facilities; and limited use of solitary confinement and a prohibition of the use of the practice based solely on a detainee’s sexual orientation or gender identity. The LGBT community remains committed to ensuring the final bill reflects what is best for our community and our country.

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As a queer woman, I sat with allies for reform from across the country and across the political spectrum. Our movement is comprised of immigrant, ethnic, faith, labor, business, queer, progressive, and conservative groups. We will not stop until immigration reform is enacted. We believe that America works best when the “them” become “us” so that all of us become stronger. And we’re not giving up.

Some are suggesting that we offer undocumented immigrants work permits, but not full citizenship. That approach would relegate millions of people to a permanent underclass. Others are suggesting that Congress should address the status of immigrant youth only, and leave the rest of the 11 million aside. But we’re mobilizing for all 11 million. In fact, DREAMers, including the LGBT people who have played such a critical role in the movement, have spoken out strongly against a policy that legalizes them but deports their parents. We don’t want any more families to be separated. We don’t want half-measures that don’t meet the challenge of getting it right once and for all.

Some are suggesting that members of Congress have too much on their plates to focus on an issue as big immigration reform.  To them we say the magnitude of our country’s broken immigration system is too big to ignore.  We elected you to tackle more than one issue at a time.  Ordinary people like us, with children to care for, jobs to do and families to support, do it every day.

Cronk is the co-director of Get EQUAL, one of the nation’s leading LGBTQ advocacy organizationset EQUAL, one of the nation’s leading LGBTQ advocacy organizations.