It’s no surprise that Zuckerberg supports comprehensive immigration reform. As a college student, Zuckerberg launched Facebook from his dorm room. By the age of 23, Zuckerberg’s dorm room creation had made him a billionaire. He understands that all young people need to be given the chance to succeed and contribute to their communities and to the economy, regardless of how they came to this country.
Zuckerberg knows that innovations like Facebook rely on a robust and vibrant workforce, which includes immigrants, to help build a successful business. Facebook has connected us all and brought the world closer together in ways no one thought possible. Ironically, our current immigration system tears families apart and does not reflect our core American value of family unity.
This week in San Francisco, Zuckerberg made a speech prior to the screening of “Documented,” a new documentary by Jose Antonio Vargas, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who famously revealed his undocumented status in 2011. Vargas is also gay and his story reflects his struggles with a dual closet of his sexual orientation and his immigration status.
The National Center for Lesbian Rights and our partners in the LGBT community have made immigration reform our personal fight because we believe that all Americans deserve the chance to come out of the shadows and have a clear and direct path to citizenship.
We are in this fight because of people like Ale Estrada, who came to the United States with her mother when she was just three months old. From the time she was old enough to talk, her father instructed her to tell people that she was from Nevada, not Mexico. Her mom, dad and older sister are also undocumented and her parents lived in constant fear of her family being torn apart. Like Vargas, Ale also struggled with both her undocumented status and the challenges of being LGBT. Recently, she received deferred action under the Deferred Action for Children Arrivals (DACA) program, but she still fears for her parents.
We are in this fight because of people like Carla Lopez, who came to the U.S. as a toddler. Carla spent years in constant fear that teachers or friends would find out she was undocumented. Growing up in a world where immigration raids were taking place at work, school and even in the “safety” of homes, Carla spent her early mornings – when immigration raids were most common – filled with pain and anguish, terrified that she or her parents would be next. Ale and Carla, and so many like them should not have to live like this.
Every day that Congress fails to reform our immigration policies, 1,100 families like Ale’s and Carla’s are torn apart. While they are home for their August recess, I hope members of Congress have the opportunity to meet people like Ale and Carla, hear about their stories and struggles and learn why we need to fix our patchwork of failed and mismanaged policies.
The Senate has done its job. In June, the upper chamber passed an immigration reform bill including many provisions that will particularly benefit LGBT immigrants, such as eliminating the one-year bar on applying for asylum; improving the conditions for people held in detention facilities; and limiting the use of solitary confinement and prohibiting the use of this practice based solely on a detainees’ sexual orientation or gender identity. While the Senate’s bill is not perfect and includes needlessly harsh border security provisions, it’s the best chance in our generation to provide a roadmap to citizenship for the 11 million aspiring Americans this year.
Now, it’s time for the House to act. No more posturing, no more piecemeal provisions, no more extremist amendments. When they return to Washington in September, the House of Representatives must introduce serious legislation that reflects the will of the country: to give 11 million men, women and children a clear and direct path to citizenship.
Whether you are the CEO of Facebook, an award-winning journalist, a current citizen or an aspiring one, comprehensive compassionate immigration reform is an urgent priority for our nation.
Kendell is executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights.