News & Politics

Hungry for Immigration Reform

(Waiting on permission) Mara Keisling, the Executive Director of the National Center for Transgender Equality and one of the minds behind the December Project and Dolores Huerta, the civil rights legend who founded the United Farm Workers movement along with Cesar Chavez and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, sit together in the fasting tent. (Dolores Huerta is a long time LGBT rights advocate and is currently on the Board of Equality California.

Mara Keisling, Executive Director of the National Center for Transgender Equality and Dolores Huerta, Founder of the United Farm Workers movement along with Cesar Chavez sit together in the fasting tent. (Photo Credit: Julie Kruse)

On November 12, faith, immigrant, worker rights leaders and activists began a “Fast for Families.” They set up shop in a tent on the National Mall, abstaining from all food as an act of support for the families who are torn apart daily by deportations and our broken immigration system. They are hoping to move Congress toward enacting comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship. The initial group of fasters went 22 days (!) and have now passed the fast on to a new group of leaders. This week, eight community members were arrested in New Jersey as they formed a human chain in front of a deportation center, protesting families being separated and lives being endangered.

These types of escalating actions are beyond inspiring, and I can only hope they are motivating lawmakers to take the steps necessary to move the (not perfect yet historic) legislation. Certainly the public has been moved – the majority of Americans believe that immigration is good for the country but say the current system is just not working. The latest polling shows 66% of respondents wanting lawmakers to approve immigration reform with a path to citizenship (and tighter border security). Yet, Speaker Boehner and the House of Representatives  won’t even bring immigration legislation to the floor. Every day that Speaker Boehner refuses to allow a vote on reform in the House, another 1,100 aspiring Americans will be ripped apart from their families and deported.

As a the daughter of an immigrant, fair immigration policies are important to my family and me. Immigration reform is a social justice issue. It is an economic justice issue. It is a family issue.

And immigration reform is an LGBT issue. While the repeal of DOMA over the summer may have lessened the stakes for binational couples, hundreds of thousands of adults in the US are members of both the LGBT community and undocumented population. And with more than 40,000 children being raised by binational same-sex couples, a lot is at stake for LGBT families. Transgender immigrants are particularly vulnerable and too often face discrimination and violence under the current system.

immigration

On the 18th day of fasting President Barack Obama and the First Lady visited the fasting tent and listened to the fasters’ personal stories.  Momentum is building.  The time for reform is now and each one of us should be a part of the fight.  At the end of the day, immigration reform and a pathway to citizenship should be important to all of us; citizens and non-citizens need access to the basic rights and protections of being able to work and care for their families.

How can you get involved?

  • You can sign the petition to Speaker Boehner to hold a vote on immigration reform.
  • You can contact your Member Of Congress asking them to support common sense immigration reform or to support H.R. 15 (US Capitol Switchboard: 202-224-3121).
  • Spread the word.  Talk about the issue and raise public awareness of the suffering and sacrifice immigrants face in our country.
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