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LGBT people are immigrants — and immigration is an LGBT issue!

April 10, 2013
The Task Force's Rea Carey speaking at today's massive immigration reform rally. Photo credit: Kathy Plate

The Task Force’s Rea Carey speaking at today’s massive immigration reform rally. Photo credit: Kathy Plate

The Task Force, a member of a broad coalition of progressive organizations working together as the Alliance for Citizenship, participated in a historic rally and lobby day today in Washington, D.C., telling Congress that it’s time to fix our broken immigration system. Our executive director, Rea Carey, spoke from the stage to the thousands in attendance. Here are her remarks:

Good afternoon! It is so incredible and inspiring to be with all of you here today!

My name is Rea Carey, and I am executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

AMERICA IS COMING TOGETHER to support immigration reform! I am proud to represent diverse sectors of society that are united for immigration reform – and I’d like to recognize my colleagues here with me today.

From progressive organizing groups like MoveOn.org, USAction, Campaign for America’s Future, Presente.org, National People’s Action, and Jobs with Justice!

To student and youth organizations like the United States Student Association and the League of Young Voters.

To women’s organizations like MomsRising, Family Values at Work, the National Asian Pacific Women’s Forum, We Belong Together, 9 to 5, Breakthrough, UltraViolet, New Immigrant Community Empowerment, Domestic Workers United, Filipino Advocates for Justice, National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, Women’s Refugee Commission, Brazilian Immigrant Center, and the National Domestic Workers Association.

To environmentalists like Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, and Green4All.

And, of course, the LGBT community, including my organization the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, as well as the Human Rights Campaign and Immigration Equality!

We stand for immigration reform.

Today, there are 11 million undocumented immigrants in this country — including hundreds of thousands of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

Under our broken immigration system, immigrants are forced to live in hiding, spending every day fearful that they will be discovered, sent into detention, and separated from their families, possibly forever.

No one should ever be forced to live this way.

We believe everyone should be free to live their lives openly and fully, to be and to flourish no matter who they are, who they love, or where they come from.

Yet current immigration law makes this impossible, and only serves to punish people.

America can do better than this.

America needs humane and comprehensive immigration reform now.

Creating a direct pathway to citizenship will ensure better and brighter futures — not just for the 11 million undocumented immigrants who are here already — but for our entire nation.

We know that America would not be what it is today without the grit, guts, ingenuity, creativity and work ethic of millions of immigrants who have come to this country with a dream.

These dreams have built and sustained America — from science and industry, to agriculture and domestic work, to commerce and innovation.

The American dream dies when the dreamers are shut out.

From time to time, someone will ask me, a white lesbian: “What does immigration have to do with LGBT rights? Why are you spending your time on that issue?”

Here’s what I tell them, unequivocally: Immigration is a lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and human rights issue!

A great many immigrants are themselves lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender.

Take Esmeralda, a transgender Mexican woman who suffered horrific abuse for her gender identity while in immigration detention. Hers is among the terrifying stories shared by LGBT immigrants who experienced abuse because of their gender identity or sexual orientation AND their immigration status.

And, right now, countless binational same-sex couples are threatened with forced separation because they are blocked from sponsoring their partner for citizenship.

It is cruel and unfair to force loving couples and families to live apart …to make them choose between family and country.

Yes, LGBT people are immigrants — and immigration is an LGBT issue.

Immigration reform is about our common humanity. It’s no wonder then, that a broad cross-section of Americans supports immigration reform, of creating a clear path to citizenship, of keeping families together.

It is about fairness and dignity.

It is about moving out of the shadows and into the sunlight.

It is about America living up to its full promise of equality — of ensuring everyone gets a fair shake.

This is why we need immigration reform.

The time is now!

Also today, the Task Force along with a broad coalition of LGBT groups issued a joint statement in solidarity of immigration reform. Read more here. Also check out our joint commentary on the Huffington Post, “Unifying Families With Immigration Reform.”

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