Though immigration reform is often treated as simply an "issue," GLAAD joins LGBT and immigration organizations in reminding media and Congress that at the heart of this issue are the millions of real people's lives that hang in the balance.
Today, GLAAD -- along with the National Center for Lesbian Rights, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, United We Dream and Queer Undocumented Immigrant Project, Equality Federation, National Center for Transgender Equality – released a statement that calls on Congress to maintain family unity at the heart of immigration policy; affirms support for changes to the immigration bill that will make a pathway to citizenship more accessible for all 11 million undocumented immigrants (267,000 of whom LGBT); and affirms an ardent opposition to draconian amendments that would make immigrants permanent second-class citizens and create undue hardships along a pathway to citizenship:
Immigration reform will not be successful unless our public policy is in line with one of the main factors driving migration: family unity. We cannot make our immigration policy into a series of painful choices that benefit only some and hurt others
We oppose an amendment that would require immigrants to maintain an income four times higher than the poverty line (over $90,000 for a family of four) for the entire 10 years prior to applying for a green card. Undocumented immigrants face significant economic inequity; they have a median income that is $14,000 less per year than the median household income for U.S.-born residents. This is a particularly unrealistic requirement for undocumented immigrants who are LGBT. LGBT people are more likely to live below the poverty line than their non-LGBT peers. LGBT people often face devastating employment discrimination based on their sexual orientation or gender identity and there are currently no federal protections against such discrimination.
These proposed requirements would exclude the mother of openly LGBTQ undocumented immigrant Jorge Gutierrez. For Mother's Day, Gutierrez wrote a very moving op-ed expressing his wish for his domestic worker mother—who has been incredibly supportive to him as an LGBTQ person--to be included in immigration reform.
I vividly remember my family’s days in Nayarit, Mexico, when there were times where we had no food to eat, but my amazing mother would knock on doors trying to find jobs to provide a meal for my siblings and me. Eighteen years later she is still as hard working as ever and still willing to do anything and everything for her children. My mom has been a domestic worker for over 15 years, enduring backbreaking work as a babysitter and housekeeper, as well as humiliation, discrimination, too often getting paid way below minimum wage. For her, the most painful part has been the many times she missed our school events, parent meetings and family dinners with me and my siblings because she would leave early in the morning and return late at night. She would apologize to us with tears in her eyes; I never questioned her love and her commitment to my well-being and happiness.
This is the same woman that fully embraced and accepted me when I came out to her as gay. I remember that moment vividly. I was 15...She had just picked me up from my part-time job, we came to a red light and she suddenly asked me “¿Te gustan los niños o las niñas?” (“Do you like boys or girls”). Shocked, I stayed silent for a few seconds, but I finally responded “Me gustan los niños." The light turned green and she turned into the nearest parking lot and told me to get out of the car; I became terrified. Stiff, she got out of the car too, walked around the car and with tears in her eyes she hugged me and told me “Como madre solo puedo aceptarte, amarte y protegerte.” (“All I can do as a mother is accept, love and protect you”). At that moment, her hug and her words transformed my life forever and I began to lose all the fear and shame I had been carrying since I was a child. Since then she has supported me as her queer son and inspired me to get involved in my community.
I will not be okay with benefiting from immigration reform if she’s left out because of unfair and unrealistic roadblocks that prevent her access to a pathway to citizenship. The proposed work or income requirements in the proposed immigration reform would exclude many immigrants like my mom from becoming a citizen because they work as day laborers or domestic workers or at minimum wage jobs. In fact, such requirements would also hurt many lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) people who are out of work because of discrimination.
For more information about GLAAD and LGBT groups' work on immigration reform, click here.