Guest post byJorge Gutierrez, coordinator for the Queer Undocumented Immigrant Project (QUIP), a project of United We Dream.
I am fierce, resilient and kind because of my mother. My mother is a lioness, a woman with a second-grade education but with plenty of compassion, intelligence and wisdom. Today is Mother’s Day and in honor of my mother and undocumented mothers across the country I commit to continue to fight to ensure they are protected from deportations and are not left out from a pathway to citizenship. She inspired me to have the courage to say proudly and unashamedly: I am queer and undocumented. I am UndocuQueer.
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. It was a Saturday evening at the intersection of 17th St and Main in St in Santa Ana, California. 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” (Well, of course at the time it was boys, but now I like men!). 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.
Now I must stand in solidarity with her as an undocumented woman, mother and domestic worker just as she’s stood with me all these years as her UndocuQueer son.
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.
I will not be okay with immigration reform that leaves out the mothers…and the, fathers, grandparents and siblings of LGBTQ and straight immigrants.