Thanks to all Out4Immigration members who rallied in DC over the weekend as part of the Reform Immigration for America (RIFA) march and in San Francisco yesterday, with a march through downtown to Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s office. Thanks in large part to the actions of Todd Fernandez (second from left in the photo) in organizing an 11th hour phone bank to the Center for Community Change (CCC) on Friday afternoon, a same-sex binational couple was given a speaking slot at the DC rally.
Until Todd put out the word to our members and allies – there were no plans for an LGBT voice among the more than 200,000 immigrant rights’ activists who descended on Washington (although there were plenty of us in the crowd - those pictured with Todd, including Donald Hitchcock from ACT On Principles, second from right, wore face masks to protest our silence). It is essential that whenever there is a rally for immigrant rights and comprehensive immigration reform in the coming weeks that we come out and demand our families are included in this battle.
Comprehensive immigration reform is not “comprehensive” unless it includes everyone affected by the broken immigration system. This includes same-sex binational couples, LGBT Americans with foreign partners who are denied the same rights as our heterosexual counterparts to sponsor our partners for a green card.
In the San Francisco Bay Area, we are welcomed into the immigrant rights’ fold, thanks in large part to Amos Lim. From the very early days of the battle for same-sex binational couple immigration rights, Amos worked from the ground up to build coalitions with other immigrant rights' groups. He saw the fight for the passage of the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) as two-fold: the bill could pass as a stand-alone, or someday it could be included as part of a much larger immigration overhaul that the United States so desperately needs. When the Bay Area needs someone to talk about our families – there is only one call they make: Amos Lim from Out4Immigration.
Amos’s speech (see text) was well-received by the crowd of 1,500. It was interrupted by applause several times. “I feel the immigrant community here is finally understanding that we are affected, too. They understand that when we talk about family, our family is no different from theirs, and we should not be discriminated against.” Afterward, Amos was approached by many of the marchers who want to tell him we have their support and to thank him for speaking out.
Chris Barnett is another Out4Immigration member who traveled at his own expense to Washington DC last weekend to rally for our rights. He joined up with a small group of other same-sex binational couples who were holding a vigil at the Washington Monument, passing out stickers and fliers, and holding up photos of their partners who they are currently separated from due to our broken immigration system.
On Monday, Chris followed up on a recent Bay Area meeting O4I had with Senator Feinstein’s staff and met with her DC staff. It has been a relentless goal of O4I to get Sen. Feinstein to co-sponsor UAFA. We have been told by her staff that she supports CIR and would prefer to see a bill that reforms the whole system rather than piecemeal legislation. This is good news – but it doesn’t stop us from continuing to ask the senior Senator from the most populous state to stand up for her same-sex binational constituents.
So – again, a big thanks to those mentioned above for stepping up representing all of us. We hope this post inspires you to take a lead in the coming weeks as CIR moves to the center of the national stage. In San Francisco, we owe special thanks to Erik Schnabel for organizing for O4I to have a presence yesterday and Martha McDevitt-Pugh from Love Exiles, who came home from The Netherlands to be at the march. Thanks also go to the sponsors of the march and rally, including Reform Immigration for America, SIREN, CCISCO, BOCA, PIA, SEIU, UFCW Local 5, Dolores Street Community Services, Asian Law Caucus, EBASE, ICIR, and Padres Unidos.