Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Video: LGBT immigrants 'come out' at US Netroots Nation conference


By Paul Canning

At America's annual giant progressive bloggers conference Netroots Nation over last weekend, a pre-conference of LGBT bloggers was told that the voices of LGBT immigrants are missing from their reporting.

Towleroad reported that a panel of queer immigrant activists "offered poignant personal recounts of the struggle they or other undocumented immigrants face in the United States."

Panelists included Tania A. Unzueta (Immigrant Youth Justice League and Association of Latino Men for Action), Reyna Wences (Immigrant Youth Justice League), Juan Rodriguez (Students Working for Equal Rights), and Felipe Matos (Presente.org and Students Working for Equal Rights).

The undocumented migrant Carlos A. Quiroz ('Carlos in DC') posted the above video, of the panelists, and wrote that the event had inspired him to 'come out' as undocumented.

Why telling: I had thought about blogging about my immigration experience for a long time, but fear and timing didn’t allow. One of the things that finally inspired me to do it was the campaign organized by undocumented youth for the Dream Act bill [which would have provided a 'path to citizenship' for those brought to the US as children], which sadly was rejected by the U.S. Senate last year.

Why now: I’m doing this not only because I want to become a productive citizen for this country, but also because this will have a positive impact for many others who are undocumented like myself, and because Immigration Reform should not be put aside even and especially in elections times.
...I cannot live in fear and depression any longer; because I deserve a life of dignity and respect, because I want to face whatever is necessary in order to achieve justice, because I’m unafraid. We can do this.
Here's video of the moment when he says this:

Immediately afterwards he gave this interview to freespeech.tv

Watch live streaming video from freespeechtv at livestream.com

Writing on Bilerico, David Castillo said:
For a queer person of color, I've been especially heartened to see so many of the gay blogosphere's most prolific and widely-read writers really interested in telling the stories of DREAMers and in learning more about how they can use their influence to advance the cause for immigration reform. This was most apparent at the LGBT Netroots Connect preconference event where an entire afternoon session was dedicated to hearing the stories of some amazing DREAM student activists, some of which are receiving awards at the closing plenary on Saturday. The pre-conference event was the most widely-attended gathering of LGBT bloggers since organizers started the gathering in 2008.

I chatted with one of those students, Felipe Matos, after the pre-conference to get his thoughts on the session. Matos told me that while it may be that the LGBT community is only just now reaching out to Latinos to work together on this, that it is still welcome since there is still so much work to be done to make comprehensive immigration reform a reality.

Also at the conference was White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer - and Felipe Matos had some hard questions for him:

Matos, told the Washington Blade:
More attention should focused on the pressures LGBT immigrant youths face. Matos said after coming out, LGBT immigrant youths are often ostracized from their communities, and, if they’re undocumented, could be apprehended by the police and deported.

“When you come out, many times you are, in your community and outside your community, you are hurt and then you don’t have any recourse [or] anyone to go to because you are afraid the police is going to deport you.".

As part of his work with an youth group in Florida, Matos said these situations happen “over and over again.” LGBT youths, he said, are afraid to talk about their sexual orientation or gender identity for fear of being cast aside and potentially deported.
Another gay blogger Andrew Belonsky welcomed the focus on LGBT immigration:
Most undocumented men and women keep their status a secret for fear of both legal recourse and social shunning. It’s a familiar story, one that has followed myriad groups for centuries. From light-skinned blacks “passing” as white during segregation to gays lying about their desire or Jewish people cloaking their religion during the Nazi’s reign in Germany, millions of people have had to hide behind either lies or silence, always with the same result: a soul crushing sense of self-deception and fear.

Those actions may have had different catalysts and reasons, but the result remains the same: the construction of a closet.

While that term, the closet, is most often used in an LGBT context, hearing the men and women “come out” as undocumented yesterday made me realize how the closet indeed impacts everybody’s lives.

African-American gay blogger Alvin McEwen confessed that he'd given undocumented migrants no thought, prior to Netroots Nation:
As an lgbt of color, I could relate to these individual in a way. It's not easy being a member of two minorities, to have your identity and worth doubly questioned, and to be caught in the middle when the entities engage in a tug of war over position and relevancy.

That panel discussion definitely gave me perspective and emphasizes the perception I've always had regarding the lgbtq struggle for equality.

It is a mult-faceted, multi-ethnic, multi-national struggle. While lgbtqs fight for equality in New York or California, we should never forget those who, while not the recipient of as much attention, struggle with as much dignity and vigor as those who do get face time.
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