I'm still feeling the rush from seeing 500,000 people take to the streets over the weekend for May Day, calling for reform to our immigration system. Our energy and advocacy are needed now more than ever.
Like many others, I am appalled at Arizona's Senate Bill 1070, which allows law enforcement to demand that anyone suspected of being an illegal immigrant show their immigration papers on the spot. This bill threatens the well-being, dignity and livelihood of immigrants and their families. It will certainly lead to racial profiling, as it opens up the door for the police to terrorize racial and ethnic minorities for simply "appearing" to an officer's individual judgment and suspicion to be an undocumented immigrant.
This issue is important to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. Thousands of LGBT people marched across the U.S. for May Day, including a number of contingents that EQCA's field organizers either organized or joined in.
Why does immigration matter to LGBT people? We know that it is never okay to treat someone differently simply for who they are or who they might appear to be. Those old enough to remember the police harassment of anyone thought to be LGBT in the 1960s and 1970s (and earlier, too) usually have their own stories to tell about encounters with law enforcement. It should never be the role of law enforcement to police difference, which is essentially what the new law in Arizona allows.
Many LGBT people are immigrants. Some of them come to the U.S. for economic, educational and other opportunities, while others come and stay because they have fallen in love with someone who lives in the U.S. Some come to this country seeking safety, after facing hostility and violence in the countries where they were born. They face double stigma, for being LGBT and for being immigrants. Our goal is to protect the full LGBT community, and in doing so we can't leave anyone behind. Creating a safer environment for the members of our community who are immigrants makes it necessary for us to make immigration our own cause.
As a minority, we have to stand strong for the rights of other minorities, including immigrant communities. The only way any minority group can secure equal rights is to build alliances and collaborate with other groups that are also struggling for their rights. When we act separately, we create space for the majority to be swayed towards xenophobia, homophobia and transphobia, but when we work together we become large enough and strong enough to make our voices heard and overcome the fear-mongering that our opponents would use to block our progress. This is why Equality California is involved in the efforts to secure immigrants' rights. We reach out through personal conversations about LGBT equality in immigrant communities, collaborate with a number of organizations advocating for the needs of immigrants, and stand up for policies that protect immigrants from unjust treatment and encourage their communities to thrive.
The people who passed SB1070 into law also passed a law rolling back benefits for domestic partners of state employees. There are some powerful interests right now in Arizona that see all minority groups as a threat. These interests are on a crusade to roll back protections and increase persecution of minority groups. We can't stand by while this happens.
Simply showing up for May Day isn't enough to protect the rights of immigrants. We have to insist that Arizona overturn this draconian law and treat all of its residents with respect and equality. We must also ensure that compassionate, comprehensive immigration reform be passed at the federal level.
Follow Geoff Kors on Twitter: www.twitter.com/geoff4eqca