January 29, 2013
I saw President Obama today.
I am in Las Vegas, where the President came to unveil his proposal for overhauling our inhumane and frequently—and justly—criticized immigration system. So of course, I was joined by hundreds of others, and with millions of others who watched online and on TV, but still, I saw the President today. And I got to see him do something that made me honored and moved to be among those present for this historic speech—and among those who voted for him.
I have been privileged to witness many historic moments that I knew signaled a change in our country. Hearing our President speak so forcefully about the need to bring humanity and decency to our nation’s immigration policy, and about the urgency of coming together to bring about major reform now, was one of those moments.
The President’s speech, and his subsequently-released factsheet, provided some key details for a plan forward. Surely, he is on the right track with a direct and workable path to citizenship. The President’s plan also provides a streamlined path to citizenship for DREAMers, young men and women who came to America as children and who want to be able to attend school or serve their nation. His plan also includes recognition of same-sex couples in bi-national relationships, and provides for equal treatment of these couples, who will finally be able to live without the harrowing fear of being forcibly separated.
Obviously, there is much more to be developed, and this proposal still leaves many details to be worked out that we must see in any meaningful immigration reform, including a commitment that a pathway to citizenship remain accessible, direct, and achievable for all people, a removal of the one-year bar on asylum claims, and an enforcement plan that is humane and fair.
For more than two decades, NCLR’s work on immigration and asylum has produced some of our most heart-wrenching stories. Families torn apart, children left without a parent, people abruptly taken from their homes to far-flung detention facilities with no warning or due process. It has often felt hopeless and always so terribly wrong. But today things are different. And with principles announced yesterday by the Senate, coupled with Obama’s plan announced today, we can actually begin to hope that real reform will be a reality very soon.
And let’s just be totally clear: comprehensive immigration reform is an LGBT issue. We are in every immigrant community. We are DREAMers, we are undocumented, we are seeking asylum and freedom from violence and persecution, we are farmworkers, we are striving for a better life for ourselves and our families. But even beyond our representation in every facet of the immigrant community, comprehensive reform is an LGBT issue because we want to live in a nation that values justice, equality, and opportunity—for all, not just for some.
As LGBT Americans, we have seen a huge sea change transform our place in this nation. We have won many, many landmark victories. While we still have much work to do, many of us feel safer, more secure, more a part of the cultural fabric. We did not do this by ourselves. Many of our neighbors, friends, and many strangers embraced our equality on principle. They wanted to live in a country that embraced the whole of the human family. So now we do the same. We stand up for fairness and dignity and justice for others who live in the shadows of the law. Inaugural poet Richard Blanco—who is himself both gay and an immigrant—in his moving and beautiful poem talked about us living under one sun, one moon, one country. Let’s make it so.