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a woman, with the text: I am undocuqueer. "As an undocumented jota I was taught to hate myself but I have consciously struggled to love me. Me siento libre!" - Imelda

Undocuqueer art by Julio Salgado

Today is National Coming Out Day, and though this day is usually reserved for coming out as LGBTQ, I want to complicate that and honor the undocuqueers, who are complicating the nationwide picture of LGBTQ people and that of immigrants:

We are queer undocumented youth. We cannot afford to be in either the queer or undocumented closet. We cannot and will not hide; we cannot and will not let those who haven’t been in our shoes decide and tell us how to act, how to feel and that this isn’t our home. We have the right to be whoever we want to be and love whoever we want to love. It is a shame that the only path we have to legalization is to lead a heterosexual lifestyle. We shouldn’t and won’t conform to such ideas. We have a right to live and love to the full extent of our capacity.

We urge you to come out! Now is the time to come and proclaim that you’re UndocuQueer, Unafraid and Unashamed!

Of course, the existence of people inhabiting these two spheres is not new: immigrants have always been part of the struggle for queer and trans liberation, as queer and trans folk have long contributed to immigrants’ rights and racial justice movements. But bringing together immigration and queerness under the “coming  out” umbrella has been a refreshing and beautiful addition to the national conversation. In a political context in which the notion of coming out has in many ways moved away from the beginning of a larger conversation about social justice and towards the individual achievement of “normal” gayness, lending the notion of coming out to the undocumented experience adds nuance and reminds us that queer liberation is inextricably tied to the liberation of all marginalized communities.

So this coming out day, I am honoring the undocuqueers and all the queer and trans folks out there reminding us not only that there is no queer liberation without collective liberation, but that it is indeed possible. ¡Adelante!

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This week, the Rights Working Group is hosting a blog carnival on gender and racial profiling, including a blog by yours truly on the impact of racial profiling on LGBTQ Latin@s:

Though racial profiling affects LGBTQ immigrants in particular ways that are specific to their sexual orientation or gender identity, these perspectives are rarely part of the national racial profiling conversation. It is imperative that social justice advocates incorporate an analysis around racial profiling that includes the perspectives of LGBTQ immigrants.

Check out the whole piece, and other fabulous pieces over at the blog carnival, which is being updated daily!

 

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This week, Congress decided to celebrate National Women’s Health Week by undermining Latinas’ rights to safe, legal abortion in immigration detention and in the District of Columbia, and by striping advances made in the Violence Against Women Act to prosecute intimate partner violence and other crimes. Muchas gracias por nada, Congress!

Here is a run-down of what has been going down on the Hill:

DHS Appropriations Abortion Rider

Rep. Price (left) opposed the anti-abortion amendment by Rep. Aderholt (right.) Source aderholt.house.gov

The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday morning decided to strip the right to abortion care for Latinas’ and all women in immigration detention when they added an amendment (the “Aderholt” amendment) to a bill funding the Department of Homeland Security. The amendment, which passed in a party-line vote of 28-21, prohibits the use of federal funds for abortion care for women under immigration detention custody. The original amendment only allowed exceptions for life and rape, but not incest. The incest exception was added later. However, as our Executive Director Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas noted in NLIRH’s press statement, “Passage of the Aderholt amendment shows remarkable contempt for some of the most vulnerable women in our community.”

This amendment was completely unnecessary, as the dangerous and restrictive Hyde Amendment already applies to women in detention. Additionally, DHS has the Performance Based National Detention Standards (PBNDS), which are comprehensive stake-holder reviewed standards for health care in detention centers. This amendment would only open the door to interpretation to restrict access to services around abortion care, like transportation, follow-up care, and counseling, in instances where detained women pay for an abortion themselves.

With high levels of rape and sexual assault in immigration detention centers, and the fact that detainees may be U.S. citizens and those whose only crime was their presence in this country, attacking access to reproductive health care in detention is a dangerous and unjust move by House Appropriations leadership.

VAWA: The Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act

Rep. Sandy Adams- Sponsor of H.R. 4970, a bill that takes the VAWA name, but leaves Latinas behind. Source: adams.house.gov

Just a few hours later, on Wednesday afternoon, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 4970, a bill which calls itself the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). In reality, this bill rolls back protections for immigrant victims of intimate partner violence (IPV) and other crimes and excludes new protections for LGBTQ and Native American survivors approved in a bill passed by the Senate to reauthorize VAWA. The Violence Against Women Act, first enacted in 1994 with strong bipartisan support, has been reauthorized several times over the past decades with a history of cooperation across party lines. However, yesterday’s move by the House of Representatives broke that strong tradition. In doing so, they advanced a bill that actually rolls back protections for immigrant women, by allowing abusers to insert themselves into an IPV survivor’s immigration proceedings, and undermines the U-visa system, which is an important tool for abused immigrant women whose immigration status is used as a form of control. This House bill also notably excludes strong provisions for LGBTQ and Native American victims that which  were approved by the Senate in their bill to reauthorize this vital tool to combat domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence, and other crimes.

Rep. Gwen Moore- sponsor of H.R. 4271 modeled after Senate-passed VAWA and opponent of H.R. 4970. Source gwenmoore.house.gov

To add insult to injury, the powerful House Rules Committee, which establishes rules for debating legislation, prohibited any amendments to be added to H.R. 4970 before the vote. This meant that opponents of the bill, like Rep. Gwen Moore (D-WI 4th), herself a survivor of sexual violence who faced challenges prosecuting her abuser, was unsuccessful in her many attempts to remove dangerous provisions for immigrant victims and include protections for LGBTQ and Native Americans.

D.C. 20-Week Abortion Ban

And today, House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution is hoping to advance legislation to deny the right to abortion care to the residents of the District of Columbia.

Representative Trent Franks (R-AZ-2), author of the racial profiling anti-abortion bill, the so-called “Prenatal Non-Discrimination Act,” now has his sights on imposing a dangerous abortion restrictions for the women of the District of Columbia. H.R. 3803, or the “District of Columbia Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act” relies on the medically-debated concept of “fetal pain” to strip a Latinas’ and all women’s rights to essential and potentially health- and life-saving abortion care.

The bill, in addition to imposing an unconstitutional pre-viability abortion ban, contains a number of dangerous provisions that endangers women’s health and makes women vulnerable to numerous lawsuits. While the bill contains an exception in cases where women’s lives are in danger or when they face “substantial and irreversible” harm to a “major bodily organ,” this essentially means that women have to be on the brink of death or permanent disability in order to receive the abortion care she needs to preserve her health.

Official Photo of Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton

Official Photo of Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton. Source http://www.norton.house.gov

The bill allows the “father” of the fetus, or “maternal grandparents” in cases where a minor seeks abortion care, to file a civil lawsuit against an abortion care provider who violates this bill, showing a complete disregard and distrust of women to make the best health care decision for themselves. The bill also opens up the door to any party – spouses, parents, siblings, health care providers, guardians, even the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia- to file a lawsuit against abortion providers who provide abortion care at or after 20 weeks of gestation. What legislators, and even the U.S. Supreme Court, have failed to realize is that many post 20-week abortion are absolutely essential to preserve the health and life of a woman seeking abortion care. No woman should die or become ill as a result of a pregnancy.

Again, to add insult to injury, Chairman of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Rep. Franks and author of the 20-week abortion ban, has prohibited Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton from testifying.

NLIRH will be submitting testimony for the hearing today, as well as live Tweeting from Rep. Holmes Norton’s press conference and the hearing itself.

Stay posted by following our blog as well as our Twitter page.

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Today, President Barack Obama stated in a televised interview that he believes that same-sex marriage should be legal:

“At a certain point, I’ve just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married,” Mr. Obama told ABC News in an interview that came after the president faced mounting pressure to clarify his position.

This is a historic moment – it is the first time that a sitting U.S. president has stated a position in favor of marriage equality.

So how does this affect the lived reality of LGBTQ Latin@s? Well not too much, yet. Though this affirmation does not have any legal effect just yet – neither the Supreme Court nor Congress seem in a rush to overturn DOMA – this “evolving” of the president’s position does indicate the increasing visibility of LGBT advocacy in the last few years, and places the President in a position to do something about making that change.

When same-sex marriage does become a reality at a national level, there will surely be benefits for LGBTQ Latin@ communities. For one, LGBTQ immigrants with U.S.-citizen partners will have the option to be petitioned for permanent residency and citizenship, in the same way that straight people are able to do currently. This would be huge for the vast number of bi-national couples who face separation or having to leave the U.S. to be together. The Uniting America Families Act – a proposed measure that would allow U.S. citizens to petition same-sex partners for citizenship – also addresses this issue for bi-national same-sex couples and has been part of NLIRH’s policy priorities, but federal marriage equality would solve this issue altogether.

Although this is a step in the right direction, legalizing same-sex marriage does not even begin to scratch the surface of the social justice issues that LGBTQ Latin@s face today. LGBTQ immigrants face numerous barriers that marriage simply does not touch, and strategies that require immigrants to couple with U.S.-nationals for citizenship will only affect a small portion of the LGBTQ immigrant community. And though legalizing same-sex marriage may mean that some LGBTQ Latin@s will be able to share their partners’ health benefits, it will not create health benefits for couples in which neither party is insured. We envision a world in which everyone has access to care and in which everyone has the right to live and work in the communities they choose, regardless of marital status. Marriage equality will create these conditions for some, but will leave many LGBTQ Latin@s with these problems unresolved.

It is a good day for LGBTQ people today, but we must not envision marriage equality as the end. Only an end to inequity can bring reproductive justice for all!

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For day 3 of the Health Equity Can’t Wait! blog carnival, we’ve teamed up with the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force to write about LGBTQ and Latin@ health, making clear the importance of an intersectional analysis and advocacy:

We will never fully understand the struggle of someone trying to access an abortion if we do not also know how being a transgender man of color has affected his experience. We cannot know an immigrant’s struggle to access culturally competent and affordable health care if we do not think about how being queer has affected where she feels safe. If we do not look at the intersections, we paint an incomplete picture and we fail to see the very real ways that multiple marginalized identities play out in people’s lives.

Check out the whole piece over at the Task Force blog!

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After a few weeks of back and forth about the Violence Against Women Act later, the Senate seems finally ready to finish work on it and vote today. But why so much debate?

The Violence Against Women Act first passed in 1994, and has since been reauthorized twice – in 2000 and 2005. It is up for reauthorization once again, and though historically VAWA has had broad bipartisan support, a few provisions that address the needs of marginalized populations in the United States – in this case, Native Americans, immigrants, and LGBTQ folks – have been singled out and targeted for opposition. Namely, these provisions would:

  • Provides tribes jurisdiction to prosecute non-Native persons accused of IPV against Native partners within their territories
  • Include LGBT persons in its definition of “underserved populations,” and make funds obtained through VAWA subject to non-discrimination provisions including sexual orientation and gender identity
  • Include support programs specifically for immigrant communities, such as increasing the number of U-Visas (visas available through VAWA for immigrants abused by U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents), expanding U Visa qualifying crimes, allowing anyone at a law enforcement agency to provide certifications for U visas, and providing a possibility for people who can’t get law enforcement certifications to still apply for U visas if they have enough evidence.

The fact that these are sticking points is absolutely absurd. Approximately 1.5 million women from all walks of life experience intimate partner violence (IPV), and the impact of IPV on communities of color and LGBT communities should not be understated. Though no studies demonstrate that IPV is higher in immigrant communities than the community at large, Latina and Asian immigrant women are overrepresented among IPV-related homicide victims. IPV among LGBTQ people occurs, but is often ignored and even turned away from services. And in their lifetimes, 24% of American Indian and Alaska Native women will be raped, and 39% will be subjected to domestic violence.

That members of Congress have taken issue with provisions that would increase the safety of these populations ignores reality and is an affront to justice. Each year, the lives of thousands of women, children, and others who survive intimate partner violence are made safer by VAWA and the programs it has created. On their behalf, it is imperative that these provisions stay in the bill, and that VAWA grows along with the times.

Urge your Senators to pass VAWA with these provisions today. We cannot afford to ignore our communities’ realities. Please take action!

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NLIRH is so excited to be part of the CLPP conference again this year! Hampshire College’s Civil Liberty and Public Policy program puts on a fabulous reproductive justice conference every year – From Abortion Rights to Social Justice: Building the Movement for Reproductive Freedom – and it is a very important space for us in social justice organizing:

More than 150 speakers and 75 conference workshops will highlight successful examples of activism and discuss how struggles for reproductive and sexual rights are intricately linked to movements for economic, social, and environmental justice. Topics of workshops and strategic action sessions include abortion access in the U.S. and internationally, climate justice, anti-foreclosure activism, media making and storytelling, the politics of population control, and organizing around the 2012 elections.

NLIRH is presenting on three panels this year, and we hope that you can come stop by and say hi! I’m  presenting on two panels:

  • Queering Reproductive Justice – Saturday at 3:15 pm, and
  • Our Lives, Our Voices: Reproductive Justice and Immigrant Communities – Saturday at 5:15 pm

And Isa is presenting on another:

  • Building a Cross-Class and Multi-Racial Movement for True Economic Recovery

We hope you can join us!

 

 

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