Friday, May 07, 2010

Guest post: The link between Prop. 8 and Arizona's anti-immigrant law

The link between Prop. 8 and Arizona's anti-immigrant law
by Dan Torres

The Arizona legislature recently passed and revised SB 1070, the so-called “papers please” anti-immigrant bill many believe will result in racial profiling. As a gay Latino man who comes from an immigrant family, I see a clear link between this measure and anti-gay marriage laws such as Proposition 8. Both laws make their victims feel marginalized and send a message that they do not deserve to be treated equally under the law. Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgender (LGBT) people know what it’s like to be on the wrong side of laws like SB 1070 or Proposition 8.

Many of us, who fit into one or more minority communities, know all too well how it feels to be stripped of our legal protections and fundamental rights. Last year, Arizona’s Governor Jan Brewer, the same one who signed into law SB 1070, repealed benefits for LGBT domestic partners, further undermining the economic and emotional security of LGBT families. The LGBT community understands the threat when our leaders tell us that our families do not count. We know the pain caused by the government refusing to treat us equally. Accordingly, we should stand against SB 1070.

Arizona’s SB 1070 and California’s Proposition 8 are personal attacks because they deny our common humanity. SB 1070, which was passed ostensibly to allow the state police to more easily enforce federal immigration law, in reality it is a law that encourages racial profiling of Latinos. Even though the state made revisions to the law late last week restricting the use of race or ethnicity as a basis to question people, it nonetheless added provisions that allow the police to ask people about immigration status for violations of local ordinances. The original language of SB 1070 and subsequent revisions make clear that the law gives local police pretext or “cover” to engage in racial profiling. This is further made clear by the fact that the revision occurred only a week after Arizona lawmakers were publicly criticized for passing such a blatantly racist law. No one should be fooled by the recent cosmetic attempt to hide the clear intent of SB 1070, which is to target immigrants, many of whom are Latino and many of whom are LGBT.

The common denominator in SB 1070 and Proposition 8 is bigotry. These laws strip human beings of dignity. The indignity my husband and I feel when our marriage is not recognized by the federal government is no less painful than when my family gets harassed or pulled over for “driving while brown.” These are not minor inconveniences but rather a systematic erosion of our human rights and liberties. More and more lately we see government’s successful attempts to chip away at our fundamental right to be treated equally. With other states now wanting to follow Arizona’s lead, we cannot afford to ignore what is happening.

Immigration is an LGBT issue in that our broken immigration system affects hundreds of thousands of LGBT newcomers who have no path to citizenship and must live in the indignity and shame of the shadows. As gay people, we understand the harm of forced invisibility on our community. SB 1070 and Proposition 8 are attempts to push already marginalized people back into the closet and slam the door shut! Arizona’s law was passed in the absence of sane, effective and fair comprehensive immigration reform. Washington must act now to fix this country’s immigration system and stop the divisiveness that is driving a wedge between communities. America needs immigration reform that moves our country forward together and upholds our nation’s values of opportunity, fairness and justice, values every LGBT person holds dear. It is time to stand up, support the legal and political challenges to SB 1070 and condemn efforts to emulate it.

In a similar vein, we must remain vigilant and unified in our responses to the various and heinous attacks on our human rights. For an attack on the Latino immigrant community is no different from an attack on the LGBT community, or people of color, or people of faith, or who ever is next on the “hit list.” It is time we recognize our common struggles and work together to defend everyone from laws or policies rooted in bigotry.

Dan Torres is a staff attorney at the Immigrant Legal Resource Center and works at the intersection of LGBT and immigration advocacy to facilitate dialogue and mutual support between the traditional LGBT movement and immigrant communities.  This work has synergistic impact of furthering the rights of both LGBT and immigrant communities and, particularly, LGBT immigrants.   ILRC provides technical support to advocates working with LGBT clients who have fled persecution abroad, have been victims of crimes or are LGBT immigrant youth placed in foster care in the United States.  Through the ILRC’s civic engagement efforts, Dan worked with LGBT immigrants to be counted in Census 2010, coordinated dialogues with local and state public officials on education discrimination issues impacting LGBT students, and continues to organize around marriage equality.

Before joining the ILRC, Dan represented clients as a staff attorney at the California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation in Sacramento, and served as a staff attorney for the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.  He worked as a clinical instructor at the UC Davis School of Law Immigration Law Clinic, and was a member of both the La Raza and Lambda Law Student Associations. He is the son of Mexican immigrants, a fluent Spanish speaker, and a resident of Alameda with his husband.

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