This May Day 2013 in New York City I was incredibly honored to have the opportunity to represent Immigration Equality, standing in solidarity with all of our allies in the fight for comprehensive, humane and inclusive immigration reform.
It was an incredibly surreal experience, since I remember as a youth watching the mega 2006 “A Day without Immigrants” May Day march. In 2006, I was taken by awe when I saw well over a million average, hard-working, individuals (people just like me and my family who were very much still in the shadows) take to the streets across our country to express their solidarity, self-worth and value to our nation. It honestly drove me to tears… the pride I felt for my community and the frustration that I felt for thinking I couldn’t participate because of my fear of raids and deportation. This year was so different. I not only marched, I spoke out to a crowd of thousands! And this time, I saw my full community and my full identity represented. Leaders stood in solidarity not only from the labor/immigrant rights movements but proudly side-by-side with the LGBT and faith community.
Applause rang high as I spoke about the need for our LGBT families’ inclusion in comprehensive immigration reform, an issue so important, personal and dear to my heart. When I challenged our lawmakers to commit to lead on LGBT inclusion, the cheers were overwhelming!
“In a matter of weeks – perhaps, in fact, in a matter of days – Senators will be asked to vote on Uniting American Families Act’s addition to comprehensive immigration reform. We urge members of Congress to vote for including UAFA in comprehensive immigration reform. But more than that, if they say they are our supporters, we have to challenge them to lead on this issue… They must lead!
The Senate’s immigration bill is incomplete, and the Judiciary Committee’s work is not yet done. Senator Schumer, right here in New York, will cast one of the first, critical votes. We will watch, and remember, which lawmakers stood with us, and which stood to the side and stayed silent during the debate on this critical legislation. The Committee Members’ votes, and Senator Schumer’s ability to lead them, will mean the difference between a stable future, or one of uncertainty, separation and exile, for thousands of LGBT couples.”
At that moment, I felt that everyone (thousands in the crowd) understood the urgency of our struggle. They were ready to fight for me as much as I was willing to fight for them. Since the age of 2, I had to face the reality of being a young, undocumented and gay, person of color in American society. Being undocumented and gay is a unique struggle, one that I often found myself feeling on my own, but at that moment I went from my solitary youth to my empowered sense of solidarity.
So, I will continue to work towards the day all those relegated to shadows and closets of our society can have an equal opportunity to make their dreams become a reality. The need for comprehensive immigration reform that’s inclusive of all our families is now. I ask you to build on our momentum and for you to join me in our common struggle for equality.