LGBT Immigrants Stand Up for Dignity and Respect

On Oct. 5 I will be a voice in a national chorus. I will join others across 80 cities in mobilizing for the National Day for Dignity and Respect on behalf of our nation's undocumented men, women and children. With one voice we will say that the time for comprehensive, compassionate immigration reform is now. We won't live in the shadows, in fear of being deported or detained.

As a queer man and an immigrant, I will be there to say that the country we love should no longer make undocumented LGBT immigrants live in two closets, one because of their sexual orientation and the other because of their immigration status. And as one of the 28,000 LGBT immigrants in a relationship with an American citizen, I will be there to say that the end of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is not the end of our fight for immigration reform. I spent 12 years waiting for my opportunity to apply for residency in the country I call home, and now that I can, I'm committed to keeping fighting until all 11 million have the same opportunity.

While the repeal of DOMA is already having a tremendous impact on same-sex binational couples, it will only benefit about 10 percent of the approximately 267,000 LGBT undocumented immigrants currently living in the U.S. We must still fight for LGBT asylum seekers who missed the arbitrary asylum-filing deadline, single LGBT immigrants with families that can't sponsor them, and LGBT couples in which both are undocumented.

Immigration is an LGBT issue. Thousands of people trapped in our broken immigration system are victimized and stigmatized due their sexual or gender identity. Reports repeatedly demonstrate that transgender women are more likely to be abused in detention centers, and LGBT people seeking asylum face extreme hardships.

LGBT organizations and activists have joined in the immigration fight and are speaking out on Oct. 5 not only for LGBT immigrants but for all undocumented immigrants who are forced to live as second-class citizens. Every day 1,100 families are torn apart because the House of Representatives refuses to pass comprehensive immigration reform.

Americans overwhelmingly support comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship. Poll after poll demonstrates that regardless of party affiliation, demographics or geography, Americans want their elected officials to fix the country's broken immigration system.

This summer the Senate passed -- by a wide 68-32 margin -- a bipartisan immigration reform bill that goes a long way toward correcting our discriminatory and mismanaged immigration policies. The Senate's comprehensive immigration reform bill includes many provisions that will particularly benefit LGBT immigrants. The bill would eliminate the one-year bar on applying for asylum; improve conditions for people held in detention facilities; and limit the use of solitary confinement, prohibiting the use of this practice based solely on a detainees' sexual orientation or gender identity.

Recently, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi announced her plans to introduce a comprehensive immigration reform bill in the House. Similar to the Senate's version, the House bill is likely not to be perfect and includes needlessly harsh border security provisions. However, this is the best chance in our generation to provide a roadmap to citizenship for all aspiring citizens. Now it's time for Congress to stop playing politics and solve the problems of our country.

The LGBT community is standing side-by-side with our allies in the immigrant rights community to pass immigration reform because our immigration policies should reflect our commitment to keep families together. Too many LGBT immigrants are forced in two closets. It's time for all immigrants to be able to come out of the shadows.

The House GOP stands between 11 million immigrants and their chance at citizenship and the American dream. We hope that Minority Leader Pelosi's colleagues in the House follow her lead and realize that now is the time to act. Congress is elected to listen to the will of the people. We're talking; it's time for them to start paying attention. America deserves a vote on immigration reform with a roadmap to citizenship.

We have a historic opportunity to get it done right. Will you join us on Oct. 5 as we say all Americans, aspiring and citizen alike, are deserving of dignity and respect?