I came to the United States when I was eighteen months old. As I moved through public school, I knew that I was different from my classmates -- not only was I hiding that I was an undocumented immigrant, but I was also hiding the fact that I was gay.
Living in rural North Carolina, my whole life was dictated by two closets. I hid who I was, I hid my immigration status -- I hid everything about myself from everyone around me. It wasn't until I met folks who were "out" about their sexual orientation or their immigration status that I found the courage to tell my mom I was gay.
Coming out as gay and undocumented was a dangerous thing to do for myself, and also for my family. Thankfully, I found courage in a small community of folks who were organizing to make changes in my area. I summon that courage every day because I desperately want to ensure my mother, who has since become my rock and my biggest advocate, can live up to her full potential via a pathway to citizenship.
I want Congress to pass compassionate, comprehensive immigration reform so that my mother -- and so many other courageous mothers and fathers and siblings like her -- is able to fully live the American dream, without fear and without hesitation. I want other LGBTQ undocumented immigrants like me to be able to raise their heads up high and no longer live in the shadows.
Immigration reform is an urgent priority not only for my family, but also for our nation. The Senate has passed a reform bill that would, among other things, create a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, make family reunification a priority in immigration laws and, for the first time ever, put in place immigrant worker protections. The bipartisan Senate vote is emblematic of America's overwhelming support for comprehensive immigration reform -- poll after poll shows that Americans are demanding that their elected officials fix our country's broken immigration system.
The Senate has done its job, now it's time for the House of Representatives to act. Our country cannot afford more piecemeal provisions and extremist amendments. It's time for the House to introduce serious legislation that reflects the will of the country and gives 11 million men, women and children the chance to come out of the shadows and have a clear and direct path to citizenship.
When I start to get scared and question whether living my life out in the open -- in an area of the country that's dominated by fear and hatred of differences -- is the right decision, I simply look at the courage and support of my mother and close friends, in that moment I know that I'm doing the right thing. I will continue to tell me story, to live my truth and to advocate for those I care about. I hope you will join me in urging the House to move forward with comprehensive, compassionate immigration reform that will give my mother the chance she gave me.