Commentary: HRC at Sunday’s Immigration Rally
March 23, 2010
The following post on HRC's involvement in this weekend's comprehensive immigration reform rally and march is from HRC Chief Diversity Officer Cuc Vu.
On Sunday, March 21, 2010, members and supporters of the Human Rights Campaign joined hundreds of organizations to March for America and to call on Congress and President Obama to fix our country's broken immigration system. With the Latino GLBT History Project, Immigration Equality, Unid@s and the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force, HRC stood with our LGBT brothers and sisters also to draw attention to equal immigration rights for LGBT families. The largest LGBT contingent was the Rainbow Riders, who filled 27 buses from Chicago, New York, New Jersey and New England. They were almost 1,500 strong! Other LGBT groups also attended, including the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance, but the crowd was so big that finding each other proved to be a difficult task. As a DC resident for almost 16 years, I've participated in a lot of marches and rallies and I've seen turnout ambitions fulfilled and fallen short. Organizers of the March for America projected turnout of 100,000 people, but actual turnout exceeded 250,000 by my estimate, filling 7 city blocks from 7th & Madison all the way to the Washington Monument. As I walked back to my car in the late afternoon, there were still more busloads of participants walking down 14th and 15th Streets NW to join the crowd on the Mall. Some of the buses were filled with passengers who had traveled as much as 24 hours to make their voices heard from as far away as Miami. The event was rightfully billed as the largest political mobilization since President Obama's inauguration. The crowd included many US flags and a few flags representing the country of origin for different groups. Handmade signs included "No Human Being is Illegal," "We Work for America," and "Workers, Taxpayers, Voters for Reform." From the stage, Marcela Aguilar Gonzales and her partner Ana spoke about being a lesbian couple from Guatemala and Mexico. They spoke passionately, saying that they are Latina lesbians, they are here, and they are not going into the shadows. After they spoke, nearly every speaker on the stage incorporated LGBT people into their remarks. President Obama addressed the crowd through a videotaped message, saying he would work to forge a bipartisan consensus on immigration reform this year. Several members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus joined the call for action. It was important for LGBT immigrants, supporters and our families to be visible because we are a part of the immigrant community, a fact that is often brushed aside in the immigration debate. Without this visibility and constant work to be included in policy and legislative discussions around comprehensive immigration reform, particularly the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA), our LGBT families will remain unequal. But passing UAFA, a bill that would allow US citizens to sponsor their same-sex partners for immigration benefits, is only one piece of achieving equality for LGBT people. As advocates of social justice, it's important for us to also stand up for the rights of the 12 million undocumented people who are our neighbors, colleagues and allies because they are the most vulnerable among us. In an Advocate piece, Kerry Eleveld estimates that the 12 million undocumented people in the US includes roughly 600,000 LGBT people. Lastly, it was important for LGBT immigrants and supporters to be at the March for America because we are at the front lines bridging the gaps that exist between the LGBT community and communities of color - gaps that make our efforts to win equality that much more difficult. In our LGBT contingent alone, we had people from Mexico, Viet Nam, the Bahamas, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Poland, Russia, Czechoslovakia, Philippines, China, Nigeria, and many more countries. After yesterday's historic march, HRC will continue to work with our partners to demand legislative action for immigration reform. For a list of the speakers at the rally who called for comprehensive immigration reform, check out the Reform Immigration For America blog here.