Task Force To Put Energy, Focus On Immigration Issues

By Todd A. Heywood

ATLANTA -

The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force declared that immigration is a top policy priority in the coming years. The announcement was made by Rea Carey, executive director of the organization, during her annual state of the movement speech at the Creating Change Conference, held this year in Atlanta, over last weekend.

"We will continue to play a leadership role in partnering with immigration rights organizations in advocating for the many areas of comprehensive immigration reform that affect our community, including security for binational same-sex couples, respectful and appropriate treatment of transgender and HIV-positive immigrants; and ensuring that families are not separated for years on end as a result of our immigration laws," Carey told 3,000 activists. "Creating a path to citizenship is an LGBT issue."

The announcement was welcomed by Michigan organizations and activists.

"Equality Michigan finds the crusade against immigrants by extremist legislators to be a shameful and particularly harmful form of partisan politics," said Emily Dievendorf, policy director for Equality Michigan. "The path to citizenship is an LGBT priority. According to Immigration Equality, nearly half of the 39,000 multinational LGBT couples in the US are raising families. As a nation of immigrants, we should be helping these families realize the US American Dream. Instead we are promoting 'self-deportation' and showing them the exit door. With thousands of our LGBT brothers and sisters facing deportation, Equality Michigan continues to stand shoulder to shoulder with Immigration Equality, The Task Force, and our other movement partners in the efforts to end this oppression."

"Fairness and equality for all people is what matters," said David Garcia, executive director of Affirmations Community Center in Ferndale. "Immigration affects us all and the gay community has a responsibility to fight both for gay immigrants and fair immigration for all Americans. As a Mexican American gay rights advocate, I have been a vocal supporter of the Dream Act and fair, just, immigration policies for all people hoping to make a better life for themselves in America."

And for one youth leader in the immigration rights movement the announcement is important. Mohammad Abdollahi is an undocumented youth from Iran who has lived in the U.S. since he was a toddler. In 2008, he was one of several openly undocumented youth arrested during a protest at Sen. John McCain's Arizona offices. The activists were protesting for passage of the DREAM Act, which would provide a path to citizenship for young adults brought to the United States as children.

Abdollahi faced deportation to Iran, a county he had never visited and which speaks a language he does not speak or understand. Iran also executes gay people for same-sex sexual activity.

"The (Task Force) announcement was good because I think this might be the first time that many even consider undocuqueers as part of their own narrative as LGBTQ folks, and it does good in all of us recognizing that we are in the same struggle and such, so it was good in that regard," Abdollahi told BTL in an email. "(It's) a first step."

On Monday, numerous national LGBT organizations issued a statement in support of immigration equality including a path to citizenship for all undocumented residents of the country.

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