Immigration: Out Of The Shadows

Carlos Padilla: Program Coordinator, Queer Undocumented Immigrant Project United We Dream


"Regardless of if you are speaking about the school to prison pipeline, workers' rights, religion, healthcare etc... the more you challenge yourself, the greater impact you will have on the entire community and the closer you will be to achieving your ideal goals."

- Carlos Padilla, Program Coordinator, Queer Undocumented Immigrant Project

"The LGBT community must care about stopping all deportations, because everyday 1,100 people are separated from their families. The LGBT movement fights for the recognition of same-sex families; we understand the pain of being separated from our loved ones whether it's by a border or a legal document."

- Carlos Padilla, Program Coordinator, Queer Undocumented Immigrant Project

IMMIGRATION: Out Of The Shadows

Choice: Closely Aligned

Environment: Only Way To Win Is By Working Together

HOUSING: 'We Are All In This Together'

Labor: A Decades Long Partnership

1 How do the immigration movements and LGBT equality movements intersect?

The lived experience of LGBTQ people is complex; most people live in the intersection of oppression and issues. The LGBT Equality Movement and Immigration Movement confront unjust laws through political, legal and cultural campaigns. Most self-identified LGBT people in the United States have been institutionally oppressed due to their sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression. Undocumented and documented immigrants share a similar experience. Both movements have had to come out of metaphorical shadows or closets in order to address the issue that is oppressing their constituencies and to begin their journey for liberation. Intersectionality gives movements the opportunity to comprehensively address issues that harm LGBT and immigrant people and everyone who is connected to these individuals. Most importantly, 904,000 LGBT immigrants live in the United States.

2 What does it mean politically for LGBT equality activists to be engaged in the immigration fights, and why should they take up the banner?

LGBT equality activists can become engaged in the immigration fight three different ways: resources, action and support.

Resources: Investing in the fight monetarily or by providing access to certain networks, tools and opportunities. They can also help by providing services and intentional advocacy for LGBT immigrant issues.

Action: By engaging in direct actions that seek to improve the lives of LGBT immigrants. It's essential to keep a unified message that speaks to both movements' goals and to create an environment that values the personal story of LGBT immigrants in order to move political targets.

Support: It's essential for allies to educate themselves in order to speak about the needs of immigrants. Build intentional access to opportunities for immigrant folks to speak for themselves by uplifting their stories. But do not limit their capacity to only story telling; challenge hostile/unaware environments to continue creating safe spaces for all members of the community.

Taking these steps is important due to the current political, legal and cultural attitudes. Currently the country is highly polarized and taking an intersectional approach will bring back stability and keep both issues relevant. The Progressive movement will have a higher impact if we create a shared agenda for change.

3 Please share with our readers why you, as an out member of the LGBT community, are working on immigration equality.

I immigrated to the United States at the age of two, witnessed my family live in the shadows for more than a decade, and it wasn't until I decided to come out of the shadows as undocumented and out of the closet as a gay, that my family's vision for a better future became clear. The sense of empowerment that these actions created for me as an individual and for those who surround me provided us with a sense of security. I was finally directly addressing the issues that have limited individuals like myself to fully participate in America. As I grew older, I witnessed the rise of these two movements reach their full force. My experience in my everyday life also informed my decision to work on both issues. I know that if these two movements remained separate, politicians would take advantage of their vulnerability to frame scenarios that would put one movement against the other. This would have only further excluded members from our community. In 2010, this became an issue when Don't Ask Don't Tell and the DREAM Act were put up for a vote, and as someone who identifies as a member of both communities who was organizing locally to win both battles, I observed these divisions first hand. The reality was the LGBT and immigrant rights movements were not aligned. This is one of the reasons why we only passed the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell. This time around, we have built enough solidarity to achieve victories for both LGBTQ and immigrant communities.

4 What are you three big messages to the LGBT community about the immigration equality movement?

One, the LGBT community must care about stopping all deportations because everyday 1,100 people are separated from their families. The LGBT movement fights for the recognition of same-sex families; we understand the pain of being separated from our loved ones whether it's by a border or by a legal document.

Two, we must support immigration equality movements so we can achieve legal status in this country in order to end legal limits to our full participation in society. We should seek policies that shed light into shadows or closets to liberate people and strengthen our movements.

Three, it's crucial to diversify your analysis and to advocate with inclusivity. Regardless of if you are speaking about the school to prison pipeline, workers' rights, religion, healthcare etc... the more you challenge yourself, the greater impact you will have on the entire community and the closer you will be to achieving your ideal goals. People do not live single issued lives, let's address the various identities first and then allow for the numbers and policy to roll in.

5 Please explain what United We Dream does for those who may be unfamiliar with the organization.

United We Dream is the largest immigrant youth-led organization in the nation, a powerful nonpartisan network made up of 53 affiliate organizations in 26 states. We organize and advocate for the dignity and fair treatment of immigrant youth and families, regardless of immigration status, sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression. We seek to address the inequities and obstacles faced by immigrant youth and believe that by empowering immigrant youth, we can advance the cause of the entire community---justice for all immigrants.

We're driven by and accountable to our thousands of members across the country who make up our sustainable and robust grassroots network. We believe we can build power by organizing at the local, regional and national levels and aim to provide tools and resources to support our leaders and member organizations, as well as create meaningful alliances with other advocacy organizations.


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