Immigration is an issue that touches the LGBT community directly.  Some LGBT people are immigrants, some are assumed to be immigrants because of their appearance, some are undocumented, some like me are married to “aliens” (gotta love that term) who we are unable to sponsor for citizenship because of DOMA.  But even at a more basic level, LGBT people understand too well what it means to be brutalized and demonized simply for being who we are.  

Looking forward to President Obama’s remarks tomorrow on the need for comprehensive immigration reform, which must include the Uniting American Families Act, I want to share some poll results that were released a few weeks ago.  A new Harris Interactive poll conducted in conjunction with Witeck-Combs Communications measured people’s response to Arizona’s new draconian immigration law and found this:

With Arizona’s controversial new state immigration law due to go into effect this July, a recent national survey reveals that a clear majority of 63% of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgender (LGBT) individuals oppose these policies, with 45% expressing strong opposition.

In sharp contrast, and as in other national opinion polls, 6 out of 10 (60%) heterosexual adults who also have seen, read or heard about Arizona’s forthcoming statute say they support Arizona’s new immigration policies, with 41% saying they strongly support these changes.

Let me reiterate:

  • 63% of LGBTs oppose the AZ law, 45% strongly.
  • 33% of Heterosexuals oppose the AZ law, 22% strongly.

    Reflecting general LGBT sentiment, LGBT organizations including Equality Federation, an alliance of over 50 of our state-level advocacy organizations were very quick to speak out against the Arizona law.  

    The LGBT community knows all too well how easily people who “look different” or “act different” can be singled out for harassment and persecution. LGBT immigrants will be doubly vulnerable under this law, which gives license to discriminate.

    It is heartening to get confirmation that the majority of LGBT individuals as well as our organizations take to heart the oppression of other identity groups we as individuals may or may not belong to.  

    This confirmation is also especially important as we continue to build and strengthen our coalitions.  And after all, coalition support needs to flow in both directions, and immigrant groups have certainly been there and continue to be there for LGBTs.  Just as we LGBTs are standing now in opposition to Arizona’s draconian immigration law, a large number of immigrant groups from a diverse array of communities support the Uniting American Families Act and its inclusion in comprehensive immigration reform.  Among that list is also, significantly, a large group of faith communities.  According to Steve Ralls, Director of Communications at Immigration Equality, here are a few:

    The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) has been very outspoken in its support.  MALDEF’s president, Tom Saenz, identified LGBT inclusion as one of the group’s top priorities for comprehensive reform . . . and he gave a keynote address as the last Creating Change Conference outlining the benefits of the LGBT and Latino communities partnering on the issue.

    The Asian American Justice Center has also been a steadfast ally to LGBT binational families.  AAJC is a key voice – if not the key voice – on immigration issues related to family unification.  And they have stood with LGBT families in ensuring that we are included in the definition of family unification.

    The Center for Community Change – a large, very well-respected voice on immigration reform – has also endorsed UAFA in comprehensive immigration reform.  CCC is a major player on immigration reform on the Hill, and represents a very diverse base of supporters.

    And, on the religious side, we have great support, too.  The Methodist Church; the United Church of Christ; the Unitarians; the Episcopal Church and others have been with Immigration Equality, on Capitol Hill, working for an inclusive bill.

    The power of coalitions was well demonstrated here in Washington during the successful Approve 71 campaign to preserve the domestic partnership law at the polls, as numerous coalition partners representing communities of color and immigration concerns lent their support to the campaign to protect all of Washington’s families.

    Honestly I don’t think the reciprocal support we see among LGBT and immigrant groups should come as a surprise.  We’re natural allies because we’re all just people who, through a shared experience with a hostile majority, have come to understand this basic common truth expressed so well by Estela Ortega, Executive Director of El Centro de la Raza:

    There isn’t just one type of family in our communities. We are a diverse community, with diverse families. They all deserve legal protections and to be treated fairly under the law especially during these times of economic uncertainty.