SAN FRANCISCO – For a 22-year-old graduate of UC Davis, just watching undocumented youth march in the San Francisco Pride Parade for the first time was “empowering.”
“Not only are these brave individuals speaking out on behalf of themselves, they are speaking out on behalf of friends, relatives, loved ones, and peers who for one reason or another may not be able to step out into the light just yet,” said the graduate, who requested that her named not be used. “It is about educating those who are unaware of the movement that is going on and about empowering ourselves through the merging of two identities that have been oppressed on various levels throughout the years.”
The young people, known as DREAMers – undocumented immigrant youth who would benefit from the federal DREAM Act – carried a banner with one message for President Obama: “Thank you President Obama for your support, but we need full legalization to protect our families.”
The message, intentionally written with a double meaning, was a response to two different announcements made by President Obama: Last month, Obama announced his support for same-sex marriage; and last week he said he would halt the deportation of some undocumented young people through “deferred action.”
Members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender (LGBT) community saw his support of same-sex marriage as a first step toward full legal rights. Likewise, undocumented youth saw Obama’s memo to halt deportations as a first step toward full legalization through a federal bill such as the DREAM Act, which would grant permanent residency to qualifying young people who had graduated high school and were enrolled in college or the military.
For those who identify as LGBT and undocumented, the Pride Parade was an opportunity to respond to both statements as a collective group.
“It’s a great opportunity to make that connection with the LGBT movement and immigration rights,” said Olga Talamante, one of this year’s Pride Grand Marshals who rode in a car alongside the DREAMers.
Talamante, executive director of the Chicana/Latina Foundation, said she reached out to some of the leaders in the DREAM Act movement and other undocumented queer young people to see if they wanted to participate in this year’s pride parade in a more visible way. “We must honor and pay tribute to the work [of DREAMers],” she said. “Because the work they do connects both the LGBT rights with that of the undocumented movement.”
DREAMers marched with about 50 posters by local Bay Area artist Julio Salgado that portray colorful cartoon portraits of queer undocumented youth with the tagline, “I am undocuqueer.” According to Salgado, 28, this was the first year they marched with his posters, which he created in the last year to bring greater visibility to a group of people who have traditionally been in the shadows, both as undocumented immigrants and members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender (LGBT) community.
“We’re not living as single-identified people,” said Salgado. “We always want to single down or bring it down to a single oppression, but it’s not like that. We should care about all the issues that affect both communities.”
“Within the LGBT community there are many deportations, especially for our trans brothers and sisters who are also immigrants,” he said.
Blanca Hernandez, 29, is an organizer with the Bay Area Dream Team, a group of undocumented youth working on civil rights issues. By bridging the gaps between the two movements, Hernandez said, LGBT and immigrant communities can form a more powerful political force.
“It is more than simply soaking the sun and being out on a Sunday to celebrate the LGBT movement,” Hernandez said. “Until that gap is [bridged],” she said, “they can [not] gain … more momentum.”
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