Reform for a Chance to Live - An Undocuqueer Experience

Reform for a Chance to Live - An Undocuqueer Experience

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I came to the United States when I was 12 years old. My mother and I had not only hoped for a better life, but also to escape from an exploitative relationship with my father. We left everything and everyone behind to find freedom. Life wasn’t easy when we got here, but I was sure that as long as we are away from my father, we would live a proper life and I could be myself.

All that was shattered when my mom told me, just as I was looking into applying to college, that we were undocumented. I felt helpless and defeated. But I wasn’t angry at anyone, especially not my mom, for what she had decided to do in order for us to survive. I was just scared.

I had already told my mom about my sexual orientation and was very aware of the discrimination encountered by people who are queer. Being both undocumented and queer meant I felt locked out of two different worlds.

With my new identities, I quickly learned to choose between coming out as queer or as undocumented because bearing just one identity was easier than being punished as both.

In many cases, this is the choice that many undocumented queer people are forced to make to survive, to sustain at least one part of their freedom and dignity living in this country. The choice weighs even more for women of color and transgender individuals, those who receiving unequal treatment because of who they are.

After the striking down of a section of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), many assumed things would become easier for queer undocumented immigrants and forgot about the bigger battle for immigration reform. That assumption overlooks the fact that marriage is the only available path to legal residency for a queer undocumented person, and same-sex marriage is only legal in 15 states.

Looking at the history of immigration, both women and LGBTQ individuals face a tougher path. For instance, women often need to be dependents of men to be able to migrate because they tend to have less access to education or job experience that would make us better candidates to migrate. This has been a systemic problem in immigration that women, the foundation of every society, cannot reach their dream or be independent from their spouses. For the LGBTQ population, existing laws still purposefully exclude same-sex couples, who still can’t get married in a majority of U.S. states, and queer people are still battling on multiple fronts for immigration reform.

That is why the need for change is greater than ever. We must act to keep families together and make pathways for new Americans to come to the United States.

Immigration reform is about upholding the American image as a nation of immigrants who dream of a better life. For me, as an undocumented queer woman of color, immigration reform is about fighting for a chance to live.

Immigration reform isn’t just about the undocumented population. Immigration is a LGBTQ issue that affects thousands of binational couples and their ability to stay together as a family. Immigration is, without a doubt, an Asian Pacific Islander (API) issue as we see more and more of the 1.2 million undocumented API immigrants come out of shadows because we can no longer live with the fear of possibly being separated from our families. Even if policymakers have declared the death of immigration reform this year, we must continue to push ahead. As someone who shares the experience of being queer, undocumented and a woman, I am calling for reforms that will give equal access to people who want to migrate to the country, regardless of whom they love or what gender they are.

Amy Lin, 21, is a member of ASPIRE (Asian Students Promoting Immigrant Rights through Education), the first pan-Asian undocumented youth-led organization in the U.S. She is a student at University of California, Los Angeles, where she is studying political science and labor and workplace studies.

This column is part of New America Media’s series “Coming Out for Immigration Reform,” written by LGBT rights activists and sponsored by the Four Freedoms Fund.