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If you tuned into Colbert Robert last night, you heard the new face of the DREAM Act and Pulitzer Prize-winner, Jose Antonio Vargas, declare that “we live in a great country that doesn’t deport gay people, so I’m very very happy about that.”
Colbert is satire and I want to believe that Jose meant that as satire (and Jose did confirm this after witnessing the anger of certain young immigrants) but he doesn’t expound on it enough for it to come across well. Many people probably did not blink an eye because gayness is so intrinsically tied to whiteness in America. I’d love to see Jose use his platform more to deconstruct notions of whiteness and queerness, especially while I’m sitting at the NLG office on a late Thursday evening pouring over queer asylum declarations from clients who are fighting to stay in this country because they will be raped, tortured and murdered if they go back to the home(land).
Here’s a truth: queer young adult immigrants are disproportionately more likely to be in removal proceedings than their straight counterparts.
Wrap your head around that for a second.
It is a trend or reality that I have noticed while observing immigration court proceedings in San Francisco. I have run across several queer young undocumented immigrants who are in removal proceedings for the sole reason that they aged-out on family petitions. Most of the peers I came across were also strikingly accomplished. Then again, survival is an accomplishment in this brutal system but I mean accomplished in the sense that they were in graduate school or had finished graduate school. Some are working as lawyers after passing the California State Bar. But of course, these are the lucky queer immigrants actually getting due process. Many don’t even make it to American shores and languish as refugees for years, separated from their homes, families and partners.
For those who do make it to America, the consequences of being a queer immigrant are immense and not limited to deportation or death. Unlike their straight siblings, young queer immigrants cannot adjust their status through marriage. Oftentimes families try to force their adult children into a heterosexual marriage in order to get papers. It’s something that I’ve had to fight for a long time. And quite often, queer immigrant youth find themselves abused and thrown out of their homes, with nowhere to go. Left to a system with literally nowhere to turn, some of us try to kill ourselves. And many of us are at this very moment, in deportation proceedings.
Then we have the humongous problem of American citizens and legal residents who cannot sponsor their partners and spouses to stay in the United States. Just read the story of how the United States is trying to separate Frances and Takako and sign this petition. Even if you think that bi-national couples is a privileged white-gay centric issue, I think we can all agree at some point that separating two people who love each other is simply not okay.
America does deport gay people. Immigrants can be gay. Jose Antonio Vargas is one of many queer immigrants. Lets not forget that. This isn’t satire. It is our lives.