“It is open season on the Latino community in Arizona. In Phoenix, Tucson, and across the state, people in Latino neighborhoods are afraid to leave their houses, afraid to be apart from their children for even a minute, and afraid to walk the streets because they feel their arrest on suspicion of being an undocumented immigrant could happen at any moment. It is a horrifying glimpse at what our future holds across the country if we continue down the path the Obama administration is leading us on immigration.” – Congressman Luis Gutierrez, Huffington Post
This election season has seen the return of the scourge of the Mexican immigrant, the identified source of all problems in the United States. The state of Arizona has seen fit to pass a clearly unconstitutional law giving law enforcement virtually unlimited power to question and detain any person they want, demanding ID’s birth certificates, green cards. The bill, SB 1070, while not signed by the governor yet, sits as a sword of Damocles over the head of the Latino community in Arizona.
So, can’t they do that anyway? Well, yes police should be able to question “suspicious” people, monitoring people with criminal records, acting suspiciously not just because that person is brown.
Law enforcement used to do the same things to gay and lesbian people many moons ago. There were the laws that prevented two people of the same gender from dancing together. We could not gather in places for socializing without fear of police raids. Anyone remember Stonewall? Our forefathers and foremothers always faced the threat of arrest for gathering in a public place.
Many of us sit at that intersection of being brown and queer. We are either immigrants, children of immigrants or grandchildren of immigrants. In a country where grown men are parading around in wigs and funny hats, packing guns, with brown people the target of their concern and their guns it is absolutely a moral imperative that queers of all colors recognize this for the social justice issue it is.
We have been targeted by laws and elections, made to be the identified problem, the others, the outliers who don’t deserve equality nor civil rights. Latinos and queers, queers and Latinos, Latino/a queers, queer Latina/o we live outside the circle of normal people in the US.
We live in cities with Spanish names, San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, El Paso, Santa Fe, San Jose, in a Spanish named state, California and Texas. We eat at restaurants where the staff is Latino/a, they wash our dishes, our cars and sometimes clean our houses.
The argument that undocumented people have broken the law and therefore cannot have a path to citizenship is a red herring. In years past, it was illegal for two people of the same gender to have sex. It was illegal to gather and dance together. And it is still legal to discriminate against us in our relationships, work and public accommodations in many states. We can make some people uncomfortable just by our presence. That doesn’t make us criminals. We are all the outliers.
For us as queer Latinos, it is our families in Arizona that are under attack. Since we all have different priorities and for many of us, this immigration battle in Arizona takes precedence over DADT or ENDA. Hopefully we can chew gum and be activists on many fronts all at once.
For us as queer people of this land, we have a history that many of us have drilled into our heads.
We didn’t cross the borders, the borders crossed us.
Si se puede, egualidad en nuestras vidas.