Out4Citizenship blog

Help Keep ALL Families Together This Holiday Season

Are you spending the holidays with your family? Felipe isn’t.

Felipe, a gay man from Brazil, came to the U.S. to live with his older sister because his mom was sick and could no longer take care of him. Unable to move here legally, Felipe’s mom has missed countless Christmases, birthdays and even Felipe’s wedding. While Felipe is awaiting his green card, his sister is still undocumented. Felipe fears that he will soon be forced to live without her, just like he lives without his mother.Felipe

The holidays are a time of year when families are reunited and we get a chance to appreciate all the blessings we have. However, millions of families across the country will be faced with at least one empty seat at the table this year. Every day, 1,100 families are torn apart due to our country’s broken immigration.

You can help by spreading the word and sending an e-card that tells the story of families torn apart, people being brutalized and children living in fear because of this antiquated system.

As a nation, we pride ourselves on keeping families united, and our immigration policies should reflect our commitment to keep families together – all families. The LGBT community is standing side-by-side with our allies in the immigrant rights community to pass comprehensive reform because immigration is an LGBT issue.

There are 11 million women, men and children – including an estimated 267,000 LGBT immigrants – whose lives hang in the balance while Congress sits on their hands. LGBT immigrants face unique challenges. Many of them come to America because they face serious violence or persecution in their home countries due to their sexual orientation or gender identity. Once here, however, they have difficulties navigating the asylum-filing process and are vulnerable to discrimination, abuse and injustice in detention centers.

Unfortunately, there are thousands of LGBT immigrants in the U.S. who face unspeakable hardships. People like Krypcia, a transgender woman who came to the U.S. because she knew she could not transition safely in her native country of El Salvador. After establishing a life here, Krypcia was detained for falling out of legal immigration status. Although no criminal charges were brought against her, she spent nearly eight grueling months in solitary confinement because officials didn’t want to house her with other male or female detainees. Now, Krypcia is thankful to be her true self in a country she calls home, but there are still millions of people who desperately need immigration reform.

It’s time for Congress to put the political pettiness aside and allow a vote to help fix this broken system for good. Families should no longer have to spend the holidays missing their loved ones or scared they will be torn apart. Help us share Felipe’s and Krypcia’s stories and the stories of other LGBT immigrants whose lives have been torn apart because of our nation’s failed immigration policies. Send an e-card and sign the pledge to demand Congress act now to pass immigration reform that keeps families together.

LGBT Coalition for Immigration Reform Stands in Solidarity with Fast For Families on National Day to Act, Fast and Pray


NQAPIA, NCTE, CAP and the Equality Caucus show their support for Fast for Families

Members of the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance, National Center for Transgender Equality, Center for American Progress, and the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus show their support for Fast for Families

WASHINGTON, D.C.  - The nation’s leading lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) organizations applauded the strength and courage of the men and women who have been fasting for more than 20 days to highlight the need for comprehensive immigration reform.

The LGBT community offered their support to the brave Fasters and several LGBT leaders fasted in solidarity, including:

  • Heather Cronk and Felipe Sousa-Rodriguez, GetEQUAL
  • Ben de Guzman, National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance
  • Sharita Gruberg and Laura Durso, Center for American Progress
  • Mara Keisling, National Center for Transgender Equality

"I am proud to stand in solidarity with the courageous fasters later this week, as I fast for immigration reform myself," said Heather Cronk, co-director of GetEQUAL. "The fearlessness of the immigration fasters stands in stark contrast to the political cowardice of House GOP leadership, who continue to stand defiantly in the way of reforming our broken immigration system. We continue to look to Republican leadership in the House to not only end the fast, but also end the pain of millions of families across the country who live in fear each day because of this broken system."

The LGBT community is committed to passing compassionate, comprehensive immigration reform that will provide a roadmap for citizenship for the 11 million undocumented men, women and children living in our country, including at least 267,000 LGBT undocumented immigrants.

Every day Congress fails to reform our broken immigration system, 1,100 families are torn apart. As a nation, we pride ourselves on keeping families united, and our immigration policies should reflect our commitment to keep families together – all families.

Bishop Gene Robinson, the first openly gay Anglican bishop and a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, has visited with the Fasters every evening since last Friday and led them in prayer.

“The Fast For Families experience is inspiring, courageous and holy,” said Bishop Robinson.  “What an honor to stand with them as they fast on behalf of those who want to become contributing American citizens but are denied by the House of Representatives' refusal to bring Immigration Reform to a vote. As LGBT people, and from our own experiences, we recognize injustice when we see it.  And when human beings are treated unjustly, we all must rise up together in solidarity with them.”


Coalition partners include: Center for American Progress, Equality Federation, GetEQUAL, GLAAD, Lambda Legal, The National Center for Lesbian Rights, National Center for Transgender Equality, The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance and United We Dream’s Queer Undocumented Immigrant Project.

Meet Krypcia

On National Coming Out Day, Out4Citizenship is highlighting the importance of LGBT immigrants sharing their stories and the power these stories have to move comprehensive immigration reform forward.  We’re bringing the stories of immigration and LGBT advocates, like Krypcia, who have come out with their stories because they know that their lived experiences are the strongest advocacy tools they have.  We hope you’ll be inspired by these advocates and visit http://www.out4citizenship.org/ and share your story as well.

Krypcia came to the United States from El Salvador but was arrested in 2010 for failing to pay a cab fare.  Her fine was only $80. She ended up spending eight months in a number of immigration detention facilities because she had fallen out of legal status.  Because the name on her documents is male, she was placed with male immigrants where the bathrooms had open stalls and she was forced to shower with men.  Guards at the facilities didn’t want to give her women’s underwear because they said she was not a woman.  During her eight months in detention, Krypcia was repeatedly placed in solitary confinement for long periods of time and only let outside for 30 minutes each day.  The guards said they did this for her own protection because they were worried about her being abused by the men if she was placed with the general population.  Finally, an immigration judge decided she would be persecuted because of her gender identity if she was deported back to El Salvador and allowed her to stay in the U.S.

Today, Krypcia has taken her experiences in immigration detention and become a vocal advocate for immigration reform and improved conditions for transgender people in immigration detention.  She works with Casa Ruby and the National Center for Transgender Equality to tell her story and raise awareness of what happens to transgender people in immigration detention so that other transgender immigrants will no longer face the conditions and treatment she did. When asked why she does the work she does, Krypcia says, “Because up until today, there are people who are giving testimony and who have shared their detention/deportation stories, but it’s all inside what’s considered the straight world.  I’m not ashamed to talk about this at all, telling our story is how we can make sure others don’t fall into the same situation.”

See why other LGBT advocates are speaking out for immigration reform in this video and tell your story about why you support comprehensive immigration reform that will provide a roadmap to citizenship for the 11 million aspiring Americans, including 267,000 LGBT immigrants.

Why I Believe in Pride

ALEJANDRA ESTRADA Undocumented Gay Immigrant

Ale's story was originally posted on http://www.lgbtqnation.com/2013/06/why-i-believe-in-pride/  

This month is all about Pride: being proud of who you are, and unafraid to stand up for what you believe in. As a gay, undocumented immigrant, that has not always been easy for me.

From a young age, my parents taught me that there was one aspect of our lives we weren’t supposed to discuss: our immigration status.

I came to the United States from Mexico when I was three months old. This is the only home I know. But from the time I was old enough to talk, my father instructed me to tell people that I was from Nevada, not Mexico. My mom, dad and older sister were also undocumented, and my parents lived in constant fear of our family being torn apart.


LGBT DREAMers (from left): Jose Mendoza (Los Angeles), Carla Lopez (Oakland, CA), Alejandra “Ale” Estrada (Las Vegas, NV), and Luis Liang (Berkeley, CA), have been been invited to the White House Pride reception, and are all DACA recipients.

When I was in the first grade and my teacher asked where we were all from, I told her I was from Mexico and Nevada. My teacher was visibly confused, but my classmates were just impressed I was from two places.

As I grew up, the reality of my undocumented status weighed on me. Without a social security number, I couldn’t do all the other things my friends were doing, like apply for college. The more I thought about these limitations, the more I felt hopeless and helpless. So I pushed my immigration status out of my mind.

This month during Pride, I celebrate my dual coming out: as a proud member of the LGBT community and as an undocumented immigrant who has been fortunate to get relief through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which grants deferred immigration action for certain undocumented young people who came to the U.S. as children, and have pursued military service or education in the U.S. Because of support from the LGBT DREAMers Fund, I was able to pay the fees required to apply for the DACA program.

As a DACA recipient, I am now legally authorized to work in the U.S. and am no longer living under a threat of deportation. I know there are millions of undocumented immigrants who are still living in the shadows, afraid to share their immigration status.

This week I, along with other LGBT immigrants, have been invited to the White House Pride reception, where President Obama will talk about issues relevant to the LGBT community, including the challenges facing LGBT immigrants like me.

I am eternally thankful to President Obama for creating the DACA program. I look forward to telling him that this Pride month, I stand in support of the next step – compassionate, comprehensive immigration reform that will allow more LGBT immigrants – and all immigrants – to live their lives with Pride.

Putting our nation’s undocumented men, women and children on a pathway to citizenship will give at least 267,000 undocumented LGBT people the opportunity to become full participants in our economy and democracy, and should be an urgent priority for our community.

The current Senate reform bill represents a significant improvement for the LGBT community. Among other things, it eliminates the one-year bar on applying for asylum, provides additional protections for DREAMers like me and improves conditions for people held in detention facilities. I urge you to join me in calling leaders in both chambers of Congress and on both sides of the aisle to ensure these protections remain intact in the final legislation.

Our outdated immigration system dehumanizes, scapegoats and vilifies all immigrants. We desperately need to reform the system so that all immigrants – including LGBT immigrants – can live their lives with Pride.

Alejandra “Ale” Estrada resides in Las Vegas and dreams of going back to school and majoring in early childhood development.

Keep Our Families Together: Commonsense Immigration Reform Now!

Jaan and Pri represent just one of the 24,700 same-sex binational couples living in the United States.  The Senate Judiciary Committee's decision not to include an amendment that would have allowed gay and lesbian Americans to sponsor their partners in immigration reform means that these families face the very real possibility of being forced apart. Jaan and Pri's story was originally posted on http://www.pridesource.com/article.html?article=60768

I met my wife Pri at a Queer Student and Allies meeting in college. I noticed Pri when she walked in; she was beautiful, laughing and smiling with her friends. After the meeting ended, everyone mingled. I wanted to say “hi,” but Pri was surrounded by people chatting and I decided to hold off.

When the next meeting came around, Pri stayed after and we started talking. I had just figured out that I was a transgender man—I hadn’t come out yet to anyone. When we finished talking, Pri turned to walk away and, without thinking, I blurted out, “We should see a movie some time.” A few weeks later we were dating.

Pri and I have been together for over seven years. Spending time with her is my favorite thing in the entire world. We’ve been through a lot in our time together, but nothing has tested us more than navigating our country’s outdated immigration system.

Pri came to the U.S. from India with a student visa and has been able to stay through a series of training and work visas. Every year and a half, we have to go through the same application process, followed by months of waiting. When Pri applied for her most recent visa, we waited weeks after the expected date to find out if she would be allowed to stay in the country. Each day we faced the possibility of having our family torn apart. Because I was still identified as female on some legal paperwork, I was unable to sponsor Pri for citizenship. This meant that if her work visa didn’t come through, Pri would have no choice but to leave me, and the U.S., behind.

When we finally heard the news that Pri’s application had been accepted, we hugged, kissed, and sat down on the bed. After a few moments, my joy turned to anger that I couldn’t sponsor Pri for citizenship. As an American citizen, there was nothing that I could do to save my family from the looming terror of what might happen if her visa wasn’t approved the next time around.

I’m lucky to be a resident of Michigan, where two courageous transgender women fought to make the state’s policies for changing the gender on your birth certificate more straightforward and accessible. Because of them, I was able to update my identification and marry the love of my life in front of our friends and family. Since our wedding, one of the happiest days of my life, we’ve filed the paperwork so that I can sponsor Pri for a spousal visa. We can’t wait until the day that we’re done waiting, and the stress and uncertainty are lifted from our lives.

Unfortunately, for the 28,500 same-sex binational couples living in the United States, the wait is far from over. And many other couples like Pri and me—different sex couples where one spouse is transgender—continue to struggle under a restrictive web of laws on gender, marriage and immigration. The Senate Judiciary Committee’s decision to strip immigration reform of an amendment that would have allowed gay and lesbian Americans to sponsor their partners for immigration means that these families face the very real possibility of being forced apart.

I know how painful it is to have the future of your family constantly in jeopardy. Lawmakers should not have to make a false choice between protecting the rights of LGBT people and their families and passing compassionate, commonsense immigration reform that keeps families together. As Congress continues to debate this important reform, Pri and I hope that this take-it-or-leave-it stance with regard to LGBT couples is left behind. Our country desperately needs immigration reform, and LGBT families like mine desperately need relief from the fear and uncertainty that have haunted us for too long.

LGBTQ Dreamer: Immigration Reform Should Include Our Parents Too

Guest post by Jorge Gutierrez, coordinator for the Queer Undocumented Immigrant Project (QUIP), a project of United We Dream, a member of the coalition. Jorge's story was originally posted at http://www.advocate.com/commentary/2013/06/05/op-ed-gay-dreamer-says-immigration-reform-should-include-our-parents-too

My mother is a lioness, a woman with a second-grade education but with plenty of compassion, intelligence and wisdom. She inspired me to have the courage to say proudly and unashamedly: I am queer and undocumented. I am UndocuQueer.

Like me, my mother is also undocumented. But while I have access to a pathway to citizenship under proposed immigration legislation because I am college educated, she does not.  That is not okay.

I vividly remember my family’s days in Nayarit, Mexico, when there were times where we had no food to eat, but my amazing mother would knock on doors trying to find jobs to provide a meal for my siblings and me. Eighteen years later she is still as hard working as ever and still willing to do anything and everything for her children. My mom has been a domestic worker for over 15 years, enduring backbreaking work as a babysitter and housekeeper, as well as humiliation, discrimination, too often getting paid way below minimum wage. For her, the most painful part has been the many times she missed our school events, parent meetings and family dinners with me and my siblings because she would leave early in the morning and return late at night. She would apologize to us with tears in her eyes; I never questioned her love and her commitment to my well-being and happiness.

This is the same woman who fully embraced and accepted me when I came out to her as gay. I remember that moment vividly. I was 15. It was a Saturday evening at the intersection of 17th St and Main in Santa Ana, California. She had just picked me up from my part-time job, we came to a red light and she suddenly asked me “¿Te gustan los niños o las niñas?” (“Do you like boys or girls”) Shocked, I stayed silent for a few seconds, but I finally responded “Me gustan los niños” (Well, of course at the time it was boys, but now I like men!). The light turned green and she turned into the nearest parking lot and told me to get out of the car; I became terrified. Stiff, she got out of the car too, walked around the car and with tears in her eyes she hugged me and told me “Como madre solo puedo aceptarte, amarte y protegerte.” (“All I can do as a mother is accept, love and protect you”). At that moment, her hug and her words transformed my life forever and I began to lose all the fear and shame I had been carrying since I was a child. Since then she has supported me as her queer son and inspired me to get involved in my community.

Now I must stand in solidarity with her as an undocumented woman, mother and domestic worker just as she’s stood with me all these years as her UndocuQueer son.

I will not be okay with benefiting from immigration reform if she’s left out because of unfair and unrealistic roadblocks that prevent her access to a pathway to citizenship. The proposed work or income requirements in the proposed immigration reform would exclude many immigrants like my mom from becoming a citizen because they work as day laborers or domestic workers or at minimum wage jobs. And the reality is that many lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) undocumented people are also working minimum wage jobs to support themselves and their families here. Many LGBTQ people are also out of work because of discrimination because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, these requirements would also exclude them.

None of us should be okay with immigration reform that leaves out the mothers…and the fathers, grandparents and siblings of LGBTQ and straight immigrants.

Jorge Gutiérrez’s story is told in the film Papers: Stories of Undocumented Youth, a documentary that aims to humanize the daily struggles of many immigrants.