Growing up queer and brown was not as bad as growing up as an immigrant with a temporary protected status in the city of Los Angeles. I grew up in a mixed-status family with anxiety of the possibility that some of my cousins, uncles, and aunts could easily be deported back to Mexico or El Salvador and fear that I would never see them again.
We made history Thursday night with President Obama’s new set of immigration policies. I felt exhausted by all its limitations but extremely happy for my friends and family members that will attain a small form of protection. I was thrilled that my friend Karen, an American-born citizen will not be losing her father to the massive deportation machine. I was reminded of my favorite aunt and uncle who will be able to stay here in the states under Obama’s new executive order because they have one American daughter. I was excited that my two DACA-recipient (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) cousins will continue their educational path by being granted an extra three years of momentary relief.
While all of this is great news, I can’t help but find the problems and limitations that this new executive order has, as well. I will not personally benefit from these policies and will continue to live in a state of limbo. My 7-year-old cousin will not be protected from family separation as his father was detained for driving without a license and currently faces deportation. Petty crimes will continue to be used as a reason to deport millions of people, leaving families broken and socially shifting gender roles for nuclear, heteronormative families.
After the speech, I had a moment of reflect on the prevalent ideologies that surround the discourse of immigrant rights and immigration reform in this country. I noticed the language that President Obama used and how narrow and incredibly exclusive it was. His ideas of what broken families look like exclude a big part of my identity as a member of the LGBT community. His policies did not guarantee any relief to all of us who aren’t in a closet but still living in the shadows due to being excluded from mainstream discourses of immigrant rights.
Discussions around immigrant rights needs to be nationally addressed using an intersectional framework where all people are viewed as equal and can be positively affected by an inclusive bill. Immigrants are not just heterosexual, cisgender brown bodies; they are from nations all over the world, different classes, genders, sexualities, and abilities. Clearly, not all immigrants will receive relief from deportation and marginalization with these new policies. It has reminded me that we have so much organizing to do within our communities to create immigration reform for all of us, not just some of us. The many bodies that occupy the “immigrant” space must collectively address what our needs are and not allow mainstream discussions of immigrant rights exclude our experiences.