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What Does Solidarity Look Like in 2011?

December 26, 2010 Leave a comment

Back in July, I wrote about then recent observations of the relationship between the Latino and the LGBT communities. The observations were made while attending Netroots Nation and I was feeling especially hopeful that both communities were genuinely interested in building a bridge to each other, especially since this was the first real overture I had ever witnessed from the LGBT movement to address its abysmal record on diversity and outreach to people of color.  At a day-long LGBT pre-conference event, immigration was a breakout subject all its own and many of the attendees talked at length about the need for the LGBT rights movement to stand in solidarity with the fight for fair and just immigration reform. Recognizing the secret life and the kind of closet undocumented immigrants live in seemed to resonate with the largely white, gay male bloggers who were in attendance.  Witnessing these activists having robust conversations about how both movements can join forces in order to affect greater and more positive change was an encouraging sign that things were about to change going forward.

Of course, this was months before the devastating mid-term elections and the historic lame-duck Congressional work session that had everyone biting their nails in anticipation. This was before political maneuvering cast doubt on the passage of the DREAM Act (important to the Latino community) and the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (important to the LGBT community). And, it was before the U.S. Senate dashed any hopes that these two communities could work together, as it did when the august body scheduled both DREAM and DADT repeal for votes in the last remaining weeks of the session. In a Congress that was as politically charged and partisan as this one, it seemed nearly impossible to ask the Senate to consider (gasp!) two difficult votes that would mean a great deal to both communities fighting for them. Suffice it to say that all that talk of building bridges and standing strong together went out the window as both communities galvanized their networks for the fight that lay before them.

We all know what has happened since then. The DREAM Act and Latinos got the shaft and DADT repeal passed and was subsequently signed into law just days later. The president says he is confident repeal will happen in a matter of months, not years, and before long the United States will join the rest of the developed world in its attitude toward LGB men and women in the armed forces. This is fantastic news and, while I’m still a vocal critic of the military who has many reservations about a standing army, I recognize what this means in the name of advancing equality and I wholeheartedly welcome the change.

Now that repeal has happened, however, I’m wondering if there is still interest in the LGBT community to restart that conversation that was started last July. It is pretty clear now that the LGBT rights movement is not going to have any other legislative victories akin to the repeal of DADT anytime soon. True, the president has said that he wants to see DOMA repealed but that’s a two to four year time frame we’re talking about and the reality is that the movement shouldn’t really expect to see the White House or the Congress do much to advance its issues in the next two years.

Given that reality, I humbly suggest that the LGBT rights movement do everything it can to continue that show of solidarity with the Latino community and pour energy into getting the next Congress to make the DREAM Act a reality. Now, I don’t think that we should rest on our laurels with the DADT repeal. We should continue the fight for equality, but we should also take the opportunity to show to the world just how inclusive and thoughtful the LGBT movement can be. Now is the chance to show Latinos, and indeed all LGBT people of color, that the movement cares about them and values them enough to help them take up arms in the fight against bigotry, racism and xenophobia even if its a fight that will help only a very select group of people. Indeed, the repeal of DADT has no effect on me whatsoever, but I supported the fight nonetheless. So did thousands of the DREAMers (many of which happen to be gay, I might add) who thought it was an unjust law.

Now is the time for the LGBT movement to get involved in the immigration struggle. Just this week, the White House announced an all-out grassroots campaign to get Congress to act on DREAM.

From HuffPost’s Amanda Terkel:

On a conference call with journalists Wednesday (12/22/2010), White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer said the President is willing to “wage a very public campaign” to push the DREAM Act, which would grant undocumented students who were brought into the United States as minors by their parents a path to citizenship through higher education or military service. He added that grassroots activism will be essential to success.

The emphasis on the last sentence is mine. If there’s anything I’ve learned in the last few years is that LGBT activism is a force to be reckoned with. I’ve seen the intense lobbying, fundraising, and activism efforts the LGBT movement mobilizes when it needs to, and together with the Latino community, we could expose the worst of our national legislators and present a united front in the call for justice and equality. If the LGBT movement really wants to make inroads with the Latino community, it will heed this call and begin to lay the groundwork for the coming fight. And, for all you partisan Dems out there, imagine how the party could capitalize on a united effort between LGBT’s and Latinos working together to fight for immigration reform.

As you can imagine, the Latino community has been working feverishly to plan for the next Congress and it is working with the White House to explore the administrative courses of action available to the president.

As the New York Times put it:

Mr. Obama doesn’t need Congress to curb the Department of Homeland Security, which is deporting at a record pace many of the very people he says deserve a chance to stay. That means reforming Secure Communities, a fingerprinting program that will soon turn every local police department in the country into an arm of Immigration and Customs Enforcement – a looming disaster for public safety and good policing. He can tell border agents to stop harassing and scaring innocent people.

He can halt deportations of students who would have qualified for the Dream Act, under the time-honored practice of deferred action for those who pose no threat. He can have the Labor Department redouble efforts to expose wage-and-hour violations endemic in the immigrant workplace.

Perhaps most important, he can stop enabling the Republicans who are itching to make things worse. He can defend against the propaganda that all illegal immigrants are by definition a class of criminals instead of people trapped in a web of bad laws, misguided policies and squandered potential. And he can repudiate the myth that all America’s immigration problems will be solved at the Mexican border.

Communities of color, especially LGBT’s, are paying close attention to what the LGBT rights movement does next. Its leaders would do well to show their commitment to communities of color by getting on board with this fight and doing what is right in the name of equality for all.

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