While outside covering the rallies during the oral arguments of Hollingsworth v. Perry, the case regarding California’s Proposition 8, Campus Progress had the opportunity to talk with an LGBT undocumented citizen named Imelda Plascencia, who describes herself as “undocumented, unafraid, queer and unashamed.”
LGBT undocumented immigrants face a unique struggle. They share the struggle of being shamed into silence for their status in the view of society. Undocumented LGBT persons have to, in a sense, “come out” twice: once to express their sexual orientation and again to reveal they're without papers.
“Being a part of the undocumented and LGBTQ communities is very unique,” Plascencia said. “We recognize how difficult it is to live in a country where we are stigmatized politically and socially attacked.”
“We recognize injustice and oppression and we understand how important it is to be able to advocate for our community and stand up for our rights, and we recognize that in both communities, there is a lot of pain that is intentionally put upon us.”
The LGBT undocumented community is one of America’s most vulnerable marginalized groups. This group faces the inability to sponsor a same-sex spouse or partner for residency and more difficulty when seeking asylum.
“We are fearful of coming out of the closet as undocumented, as well as coming out of the closet as LGBT,” Plascencia said. “We want to make sure that our communities know that we are here, that we should not be fearful and that it’s important to come out.”
Plascencia also noted how helpful the youth movement has been for advocating for equality for immigrants and those that identify as LGBT. Young Americans now favor marriage equality by 70 percent. Young people are also some of the most supportive of immigration reform. 65 percent of young people believe that immigrants strengthen American society, and 68 percent support a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
The Center for American Progress recently released a comprehensive report that outlines the challenges the LGBT-undocumented population faces. The Williams Institute at UCLA estimated the number of LGBT-identified, adult undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. is at least 267,000, and experts agree that the number will continue to grow. This will emphasize the importance of recognizing this unique demographic.
“We’re here today to represent immigrants within the LGBTQ community,” Plascencia said. “We want to make sure our voice is heard by being represented here as we talk about LGBT rights. We recognize that LGBT rights are immigrants’ rights as well.”