25 March 2011

LGBTQ Leaders Rally for Immigrant Rights in Georgia

Yesterday, in an incredible demonstration of support for immigrants' rights, over 5,000 people took to the streets in Atlanta to protest anti-immigrant legislation underway in Georgia. Earlier this month, the state House and Senate each passed separate anti-immigrant legislation. One Senate provision is especially reminiscent of Arizona's SB1070, passed last year, in that it would allow local and state police to check people's immigration status -- just one more example of how Arizona's anti-immigrant fervor is influencing states across the US.

Our Atlanta-based grantee, Southerners on New Ground (SONG), was a visible supporter of the rally. SONG, an organization whose membership consists of "working class people, people of color, immigrants, and rural LGBTQ people," believes strongly that all social justice issues are connected. That's in part why, while their work primarily focuses on organizing for gender justice across race, class and sexuality, they are front and center in Georgia's struggle for immigrant rights. They understand that struggles for gender, racial and economic justice are intimately linked with the struggle for immigrant justice.

In fact, according to Paulina Hernandez, Co-Director of S.O.N.G., anti-immigrant legislation like the bills being considered in Georgia could have very immediate and direct implications for LGBTQ people:
“We’re calling [HB 87] the ‘Show Me Your Papers’ legislation. Part of the danger to the LGBT community is the different gender identities we have. We will get caught up in the crosshairs,” she said.

For example, if transgender people have to produce identification and their gender marker on the ID does not match how they present, there is a violation of privacy and possible trouble with police, Hernandez said.

And if a transgender person applies for a job but their paperwork has to go through the E-verify system, as required by the new legislation if it becomes law, and gender markers don’t match how they present, the person is automatically flagged. That could mean outing a person without their permission to an employer or other authority. And that can mean some people will stop seeking a job if they don’t believe they have privacy over their identity.

“And for those of us who [are] part of both communities [immigrant and LGBT] we can be driven further underground,” Hernandez said.
Such is one of the many unconsidered implications of the deeply discriminatory anti-immigrant legislation sweeping the nation. Here at the Ms. Foundation, we frequently discuss how crucial it is that women who understand the ways in which issues intersect and identities overlap are at decision-making tables. Paulina's analysis of how LGBTQ people might be impacted by anti-immigrant legislation is exactly why.

To hear more from Paulina, as well as Amy Ray of the Indigo Girls and Simone Bell, a state representative from Georgia -- each of whom speak passionately about why people in the LGBTQ community are standing up for immigrants' rights, watch this fantastic video below.

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