Queering immigration

This is a great video of members of both queer and immigrant communities discussing the unique challenges facing queer immigrants, particularly as the United States works toward immigration reform. It’s a case study in intersectionality.

Queering Immigration from Southerners on New Ground (SONG) on Vimeo.

The first speaker’s line “I was faced with a question of: do I go back to Cameroon where it’s illegal to be gay, or do I stay here and become undocumented?” truly struck me, but there’s much more to it than that , so you should watch the whole thing. And if someone wouldn’t mind putting a transcript in comments, I’d love you forever.

h/t Melissa A. Fabello

*Thank you @megan for the transcript! (below in comment section) 

Mychal Denzel Smith is a Knobler Fellow at The Nation Institute and contributing writer for The Nation Magazine, as well as columnist for Feministing.com and Salon. As a freelance writer, social commentator, and mental health advocate his work has been seen online in outlets such as The New York Times, The Atlantic, Salon, Al Jazeera English, Gawker, The Guardian, Ebony.com, Huffington Post, The Root, and The Grio.

Mychal Denzel Smith is a Knobler Fellow at The Nation Institute and contributing writer for The Nation Magazine, as well as columnist for Feministing.com and Salon.

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  • http://feministing.com/members/meganqbostic/ megan

    Speaker 1: I came to this country from Cameroon as an international student on a student’s visa. And, upon graduation, I was faced with a question of: do I go back to Cameroon where it’s illegal to be gay or do I stay here and become undocumented? And obviously I chose to stay here and that was a very stressful and scary time in my life because… I had to … I didn’t know where to turn to begin the process of becoming a citizen. When I did finally become a citizen, that didn’t fix everything. There’s this notion where citizenship is the answer to everything. No it isn’t, because I still am a black queer woman and I still am someone who presents themself as a masculine-identified woman, so I’m faced with racism every day. I’m still faced with homophobia; I’m faced with gender discrimination and that in itself… that’s the reason why I’m interested in talking about immigration. Citizenship is not the answer to everything. We also have to look at… social justice and how it affects all of us individually.

    Speaker 2: As an indigenous person, I… I understand that borders weren’t present prior to colonization and when borders were imposed on us, we internalized that. We create legislation to reinforce physical borders. And we create mentalities. We create attitudes. We create these positions in terms of legislations to reinforce those borders inside of ourselves. And that in turn ends up alienating us from everyone else and it causes us to fail to see the humanity in others.

    Speaker 3: I see that the government is trying to frame this immigration… not even them calling it a movement, but a problem, “criminals in our country”, “illegal people” and they’re trying to make it a south of the border, not a north of the border, not a white thing, it’s a brown thing it’s a black thing. They don’t want blacks to be in brown solidarity. Historically, the laws have been made against us. And here it is now in immigration. I see the laws are against our brown brothers and sisters.They’re in this country, and people are saying they’re illegal. I mean, what does that even mean? They’re humans. We’ve separated ourselves from our immigrant past. What can I do as one person? I can tell the next. Don’t believe the hype. Stay in solidarity with your brown brothers and sisters. And hopefully, hopefully find the peace within us all to see that people are human.

    Speaker 4: So what I think about how queer rights connect to immigrant rights, I go back to 2003. I think we can all remember George W. Bush telling us that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and that they were a threat to the American way of life. What we know now, and what George Bush himself has said, is that those weapons didn’t actually exist. And so what’s left in the wake of that gigantic lie is all over one million Iraqis that have been estimated dead and a very small amount of Iraqi refugees that have been allowed into the United Sates. But what does it actually mean to have citizenship papers when your entire country has been devastated? And you’re in a country that has actually caused that devastation. So I think as queer people and as queer immigrants and as queer people of color living in the U.S, either in exile from our own families, in exile from our home countries, that it’s important for us as we move forward in the immigrant rights struggle to think about how citizenship might mean some surface level privilege and comforts, but it doesn’t necessarily mean liberation, which is of course what we’re all fighting for.

    Speaker 5: This work to me is… complex. I’m not an immigrant, but I am directly affected by anti-immigrant sentiment and anti-immigrant laws. I see my connection to this movement in living and in loving. Both of our communities, immigrant and black folks, have to deal with issues of hyper-policing and racial profiling. And it is there that I see incredible connections. Every time a new anti-immigrant law is created, that makes it so much harder for me and people like me in my community to live.
    I do this work because my lover is an immigrant. And we’ve created a family together that has mixed statuses. And its our everyday life of having to negotiate what that means when the phone call comes from Arizona. I do this work because I refuse to live in a city, a nation, a state, that allows these sorts of laws, and these sorts of sentiments to be circulated and affirmed. I do this work because I love people, I love humanity. I do this work because I want us to be free, so that every single one of us can live and love any way and any how we all please.

    Speaker 6: I see the connection of queer rights and immigrant rights as one that is intertwining our destinies together as communities that are both not separate, but also as communities that are fighting for the liberation of all people. I think that we do have a sort of generational charge, not to just sort of expand the way that we think about immigration, and immigrant justice, but we have a charge to also help transform an immigration system that has always, always defined the idea of citizenship with the idea of proximity to power and privilege. And we have an opportunity to help move away from the colonial roots of this country, and to move away from the slavery roots of this country that has always used the backs and the bodies and livelihood of people of color to build what is currently the U.S. We have a generational charge to not just transform the immigration debate, but also the very idea of what citizenship means to us. We have a duty to continue to fight for all of our liberation movements. We have a duty to fight for, to make sure that racial justice is a reality for people of color in this country. We have a duty to continue to fight to make sure that this immigration debate does not move us closer to assimilation, specifically for folks of color. We have a duty to make sure that our LGBT people are also included in immigration reform. To make sure that all LGBT families have access to the same immigrant justice that we want for the rest of our communities. We have a duty to continue to fight and the fight has just begun.