After LGBT and immigration activists held a seven-hour sit-in at the Washington, D.C., office of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus Wednesday, the staff director for the group of lawmakers issued a statement in support of comprehensive, LGBT-inclusive immigration reform.
"Every immigrant, including those who identify as LGBT, should be treated in a manner that upholds American values," writes Equality Caucus executive director Brad Jacklin in the statement issued Friday. "Any activity that discriminates against the LGBT community, whether it is targeted policing, bias in enforcement, harassment in detention, failure to provide medically necessary care, the unnecessary use of solitary confinement, or failure to respect gender identity cannot be supported."
The caucus statement continued, offering guidance to the president, who is reportedly considering an executive order to address the humanitarian crisis at the southern border of the U.S. in the absence of any substantive congressional action on immigration reform: "Any executive action taken by the President to address immigration should institute anti-discrimination policies for at-risk communities, including undocumented immigrants who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender. In far too many places, LGBT people around the world are at great risk for harassment and physical violence because of their sexual orientation, gender identity or HIV status; they should not experience the same harassment while undergoing the immigration process in the United States."
The activists who staged Wednesday's sit-in — only leaving when Jacklin guaranteed the demonstrators a statement of support from the caucus — applauded today's comments, but noted that words must be followed with action.
The activists in Wednesday's action were members of Southerners on New Ground (SONG) and Familia: Trans and Queer Liberation Movement, and included several undocumented immigrants, including transgender women, lesbians, gay men, mothers, and members of the Latino and African-American communities.
"This is a strong first step from the Equality Caucus," Familia's Jorge Guttierez and SONG's Paulina Helm-Hernandez tell The Advocate. "However, cases such as the recent trans rape victim situation in Eloy Detention Center in Arizona, show that we need to not stop working until we have the broadest relief possible in our hands. We are grateful for the caucus visibilizing the issues at hand, and look forward to working with the caucus to make sure the President delivers on full inclusion of LGBTQ people in the broadest relief possible."
While activists heralded today's announcement as an important step forward, the groups also note that the statement did not address all of the demands protestors made Wednesday, laid out in a letter submitted to the Caucus. Specifically, SONG and Familia asked the caucus to pressure the president to expand his administration's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which offers immigrants brought to the U.S. as children a way to avoid deportation. The group also asked the caucus to urge an end to the collaboration between federal immigration officials and local law enforcement, generally known as Secure Communities, which in practice expedites the detention and deportation of undocumented immigrants when they come into contact with law enforcement for non-criminal violations, including routine traffic stops or seeking relief from domestic violence.
Chairpeople of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus include every out lesbian, gay, and bisexual member of the U.S. House of Representatives, including Maine's Mike Michaud, Colorado's Jared Polis, Rhode Island's David Cicilline, New York's Sean Patrick Maloney, Arizona's Krysten Sinema, California's Mark Takano, and Wisconsin's Mark Pocan. Meet the rest of the members of the caucus here.
Read the caucus's full statement below: