Like many Americans, I had the painful opportunity to watch President Trump’s national address vouching for the funding of his wall last night. As expected, his speech was filled with deceit and narratives painting our country as invaded, but nothing can be further from the truth. I am a queer refugee who fled to the United States to gain freedom for my identity, and now as a practicing immigration lawyer, I am a firm believer that immigration should be considered a queer issue. As in the case of the asylum seekers who arrived in Tijuana with the caravan in November, people at our southern border include hundreds of our fellow LGBTQ+ siblings who fled from death and persecution in their home countries and are seeking safety in ours. When misinformation disseminates, such as Trump’s speech, it is our duty as members of the LGBTQ+ community to arm ourselves with information so we can fact-check nonsense like this. So, here are a few call-outs.
Immigration at our southern border is not a “security crisis”
In his speech, President Trump referred to the border as a “humanitarian and security crisis.” It is important to clarify that the number of people crossing our southern border is at a record low compared to previous years of the past decade. There is no denial that there was a spike of crossings in October this past year, but these crossings were likely connected to Trump’s policy to curtail the admission of asylum seekers at the ports of entry.
The idea that our country is being invaded and that thousands of people are flooding our southern border every day is simply false, a fear-mongering tactic that Trump has successfully used since his presidential campaign to get Americans to follow him.
It is unfair and inaccurate to criminalize immigrants
Trump also cited crimes that immigrants have allegedly committed all over our country, a narrative criminalizing immigrants in a way we’re all too familiar with. It is worth reminding ourselves that social science statistics show exactly the opposite. In fact, people born in the United States are more likely to commit crimes than their immigrant counterparts. Not only are immigrants, documented or not, significantly less likely to commit crimes than Americans, but cities have become safer as result of the growth of the immigrant population. Immigrants are in this country looking for safety, prosperity, or both. They are not here to commit crimes. In fact, they do everything to try to avoid breaking laws. Like one of my clients says, “I love this country, this country has given me everything. Why would I ever want to offend anybody here?”
Unlike Trump and his followers, I do not believe that people who are charged or convicted with crimes are bad people and should be excluded from our communities. Our Constitution guarantees that people are innocent until proven guilty. People who are charged with crimes should not even be included in this conversation, because as far we know, they could all be wrongfully charged. And if they are brown, black or queer, they are statistically more likely to be wrongfully charged with crimes. Or, charged with crimes many in the country don’t even feel should be considered a crime. Smoking marijuana is still a crime nationwide. Being gay was a crime in many states in the United States until 2003. To define immigrants by the one “crime” they made in their lives would be as unfair as defining ourselves for our own “crimes.”
The term “illegal immigrants” is offensive and rarely accurate
During his address, Trump repeatedly referred to “illegal immigrants” — a term that is inaccurate and offensive, and lacks nuance, as there are many different kinds of immigrants at our border We have asylum seekers who show up at the official ports of entry and seek federal protection under our refugee laws. Those people are following the law by the teeth, international and American. To seek asylum at a port of entry is the legal right of every human being in the world, a right that we as Americans have created, and a right that we as Americans have committed nationally and internationally to protect.
We also have people who are forced to cross the borders without authorization because of the Trump administration’s policy to deny expeditious processing of asylum applications at ports of entry. These people have found themselves in the desperate position of having to choose between dying at the Mexico-US border without food, jobs, and healthcare for their children, or crossing our borders without authorization, especially LGBTQ+ asylum seekers.
We have people who are desperately poor in their home countries, who do not have money to feed their families or to send their children to school. The people who do not have a lawful path to immigrate to the United States, but whose only option is to take one of the most dangerous trips, cross our borders without authorization, and hope to make it.
Immigration is a queer issue
As queer people, we can all identify, one way or another, with the feeling of not belonging, or having to leave home in order to find a real future for ourselves. To some of us, the dangers at home have been deadly, so our paths to safety were out of desperation for our lives. To others, we can simply identify with the idea of having to go to a different city or state to find economic prosperity in places where we don’t have to compromise our identity. These are the same feelings that drive immigrants and asylum seekers into this country. To not condemn our President’s remarks, would be to betray some of the most innate experiences within the queer community. To not reject this wall, would be anti-queer. The President uses fear-mongering and deceit to have a group of people raise up against a minority, and we would be forgetting that the queer community has been and continues to be the target of similar tactics to strip away our rights and prosperity. We cannot stand still and we must hold our elected officials accountable by standing strong.