Center Stage
The Importance of Immigration
Published Thursday, 20-May-2010 in issue 1169
“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…” These famous words, written by Emma Lazarus and enshrined upon the Statue of Liberty, were meant to be a shining symbol of America as a nation made great by immigrants.
For more than five years, The Center has been on the public record in support of Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR). The Center is also a member of the Immigrant Rights Consortium of San Diego County. More than one in five San Diegans were born outside this country and we are situated in one of the busiest border regions in the world. Immigrants come here from all over the world to rejoin their families, meet our employment needs, realize their individual and our national dreams of peace and prosperity, and to flee persecution in their home countries.
Clearly, immigration reform is relevant to all San Diegans.
Further, marriage discrimination results in an almost completely blocked pathway to legal immigration for anyone who is GLBT. Since marriage is unavailable to the GLBT community in the United States, the only avenues GLBT same-sex, bi-national couples have to unite their families and gain legal status are: 1) asylum based on persecution, which is very difficult to qualify for under current laws 2) sponsorship by an employer for an applicant with highly specialized skills (these visas are so limited that high-tech businesses all over the country are complaining of their inability to recruit the specialized-skill employees they desperately need) 3) being the child, sibling or parent of a citizen who has waited the 10-15 years generally required to get a visa.
As a result of our current immigration policies, same-sex couples who are legally married in other countries become legal strangers as soon as they enter the U.S. Families are either forced to live illegally, and in constant fear, or are torn apart when non-citizens are forced to leave the country. GLBT and HIV-positive individuals who have fled their countries to escape persecution, sometimes in terror for their very lives, are treated like criminals and all too often sent back into terribly dangerous situations. Those who have been detained may be held without proper medical treatment. Those who have been victims of crime here in the U.S. report nothing and are left with no recourse because they fear deportation.
Clearly, immigration reform is also important to GLBT San Diegans.
The guiding principles that underlie the proposed immigration reform put forward and endorsed by most of the national leaders on immigration reform are articulated in the principles of Reform Immigration for America (RIFA). These are the principles that The Center endorses. They can best be summarized as follows: comprehensive, long-term strategies that emphasize rational, practical approaches to safety and security concerns while keeping families together and promoting economic opportunity and fundamental rights for all.
We believe in rational practical approaches to enforcement that do not tear families apart. We believe in clear, humane and increased pathways to citizenship for new immigrants. And we believe in a clear pathway to citizenship for the more than 12 million undocumented immigrants and families currently in the nation.
We also believe that bi-national GLBT families should be given the same respect and rights as non-GLBT families, which is why we support the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA). UAFA is proposed legislation that endorses immigration equality for same-sex couples and is designed to address the challenges faced by bi-national, same-sex couples seeking immigration.
Immigration is a fact. It plays an indispensable part in our history, our current economy and our future.
If you are interested in a more comprehensive discussion of immigration issues and why they should matter to you, visit
Delores A. Jacobs is the chief executive officer of The San Diego LGBT Community Center.

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