Fighting for Queer Trans Relief for Undocumented Immigrants

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Members of SONG, Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement, The Queer Network, and National Day Laborers Organizing Network. (Photo Courtesy The Queer Network)

Dear SONG members and supporters:

This work is hard. Even though we know our members and our people are the reason for the work and the solution to our problems, on a hard day the best of us can be discouraged. Not today. Today we get to tell you some good news. Most of you know that a few days ago we held a direct action with SONG family and our sister organization, Familia:  Trans Queer Liberation Movement, to demand that the  7 Congressional Equality Caucus Co-Chairs make a statement to President Obama regarding the needs of LGBTQ undocumented immigrants inside his upcoming Executive Order. We told them in our letter (http://southernersonnewground.org/equalitycaucusletter) signed by 23 national LGBTQ groups, that we needed him to provide relief from fear and pain for the largest number possible of the 11 million undocumented people in this country–biological parents of children is not enough–our families and lives are not all the same and all undocumented people need relief. We told them that ICE and police collaborations criminalize our people and open them up to discriminatory practice and double harm. We told them that we cannot wait one more day, while our brothers and sisters are being raped in detention centers, and isolated in solitary confinement, for President Obama to free them from these conditions. Many of our people survive these horrific conditions only to be deported anyway. This afternoon at 3pm, we are going back to the Equality Caucus office to receive the statement that the Equality Caucus Co-Chairs have written at our request.

We know that the direct action of individual SONG members with Familia members was the choice of the individuals who planned it alone. However, your support of our demands (or support of the action itself) meant so much to us. First of all, we heard your individual and collective voices loud and clear: our groups are not alone as LGBTQ groups who care deeply about the critical needs of LGBTQ undocumented people. Y’all also see the bleeding point for our communities: you see the suffering and also the opportunity to fight back–whether you are directly affected or in solidarity with these communities. We are sure without a doubt that your calls on such short notice, sent one message to the Equality Caucus Director and Co-Chairs: we are not sitting here alone, and there are others not afraid to ask the Equality Caucus to do the right thing by LGBTQ undocumented people–not at the convenient time, but now–as our people just cannot wait.
We know for sure that you see what we see–that the criminalization of our communities–poor, LGBTQ, of Color–is literally killing us or robbing us of our joy–and we know you are willing to act from that knowledge, just as we are. We look forward to acting on behalf of that truth much more with you. We look forward to continuing to listen to what you need from us. We hope that you are as proud to be a SONG member today, as we are proud to coordinate your incredible, genuine and hard-working efforts. As proud as we are to support such a trust-worthy and incredible staff. After all, we stand by the belief that this is what the heart of the LGBTQ movement should be about: acting out of love for our people, and being willing to do whatever we can to protect and care for each other–seeing our people’s lives as precious and worth fighting for, even when and if others do not. 
We are proud to work collectively for Queer and Trans Liberation in our lifetime–day by day, action by action, win by win. Our people are worth the risk.
In appreciation,
Paulina Helm-Hernandez and Caitlin Breedlove, SONG Co-Directors

BREAKING: SONG Stands With Queer and Trans Undocumented Immigrants at Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus Office

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For decades the LGBTQ community has been punished for the core “crime” of existing and surviving in our genders and sexualities. Despite harsh legislation and social stigma, we built a LGBTQ liberation movement to protect ourselves, to survive and claim our right to live brightly beyond fear, and to play our part in making a better world. We cannot falter in that vision, and our work towards it must continue.

This country’s broken immigration system is but one threat to that vision. Everyday detention centers and the deportation machine are robbing our LGBTQ immigrant kin of their basic sanity, humanity, and dignity for doing what our people have always done: existing and surviving. We must fight back against this assault on our communities and our bodies, and the gains of our movement. If the LGBTQ community does not see LGBTQ immigrant lives as precious and worth fighting for, who will?

While SONG prepares to march this coming Saturday, August 2, in Washington, D.C., to say #Not1More deportation, today we are taking a stand as transgender, gender non-conforming, and queer people to demand an end to the continued, detainment and imprisonment of our people, especially those of us who are trans, people of color, undocumented and poor.

SONG, together with Familia:  Trans and Queer Liberation Movement (TQLM), Transgender Law Center, National Center for Lesbian Rights, Get Equal, and other organizations issued a letter (http://southernersonnewground.org/equalitycaucusletter/) to the Equality Caucus on Friday inviting them to join us in pressuring President Obama for full inclusion of LGBTQ people in forthcoming executive action on immigration.

This morning, we gather at the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus office calling on the seven LGBT co-chairs to publically come out in support of demands from the LGBTQ community that include:

  • Immediate administrative relief and work authorization for LGBTQ identified and HIV positive undocumented immigrants
  • Expand administrative relief to the fullest extent of the law to include LGBTQ undocumented immigrants that have been criminalized for their survival
  • Eliminate the use of solitary confinement
  • End all programs (including 287g and Secure Communities) that allow local law enforcement and federal immigration authorities to collaborate to profile people based on race, gender, and sexuality

In addition, we are calling on the Equality Caucus to use its relationships to call for a meeting with White House representatives to discuss the inclusion of these demands in executive action with the people most directly affected, members of the undocumented LGBTQ community.

WATCH LIVE HERE
(available by 10 AM)
http://bit.ly/eqcaucus

The Equality Caucus is a marker of a long history of fighting for visibility in the political realm. As LGBTQ people who have helped make that possible, we understand that the Equality Caucus, which exists in our name, is responsible for representing our whole community. The Equality Caucus must take a stand to protect and represent every member of the LGBTQ community, including undocumented immigrants. LGBTQ immigrant communities can’t afford to wait, and neither can we. 

 

What Can You Do?

 

1. CALL THE CONGRESSIONAL LGBT EQUALITY CAUCUS TODAY STARTING AT 10 AM!

Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus
Executive Director Brad Jacklin
202-225-2589

SAMPLE SCRIPT

“Hello my name is (insert name) calling from (city & state) as an LGBTQ person/ally to demand that the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus stand with undocumented LGBTQ immigrants. I urge the caucus to make a statement to President Obama that says that the expansion of administrative relief must not exclude LGBTQ undocumented immigrants that have been criminalized for their survival; and that the President needs to meet with undocumented LGBTQ people themselves as they are the ones truly affected and should be at the table advocating for themselves. 

Today, LGBTQ leaders are sitting-in at the Equality Caucus because President Obama will act soon around immigration and the issues affecting LGBTQ undocumented people are just too critical to wait and see if President Obama will give us what we need.”

 

2. USE SOCIAL MEDIA TO TELL THE CONGRESSIONAL
LGBT CAUCUS MEMBERS TO TAKE ACTION

On Facebook

Post on the Equality Caucus Wall at https://www.facebook.com/LGBTEqCaucus

Sample Post
Personal and tailored facebook posts are the best!

“The Equality Caucus must take a stand to protect and represent every member of the LGBTQ community, including undocumented immigrants. Join other LGBT leaders to pressure President Obama and call for executive action on immigration that includes undocumented LGBTQ people.”

On Twitter
Follow SONG live updates of events at  @ignitekindred

Target
@LGBTEqCaucus

Sample Tweet
“@LGBTEqCaucus undocumented LGBTQ immigrants can’t wait! #not1more precious life ripped out of our communities! Stand with us not against us!”

Targets

@RepJaredPolis
@RepSinema
@RepMarkPocan
@RepMarkTakano
@RepSeanMaloney

@RepMikeMichaud
@RepCicilline

Sample Tweet

“(insert twitter handle) use the @LGBTEqCaucus! Tell POTUS executive action on immigration must include LGBTQ undocumented immigrants!”

Join SONG for August 2nd #Not1More Mobilization!

President Announces Executive Action on Immigration. Our Continued Demand?
Act NOW to Implement Broadest Relief Possible!

aug2MEMEAfter months of direct actions, town hall meetings, shutting down ICE offices, signing petitions, educating elected officials, and challenging ICE’s hold on local
 jurisdictions, the mounting pressure on President Obama reached a boiling point last week leading to his announcement foreshadowing Administrative Action AND even more money going into harsher enforcement at the border.  His announcement unveiled his stance that immigration policy will no longer be subject to a
 legislative strategy only and that he will do what is in the power of his Administration to “fix” the broken immigration system.

Our people of color, poor, and working class LGBTQ communities have always suffered at the hands of heavy-handed police, vice and ICE enforcement. We know this moment has come about because of the sacrifice, actions and shared risk our communities have taken to shine a light on the criminalization, detention and deportation crisis across the South and the country. From individuals fighting their deportation cases, to local communities no longer willing to do the dirty work of ICE enforcement – together we have created the possibility and vision of a united fight for our shared survival.

At SONG, we believe that he has the power to change the destiny of generations with his actions on immigration.  President Obama faces a choice ripe with consequence; he can take action to settle for the lowest common denominator of small cosmetic changes, or he can take a HUGE step forward to overhaul the system and provide the broadest relief possible under the law. To some, the compromise of Administrative Relief and heavier ICE enforcement seems inevitable, but President Obama has the executive power to invest federal funds where they are desperately needed, to acknowledge that the crisis at the border has historical roots in U.S. military interventions and trade policies, and to halt further militarization of the U.S./Mexico border that will costs thousands more lives.

The LGBTQ movement has made huge advances in marriage equality, but it is time for our own elected officials to recognize that detention and deportations affect us just as much as gay marriage. We call on the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus and LGBTQ legislative, advocacy and organizing efforts working on many issues that affect LGBTQ people to SUPPORT and AMPLIFY our communities’ call for Administrative Relief and an immediate halt to deportations!

How Can You Support This Work?

  1. Sign the NDLON LGBTQ ENDORSEMENT
  2. Join SONG, the Not 1 More Deportation campaign and our collaborating and sister organizations in our efforts to coordinate and escalate opposition to unnecessary and unjust deportations on AUGUST 2nd mobilization in Washington DC to make sure President Obama follows through with his promise for administrative relief!
  3. Want to part of making August 2nd happen?!
    Email salem@southernersonnewground.org

Stay tuned for more updates and in the meantime, call your friends, book your tickets, and get ready to join SONG in DC August 2nd!

Pride For None Of Us Without Liberation For All Of Us

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From Stonewall to 2014

Today marks the eve of the anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall rebellion and riots. Forty-five years ago, LGBTQ people in New York City, led by trans women of color like Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, stood up to demand an end to the violence enforced on them by the government, the police, and society. They fought back to demand and lay claim to their freedom to unapologetically exist in their bodies, genders, and sexualities.

For many, Stonewall marks the beginning of PRIDE season and a celebration of the great cultural and political headway we have made over the years, but for queer liberation organizations like SONG, the commemoration is also an opportunity to come together to reclaim the spirit and legacy of hundreds of trans women of color, sex workers, and young LGBTQ people who put their bodies on the line to interrupt the active policing, jailing, and violence targeted towards them.

“We were not taking any more of this shit.
We had done so much for other movements. It was time.”
Sylvia Rivera
See more from an interview with Sylvia Rivera at
http://kasamaproject.org/threads/entry/sylvia-rivera-stonewall-the-star-story#sthash.jK3y4mxA.dpuf

For SONG, Stonewall is an annual touchstone that reminds us of the vision we are committed to making happen every day. We celebrate the victories that we’ve had in what many are calling the pinnacle of social, cultural and political acceptance by larger society, but we know that not all of our people are benefiting from those changes. We see evidence of this from the countless unsolved murders of black queer and trans people and the most recent report from the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs that further documents, “the multi-year trend of transgender women, undocumented people, transgender people, people of color, and gay men face the most severe violence.” In our communities we know that trans people of color and trans immigrants face sky-high rates of poverty, violence, isolation, incarceration, detention, and deportations along with the daily indignities of a criminalized existence in our cities and towns.

Like those who have come before us, we continue to work in cities and towns across the South to name what our communities are facing and to stand up to fight back for an end to the violence and incarceration of our people. We do this through our work with the #Not1More Deportation Campaign to unearth the real conditions facing undocumented LGBTQ people, especially trans people facing unprecedented levels of solitary confinement in detention, and with our local campaigns to demand an end to criminalization of LGBTQ people, people of color, and young people. We face great obstacles, but we ground ourselves in the successes, challenges, and the lessons of our elders and ancestors and look to their political legacy to both remember and find our way forward as a movement that is committed to the liberation of all people.

Please join us today as we stand in love and unity with the 10th Annual Trans Day of Action, led by TransJustice of the Audre Lorde Project, which reminds us all of the importance of the leadership, vision, and work, both past and present, of trans people of color connecting the threads of our lives from the policing and jailing of our bodies to the control of our movement and behavior to the daily violence both on the streets here and around the world (Read more about the TDA Points of Unity here). Now more than ever we must unite to both celebrate our history of resilience, resistance, and revolution and to answer the spiritual and political imperatives of our time.

For Zoraida Reyes, Melenie Eleneke, and all the black and brown
trans liberation fighters we have lost.

Gaycation 2014

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For more tweets, Facebook posts, and Instagram pictures check out the #songgaycation
Tagboard at https://tagboard.com/songgaycation/178889

We had a glorious, debaucherous and restorative time at Gaycation, our biggest membership gathering of the year in South Georgia earlier this month. In many ways Gaycation 2014 exemplified what is so precious and special about SONG and our membership. Day in and day out we deal with racism, violence, transphobia and homophobia, exile and isolation, but we know that our lives are so much more than that. Gaycation is the place we gather to see ourselves reflected in each other, rest, recharge and TWERK in celebration of the wholeness of our lives. With over 100 people attending, a regional membership meeting, canoe trips, poolside twerking, overly-friendly raccoons, an elders’ circle, a commemorative electric slide, delicious meals, and lots of time to catch up with one another, we could not have asked for a better time.

As a political and cultural organization working to transform the South through campaigns and projects to take on some of the most pressing issues of our times, we believe that gatherings like Gaycation are crucial to building a Southern Kinship Network, a membership base of LGBTQ people linked together through relationships, shared vision and shared commitment to Queer Liberation. If you weren’t able to join us this year we hope to see you next summer! Together with political and cultural tools, skills, and resources we will transform our region county by county, town by town, and city by city.

SONG Stands with ACIJ Hunger Strike in Alabama!

Queers + Trans, Immigrants, All of Us: Come out, Destroy Fear, Unleash power!

We understand, as liberation-minded LGBTQ people, that the oppressions we collectively face are systematic and intrinsically connected to the conditions of other marginalized people. As Southerners on New Ground (SONG) in Alabama, we stand in support of the brave and relentless individuals within the Alabama Coalition for Immigrant Justice who are placing their bodies on the line in a Hunger Strike this week. We do so because we understand that if our oppressions are interwoven then our resistance must be interwoven too.

As we approach the anniversary of Stonewall at the end of this week, we have seen policy changes that support and protect the rights of some LGBTQ people. SONG knows that for those of us who live within the the farthest of margins as poor people,Trans* people of color, gender non conforming, and undocumented LGBTQ people these policy changes alone are not enough. We continue to face sky-high rates of poverty, violence, isolation, incarceration, detention and deportations.

Our history shows us that we can affect change by organizing and building strong relationships that make us able to rely on one another in times of crisis and in times of pushing back against a system that tells us we ought not exist. Our identities and our issues cannot be separated in the struggle for liberation and we must stand together. Today, SONG members in Alabama will join the hunger strike to stand with and to honor the urgency and the demands of the immigrants rights struggle within this nation and the South demanding Not1More Deportation, an immediate relief solution and a permanent citizenship solution.  We take this action because we understand that white supremacy has created a culture where if you are not white, middle class, without disability, straight or gender conforming then you are under attack. We are under attack from a system that does not value our bodies, our agency, nor our ability to move and express ourselves.

SONG Alabama will continue to build with the Alabama Coalition for Immigrant Justice and immigrants across the nation who stand against the criminalization of our people. We do this out of a Southern spiritual and political legacy that calls us to show up when we are asked. We will continue to pressure the political leadership who claim to represent us and we will continue to organize to confront systems of racism, sexism, homophobia and transphobia that separate and criminalize our people. We believe building intersectional collective power is the most authentic strategy as we work toward achieving systematic transformation and liberation for all of our people. We hope you will join us in transforming Alabama, the South and the U.S.!

**For more information about how to get involved and learn more about this week’s hunger strike vist ACIJ’s facebook event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/1443338179256245/ Want to get connected in Alabama? Contact jazz@southernersonnewground.org

#not1more     #queeringimmigration    #somosalabama    #hungry4reform

In Solidarity,
Southerners On New Ground, AL