Intern Corner: ENDA & Immigration Reform

United We Dream: Flash Mob at the Capitol by Elizabeth

This Wednesday, I had the opportunity to participate in United We Dream’s action at the Capitol for immigration reform. After a mock citizenship ceremony on the Senate lawn, over 500 DREAMers and immigrants’ rights activists gathered slowly in the Capitol Visitors’ Center. Led by little DREAMers in elementary and middle school, we recited the Pledge of Allegiance and sang the national anthem together. It was the first time the Pledge has brought tears to my eyes; probably the first time I’ve ever really heard it said with meaning and purpose accompanied by action. The energy was incredible, and as the Star Spangled Banner ended, the group began to chant, “Sí, se puede!” as police escorted us out.

What followed was a winding march around the Capitol and surrounding area. I have been to a lot of protests, but I have never seen a group that had such a high level of dedication across the entire group. When one person lost their voice from shouting, the megaphone was simply passed and another took up the chant, “Undocumented! Unafraid!” Everyone I met had driven ten hours from Tennessee, or fourteen hours from Tampa Bay, or thirty-five hours from New Mexico. People were sleeping en masse at churches.

I don’t speak Spanish, but I was happy to be in solidarity with so many Latino/a brothers and sisters. New friends from the Queer Undocumented Immigrant Project quickly came to translate for us whenever necessary. I loved that everyone spoke the language most comfortable to them, even if we didn’t always understand the words. Standing there at the US Capitol, we passed by the gift shop, where a million souvenirs were plastered with, “Out of Many, One” and I felt that day was a step toward that dream.

Committee Passes ENDA by Steven

After weeks of working with various LGBT groups on ENDA, I experienced the impact of its passage through the Senate HELP committee on a human level. I consider my work with ENDA to have really begun when I lobbied Mike Honda’s office during NCTE’s lobby day. I learned that the key to a successful lobby visit is an effective story. As a student without substantial work experience, I only gauged the impact of ENDA by learning how my fellow Californian was denied her artist-in-residence status due to her gender transition. It is stories like these that allow me to see how policy intersects with our lives.

Several meetings and ENDA Google Alerts later, I felt the investment people had in ENDA when they related it to their livelihood, the stability of their families, and their ability to feel valued as humans. When ENDA passed the Senate HELP committee, the result was no longer just an aggregate of ballot counts and clinical assessments of changes in employment policies. Through my work with real people on this critical bill, I understood this victory as one for the right to be treated as equals and for our fight to belong in society as active participants.