Intern Corner

Citizenship is Not Enough by Elizabeth

This was an intense week to be in Washington! I experienced political whiplash, from the gutting of the Voting Rights Act to victories for marriage equality to the passage of a complex immigration reform bill. In the midst of all of this, I was delivering 2,700 postcards to senators in support of comprehensive immigration reform. On my lunch hour, I was on the phone with congressional constituent services, dealing with my family’s immigration issues.

On Thursday, the Senate passed a comprehensive immigration reform bill that will provide a path to citizenship for millions of undocumented Americans. Thursday was also the day that my family gave up after almost a year of struggling with the immigration system. My family has relatives in Vietnam who not only cannot immigrate to the United States but who cannot even visit us or study in the United States. Their crime? Lacking “adequate ties to Vietnam” – in other words, they are too poor, so USCIS believes they are likely to overstay their visas as undocumented immigrants.

All my family in the US are American citizens. But our country is so afraid of undocumented immigrants that when my cousin got married last fall, our Vietnamese family couldn’t do something as simple as attend her wedding. The major victory we fought for this week, in a bill packed with border security, was a path to citizenship. That is a huge victory, but it doesn’t end here. Our immigration debate is an expression of our country’s racism, homophobia, and definition of American – who is suspect, who belongs, who is deserving of family. The Supreme Court ruled for marriage equality as the Senate voted to cut family reunification immigration programs. These questions are far from over.

 

Unnecessary Opposition by Steven

This past week, we carried 2700 postcards to the Senate in support of comprehensive immigration reform while our peers in the LGBT community were justifiably celebrating the DOMA decision. We conversed and left postcards with staffers for both Democrat and Republican senators, often sharing the stories of our communities. The issues that continued to arise in our discussions were border security and pathways to citizenship, which were often placed in opposition to each other. That’s something I had a problem with.

While I understand that our current political climate forces us to side with one or the other and argue in terms of which should be prioritized, I found myself constantly asking why these two topics are even linked. Keeping the border secure and blocking entry from other nations does not interact with the lives of the eleven million undocumented immigrants already in the United States. There is nothing to link their struggles for citizenship and the legal affirmation of their American identities with whether or not our borders have enough drones. So why should support for families, immigrants, and people struggling to keep their homes be conditional upon a border upon which many of them never even set foot?

The question we should be asking now is what’s next? As comprehensive immigration reform moves into the House, there are many things we can do. From Tweeting about immigration as a family issue to making visits to your legislator, there are many concrete steps that would further the cause of our American immigrants. Whatever you decide to do, just know all of your actions would further clarify why immigration is about our families and not our fences.