by Gabe Bergado
Two years ago, four college students walked 1,500 miles from Miami, Florida to Washington, D.C., in what they called the Trail of Dreams—a symbolic gesture to support passage of the DREAM Act. The proposed federal legislation, officially the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act, would provide undocumented immigrants of “good moral character” with conditional permanent resident status.
Two of these immigrant youth leaders are LGBTQ, or lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer—Juan Rodriguez identifies as queer and Felipe Matos is bisexual. They are just a few of the dual-minority status individuals pushing for equality.
“The movement has gained tremendous momentum in the last couple of years. It’s being led by courageous youth,” says Kent Wong, director of the UCLA Center for Labor Research and Education. “What’s exceptional is a large percentage of the immigrant youth leaders are LGBT. They have faced a particular set of circumstances in having to come out twice.”
Movement leaders across the country have launched initiatives to bring attention to the DREAM Act and to specifically help LGBT DREAMers:
FREEDOM UNIVERSITY: In 2011, five University of Georgia professors founded Freedom University as a civil disobedience project after the Board of Regents barred undocumented students from the top five state schools: the University of Georgia, Georgia Tech, Georgia State University, Medical College of Georgia and Georgia College & State University. Undocumented immigrants can take not-for-credit classes weekly as a way to continue their education and combat the ban.
DREAM SUMMER: Last year, Dream Summer launched as the first national internship program for “immigrant youth leaders” – a group that includes undocumented students. The program, run by the UCLA Labor Center’s Dream Resource Center and United We Dream Network, gave 102 students $5,000 scholarships and placed them with social justice and labor organizations for 10-week internships. This year they added Queer Dream Summer, an extension of the original program targeted at LGBTQ students that places interns at LGBT organizations.
LGBTQ IMMIGRATION RIGHTS PROJECT: The Association of Latino Men for Action, an advocacy group for gay, bisexual and questioning men, created the LGBTQ Immigration Rights Project to work with agencies, non-profit organizations and legislative offices on LGBT immigration issues. This project also leads the LGBTQ Immigrant Rights Coalition of Chicago, a collaboration between organizations that fuses the concerns and goals of advocates for both immigrant and LGBT rights. “We hope in the future that the next president will sign a comprehensive immigration bill that is inclusive of LGBT rights,” says Julio Rodriguez, the current president of ALMA.