PLAN organizer Christopher Preciado partnered with The Gay and Lesbian Center of Southern Nevada to host a screening of the Academy Award winning documentary ‘Inocente’ and to discuss what its like to be an undocumented youth in Nevada, and what its like when that identity intersects with your queer identity.
A question every organizer involved in the immigration reform battle has had to ask themselves is: “How are we going to get non-immigrants to care about immigrant related issues?”.
The Center, serving the LGBTQ community of Southern Nevada, opened up their beautiful new building for a group of youth to screen the documentary ‘Inocente’. This Academy Award winning documentary provides a fresh perspective on the struggles faced by many undocumented youth living in the United States; a perspective that doesn’t focus on the usual political battles, but focuses purely on the life of an undocumented 15 year old named Inocente, who is trying her best to survive as she faces homelessness and deportation. Creating art is what she loves to do, and it keeps her sane in a world that has not been kind to her or her family. Inocente’s art manages to be quirky, beautiful, and emotional all at the same time. It is showcased throughout the film, which you can watch online by clicking here.
I am the lead organizer for PLAN’s Uniting Communities Nevada program. Uniting Communities is a project of the Western States Center that supports organizations like PLAN working in the racial justice and immigrant rights movements to proactively engage and include their members and constituencies who are LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer) people of color. LGBTQ people of color have been leaders in movements for justice, from Bayard Rustin to Sylvia Rivera. Accepting, embracing and engaging LGBTQ people of color make racial justice groups stronger and represent their entire communities.
Many of the youth who use the services of The Center are homeless, many are youth of color, some are undocumented, and of course most identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender or Queer, or a term that may be new to some “Undocuqueer”; an undocumented queer person. Undocuqueers often feel like they have to come out twice, once as LGBT or Q and then again as undocumented.
After the Inocente screening we wanted to have a discussion about the film, but always move the conversation towards all the intersecting identities people of color and LGBTQs may or
may not have and how that affects us in our daily lives. Our discussion was lead by Blanca, a 23 year old DREAMer from Sonora, Mexico; Rafael, a 24 year old DREAMer from Jalisco, Mexico; and Betzabe a 20 year old DREAMer from Guanajuato, Mexico. DREAMer refers to someone who is eligible for the DREAM Act; a bill that would allow undocumented youth not born in the United States, but brought here as young children, an opportunity to become citizens. All three of our panelists have lived in Southern Nevada for most of their lives.
Betzabe talked about being an undocqueer, and how she had to come out twice; as undocumented and as a lesbian. She also talked about the racism and sexism she’s had to endure from people unaware of how she identifies, because her appearance, blonde hair and blue yes, she says she’s not your “typical looking Mexican.” Her story resonated with the entire room, the connection of having to “come out” as undocumented is something the entire room has, or for some, still is stru
Both Blanca and Rafael are well known DREAM activist who have been fighting not only for passage of the DREAM Act, but also for federal immigration reform so that their parents can remain in the United States. They both work for Hermandad Mexicana, a local non-profit organization that provides immigration services. They help DREAMers like themselves apply for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), a program President Obama announced last June that allows DREAMers to obtain a work permit and protects the
m from deportation for up to two years.
When asked why she feels American when she has no rights, and why she couldn’t just go back to her birth country, Blanca answered, “America is the only country I know. When I was growing up I pledged allegiance to the flag and have lived my life just like any other American kid. To say that you can just deport me and send me back to my country…that’s just not realistic.”
Rafael who, like Betzabe identifies as Undocuqueer, provided great detailed background information on where we are currently in the federal immigration battle, as well as explaining in detail what DACA is, and what all members of the community can do to fight for comprehensive immigration reform that keeps families together and is a benefit to all immigrations and undocumented Nevadans.
The youth at The Center peppered the panel with questions. Many began to realize the many parallels between life of undocumented and LGBTQ youth. Eventually someone asked me for the number to their member of Congress. I was not expecting the room to want to become actively involved in the immigration reform battle so soon, but I gladly provided the information and am looking forward to many who attended the screening working with PLAN and our Keeping Families Together campaign for federal immigration reform.
What was probably most touching out of the whole event was when one of the youth rose his hand and said he stopped saying the pledge of allegiance because there was never something in this country for him to be proud of – until he heard Blanca, Rafael, and Betzabe speak. They made him proud to be an American and he will now start saying the pledge of allegiance again. Outcomes like these keep me motivated to advancing the work that Uniting Communities Nevada provides. In order to accomplish something meaningful we must all work together and join forces – fighting the good fight.