Good News for Undocuqueers

by Ryan Campbell | November 20, 2012

An undocuqueer couple at the March on the RNC in Tampa, Florida, where both LGBT and Immigrants’ Right’s groups came out

This year’s election was a brutal lesson: Republicans were nicely set up with more Democrat than Republican seats open, a stagnant economy and a voter disenfranchisement machine that was as clever as it was unconstitutional operating in nearly any swing state with a Republican governor.  Despite these obstacles, however, a clear mandate that broke against the Republicans emerged on coalition politics.  There are two demographics, however, where a strong pattern emerged that is very good for Undocuqueers: Latinos came out to vote in numbers, marriage equality won big at the ballots and gays were elected into office.

Undocuqueers, those who both have undocumented status and identify as queer, have had a particularly difficult lot.  In addition to all the problems they face as being undocumented, i.e. no right to work, no right to drive, no vote, etc., they have also had difficulty fitting in to the at-times homophobic immigrant community.  While there are the same heartbreaking stories of Undocuqueers not being able to visit sick family members or attend funerals back home that they share with straight undocumented immigrants, there are also stories of not being able to marry someone they love for immigration status and talks about how it’s hard to come out of the closet as either undocumented or gay, let alone both.  Undocumented immigrants are often closer with their families and more dependent upon their communities for support due to the circumstances consequence of their immigration status, and so coming out of the closet often has further-reaching implications: should their families throw them out, they could find themselves homeless with no right to work, and still deportable at any time.  With all the political momentum from the election, although these stories will always remain, a brighter future for Undocuqueers is very easily imagined.

Latinos didn’t just come out, they came out big for this election, casting a record number of votes and broke more than 70 percent for Obama.  This isn’t particularly surprising, however: the rhetoric on Latino issues has been pretty harsh since the primaries, with SB 1070, the veto of the DREAM Act and “self-deportation” energizing Latinos to vote against Republicans.  This was one of several reasons (in addition to things like the “rape caucus” and running the owner of the World Wrestling Federation) why Republicans lost senate seats, even though Democrats had more seats to defend.

As a sign of the times we now live in, gays won pretty big on election day: Maine, Maryland and Washington became the first states in the country to embrace marriage equality through the popular vote; Minnesota rejected a proposed state constitutional amendment that would have defined marriage as between one man and one woman; West Virginia and North Dakota both chose their first gay state legislators; nearly every electoral indicator shows that people just aren’t threatened by gays anymore: we’re the Will & Grace generation who believe a gay man is more likely to help us fix up our place and pick out nice shoes for a date than damn our soul to eternal torment (and even the religious folk don’t seem to mind it as much).

All the cultural indications are showing that Americans are ok with gay, and the politics are catching up with the culture; remember it was only a few election cycles ago when George W. Bush was able to ride issues like gay marriage alongside Terry Shiavo into the Presidency, and today it will cost a national politician more than it will gain.  People are also increasingly comfortable with the idea of offering undocumented immigrants citizenship: according to the latest polling cited by ABC News, a majority of Americans support offering undocumented immigrants a pathway toward citizenship.  This is in addition to the President’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program; when the country sees that Joe Arpaio and Lou Dobbs are wrong and the Mexicans don’t invade when we allow DREAMers to stay and work, we can expect to see sentiment towards immigration improve.

More immediate relief will require that Republicans can read the election results and decipher reality from them.  So far, so good: Gov. Bobby Jindal turned on Mitt Romney when he explained his loss as being the result of Obama offering “gifts” to young voters (tuition breaks), women voters (contraception) and Latino voters (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals).  Gov. Jindal was joined by Gov. Christie with similar remarks on needing to appeal more broadly and calling the “gifts” comment “divisive.”  Does this mean it’s all changed?  Not really: Jindal blasted a man on his way out with little chance of defending himself, like beating up a great cage fighter on camera who is now too weak from leukemia to defend himself.  It does mean, however, they’re at least seizing cheap opportunities to look good to Latino voters, and substance may follow.

If they haven’t learned yet, relief is still on the way, but it may take a little while before the Democrats piece together a supermajority after the Republicans have blundered through another election.  In the next election, they may not have billionaires lining up to lose millions of dollars on political bets, an unemployment rate that the Republicans can harp on and more Democrat seats than Republican seats open for re-election; they struck out when everything was set up on a tee for them, and they’ll only do the same thing if they don’t figure out and act on why that just all blew up in their face.  If they do, all the roads to a coalition pass through gay and Latino organizer territory, hence leading to a better life for Undocuqueers.