By Attorney Ritvik Raturi
Special to THELAW.TV
For many, the path to comprehensive immigration reform represents a point in time where government power bears against the most discrete and marginalized segments of society; such as the lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender (LGBT) community, migrant workers, and the financially underprivileged. Recent events have demonstrated that these marginalized segments are unafraid to stand for their vision of justice. For example, earlier this month, a group of more than 100 women blocked an intersection outside the House of Representatives in an effort to urge House leaders to act on immigration reform. This protest led to more than 20 undocumented women being arrested for civil disobedience. Their sacrificial acts were celebrated in the media because they exemplified the traditional heroic struggle people endure for their ends of justice.
History has taught that the path to reform is not pleasant, but a grievous undertaking, marked with heroic acts of perseverance in spite of all obstacles. For the LGBT community, the same obstacles that once marked their battle for justice are now stepping stones in their fight for equality. Specifically, once the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was ruled upon, other legal barriers began to fall in their community’s favor. In fact, immediately after DOMA’s decision, a LGBT couple in Florida received an approval letter for a green card. A few months after the green card approval, a new campaign was launched to connect LGBT members to the new coverage within the Affordable Care Act (ACA). LGBT advocates are now in the position to force our nation to assess how other federal benefits, such as social security, disability, etc., will bear on the LGBT population.
At present, LGBT rights are still the purple elephant in the room that many law makers refuse to address. Within the immigration bill, members of Congress have referred to LGBT equality as a “land mine,” pledging to do everything in their power to keep LGBT families out of the bill. Many feel that further discussion of LGBT rights may kill the bill altogether. Nonetheless, in the fight for human rights and justice, it is evident that the LGBT community will continue their struggle until equality is achieved.
Like the LGBT community, other marginalized segment of society, such as undocumented workers, must endure similar struggles if they wish to legitimize their place in this country. At present, many undocumented migrant workers are enslaved, a direct violation of our nation’s human rights law. Furthermore, the economic reality of this country makes it highly probable that, if the immigration bill is passed, undocumented people will be financially exploited through unreasonably high processing fees and other administrative obstacles. History has taught that if undocumented workers wish to receive an equitable path to citizenship, without fear of exploitation, they must peaceably by the masses demand change, in spite of the repercussion. The 20 brave undocumented women willing to sacrifice their freedom for the rights of others may be the first step needed to help bring the immigration bill into fruition; and once again show that America is truly the home of the brave, where the small can grow world-great.
The author, Ritvik Raturi, practices immigration law in Orlando, Florida.