The Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus issued a statement Friday in which its staff director called for LGBT inclusion in immigration reform by the Obama Administration — a move that comes in response to a sit-in by LGBT and immigration activists at the Equality Caucus office Wednesday.
In the statement, Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus Executive Director Brad Jacklin said the caucus heard concerns from "passionate activists" and that the caucus believes every immigrant — including those who are LGBT — should be treated fairly and in a way that reflects "American values."
"Any executive action taken by the President to address immigration should institute anti-discrimination policies for at-risk communities, including undocumented immigrants who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender," Jacklin said in the statement. "In far too many places, LGBT people around the world are at great risk for harassment and physical violence because of their sexual orientation, gender identity or HIV status; they should not experience the same harassment while undergoing the immigration process in the United States."
Caitlin Breedlove, co-director of Southerners on New Ground (SONG), said she hopes the Equality Caucus' statement will make a difference in the how the Obama Administration approaches comprehensive immigration reform and the overall LGBT movement for equality.
"We think it's a really important first step and we think it's really great for the LGBT movement — to see what people directly affected by these issues can make happen," Breedlove told BuzzFeed. "We feel like not another day can pass until vulnerable populations can get the relief they need. We look forward to continue working with and pushing the Equality Caucus to address these critical issues we've brought to them."
However, Breedlove said that while the statement is helpful, the Equality Caucus did not meet their demands 100 percent. During the sit-in demonstration and in a letter last week to the caucus, the activists asked the members to urge the Obama Administration to address LGBT-specific issues in any action on comprehensive immigration reform, such as expanding Deferred Action (DACA) to the fullest event of the law and ending all collaboration among ICE and law enforcement agencies. Additionally, the activists demanded the elimination of solitary confinement and the institution of expanded protections for LGBT people held in immigration detention as well, saying in the letter that the practice constitutes torture and is an unacceptable form of housing LGBT immigrants.
"It could have gone further," Breedlove said. "We see the position of the Equality Caucus as evolving and we hope the LGBT movement is impacted by this. The message to the caucus and the LGBT community is that we cannot wait and these issues are just as important as ENDA and marriage equality. These are life and death LGBT issues, not just quality of life issues."
Breedlove noted that the LGBT immigration activists never targeted caucus members as opponents, despite the hours-long demonstration this week.
"I'll be frank," she said. "We never targeted members of the caucus as enemies, but we're hoping that they can stand up and be leaders on these issues."