LGBTQ individuals discuss their experiences with immigration law

Multiple CSUN departments came together Monday night to host the “I Am Also Undocumented” presentation, a discussion on the ways in which Asian Pacific Islander and LGBTQ communities are affected by immigration law.

Dr. Martha Escobar, a professor of Chicana/o studies, said the event includes communities that are often excluded from the immigration discussion.

“These communities experience this issue in different ways (than others),” Escobar said.

Scheduled representatives of Asian Pacific Islander communities were unable to make the event.

Most of the speakers representing the LGBTQ communities discussed their relation to immigration as both an undocumented individual and someone who did not live a gender normative or heterosexual lifestyle.

Diana Flores, who labels herself an “undocuqueer,” said her outward appearance as a masculine female has affected her employment.

“I’m obviously not gender normative, but I do identify as being female,” Flores said. “I couldn’t really access a (male-designated) job as somebody who wasn’t fully masculine in a gender normative way, and I couldn’t access jobs as an undocumented female because I don’t look like your typical female.”

Damian Vergara, who first learned he was undocumented when he was detained at age 14, said there are a lot of similarities between the processes involved in gaining documentation for trans medical and legal gender status and gaining documentation for citizenship status.

“Every time you go through an airport, every time your cross the border (your gender status) comes up,” he said. “The same thing happens with legal status for immigrants.”

Bamby Salcedo, project coordinator for transgender services at the division of adolescent medicine at the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, said undocumented trans women often come to the U.S. to escape abuses in their home countries, but that life in the United States at times turns out to be less than expected.

“Trans women flee their countries because of harassment, violence, and sexual violence,” Salcedo said. “They come to this country hoping for a better way of life, but they experience the same issues here.”

Dr. Suyapa Portillo Villeda, an assistant professor of Chicano/a-Latino/a Transnational Studies at Pitzer College, said students who wish to get involved in reforming immigration law should turn to the internet.

“If you are a student, write your thoughts (on immigration),” she said. “Blog about this stuff. A 700-word essay (online) is a great way to deliver your thoughts.”