Equals in life
Immigration is a topic I frequent with locals and foreigners here in Latin America. Less often, I get a chance to talk about public opinion of divergent sexualities. Both are topics at the forefront of discussion in the United States. Both are issues affecting Latin Americans here and there. Not surprising, these issues span the globe and affect people of all nationalities.
The sum of my thoughts on the topics is this: you no sooner choose your sexuality than you choose where you were born, and thus neither of these identities must confer privilege or deprive freedom. And yet we do exactly both. We discriminate against non-heterosexuals and deny them access to scores of protective benefits. We discriminate against people born outside our imaginary borders and deny them the very freedom we purport to represent.
This New York Times article from three years ago is the personal account of a man who had no intent to be either illegal or gay but is nonetheless both. He writes about how his family conspired to smuggle him into the United States when he was just a young Filipino boy. He tells about struggling to conceal his immigration status while feeling quite free to acknowledge his sexuality. He describes two decades of dreaming bigger, working harder, and achieving more than most of us will do in a lifetime. He came out to the world as an illegal alien in the article. He has since made immigration reform the focus of his work and continues to live illegally in the United States while doing so.
Today, news broke that he was detained by the TSA in Texas. Even though the detention is reported to have been brief, he is still at risk of extradition every day because no new immigration policy exists to equate his positive contributions as an adult — or the fact that he was a child immigrant — with naturalization. Simply, he is at risk of extradition because we continue to think like selfish Neanderthals.
Instead of recognizing outstanding contributors to society — an effect of free will — we measure people against identities they don’t control.
People don’t choose to be gay. They don’t choose to be born in the Philippines or smuggled into the United States as children. But they do choose to be your equal in life, and for this they deserve to be your equal in life.
It’s past time that we open our minds, open our borders, and work to include people instead of exclude them.