Links between Same-Sex Marriage and Immigration

Two major debates in the US today are immigration reform and marriage equality. Cisneros, Somerville and Lubheid have all discussed the role of sexuality and ‘family’ in shaping immigrant discourse and Lubheid discusses the implication for same-sex couples specifically.

by Julio Salgado

As we saw in class today, immigrant and lgbt rights are not separate issues- queer undocumented activists like those involved in UndocuQueer, for example, propose intersectional apporaches.

NBC Latino: UndocuQueer Movement Rises to Push for a DREAM Act

In a blog piece called DOMA and the DREAM Act: How the LGBT and immigration reform movements intersect, Carlos Gomar writes:

For many undocumented youth, “coming out” is a familiar process. Similar to how LGBT people reveal their sexuality or gender identity to their friends and family members, undocumented youth across the country are using “coming out” as a tactic to find self-empowerment, change public opinion and alleviate fear within themselves and their communities.

What are some of the pros and cons of this strategy? For example, what are queer critiques of coming out narratives?

Prerna Lal, by Julio Salgado

Prerna Lal highlights similarities between the two movements in Gays and Undocumented Immigrants – Nativists and Homophobes Two Sides of the Same Coin. According to her, both nativists and homophobes:

1. withhold a construct with power from an Other

In the case of immigrants, that would be ‘citizen.’ For the LGBTQ community right now, that would be ‘marriage’ –

2. insist on stubborn binaries

Insistence that the lines cannot be crossed.
“You can have your civil unions” (directly implying that marriage is off-limits)
“Illegal is illegal” (falsely implying that citizenship is an immutable concept)

3. engage in twisted, corny logic

“You have the same right to get married as I do – marry the person of an opposite sex”

“If you want to become a citizen, get in the line” without realizing there is no line for most undocumented immigrants.

4. use similar distancing tactics

“I don’t have a problem with immigrants, just the ones who come here illegally.”

“I don’t have a problem with gay people as long as they don’t do IT in public” or “I don’t have a problem with equal rights for gay people, but marriage should not be redefined”

5. repeat the rule of law mantra

Keep up the shadowy pretense that ‘mob rule’ and the tyranny of the majority is somehow part of the founding principles of this country and there is no such concept as civic rights.

“Prop 8 restores the rule of law as dictated by the people, not by activist judges.”

80% of Americans are against illegal immigration” but pro-enforcement candidates somehow keep losing elections.

6. distort numbers

Both groups also swarm articles and online discussions and litter their trashy hateful discourse to appear as the ‘moral majority.’ Offline though, neither nativists nor homophobescan usually draw more than a few dozen to their rallies for hate.

7. tout baseless chain effects

“When you reward someone for doing something, you encourage others to engage in similar behavior. That’s why amnesty programs are the wrong way to address illegal immigration.”
Heritage Foundation

“Gays are recruiting young children into becoming gay.”

Because when we hang out with tall people, we get taller.

8. invoke an alien status

“Why don’t you gays just get your own planet; and leave the rest of us alone?” (If there was life on another planet, I would seriously consider it)

“Illegal aliens are just that: ILLEGAL ALIENS. Go back to Mexico.” And this is said even for immigrant youth who have been here since they were toddlers, speak perfect English, and as American as apple pie.

9. employ discourse of hate


Notice the capitalization? Notice the dehumanizing words? Nativists and homophobes usually do not have warrants for any claims they make, hence reduce themselves down to adhoms and slurs.

Lal points out that both lgbt and undocument folks can describe their positions interchangeably.

“We are here. We work alongside you, raise our kids alongside your kids, walk the same path, shop at the same stores, drive on the same highways, breath from the same air supply and drink from the same water source. The only difference is that we are treated as second-class in our own country, because we are __________ (gay/without papers).”

What are the benefits and drawbacks of this strategy? How can this be successful in pursuing change? How is it problematic?

A note on images: The images above are by Julio Salgado, an artist and activist. Check out more of his work below and on his tumblr page.

For an interview with Salgado, see: 


Sexual Violence against Native Women

In “Not an Indian Tradition: The Sexual Colonization of Native Peoples”, Andrea Smith critiques the “white-dominated anti-violence against women movement” for failing to take factors such as race, ethnicity, class and ability into account. By analyzing violence solely as a gendered construct, such a movement fails to take an intersectional approach to the issue. However, Smith also believes that an intersectional analysis (meaning one that does not disentangle factors such as race from gender) is not enough. She writes,

If sexual violence is not simply a tool of patriarchy, but is also a tool of colonialism and racism,then entire communities of color are the victims of sexual violence. As Neferti Tadiar argues,colonial relationships are themselves gendered and sexualized… {W}hen a Native woman suffers abuse, this abuse is not just an attach on her identity as a woman but on her identity as Native (71).

The rest of the article lays out how Native women and entire Native communities are dehumanized and seen as polluted, dirty, and inherently “ratable”, how this contributes to patriarchy,  and the ways in which this impacts reproductive health and environmental racism.
Watch the following video”Violence Against Aboriginal Women” . The brief video highlights how Native women in Canada are impacted by sexual violence. How does their definition of “violence against women” relate to Smith’s claims? How would you define this type of violence and why? Is this an effective video? Why or why not?

What about this video from the Indian Law Resource Center? Does it engage in intersectional analysis? Who is it speaking to, and why? Is this an effective video? Why or why not?
As these and numerous sources attest, Native women are disproportionately affected by sexual violence.

VAWA Presidential Signing Ceremony

VAWA Presidential Signing Ceremony (Photo credit: NCAI)

Recently, Congress re-authorized the Violence against Women Act (VAWA) and added provisions to help curb this type of violence.

As Sarah Deer, an assistant professor of law and a citizen of the Muscogee Nation of Oklahoma explains:

Until this new version, VAWA didn’t really attempt to address jurisdictional problems that have contributed to astronomical rates of violence against Native women and children. There’s never really been accountability for non-Indians coming into tribal communities and committing acts of rape or domestic violence; tribal governments can’t prosecute them. I’ve heard tribal police say that the white men on the reservation basically flaunt their violence and taunt the police: “You can’t do anything, I know I’m outside the bounds of the law.” So from my perspective, restoring the power to tribal governments will be an improvement.
Feminists and anti-violence activists continue to debate the pros and cons of VAWA. For some folks, such acts do little to change the larger structure and ultimately fail. A blogger called “ComputerBlue” articulates frustrations with VAWA:
The argument is that all survivors deserve “equal access” to the “protection” that VAWA offers.  The anti-racist position seems to begin and end with the idea that we should urge Senators to pass the “good” version of VAWA that includes these provisions.  However, this argument fails to ask if state-based “protection” is helpful for those people who cannot access racist notions of legitimate survivorhood.  This “good” VAWA vs racist/homophobic VAWA framing obscures the fact that VAWA itself is tied to devastating legacies of racial violence.

VAWA directs federal funding to investigate, arrest, and prosecute those deemed guilty of domestic violence and sexual assault, as well as provides federal funds to services. It was initiated in 1994 as part of the behemoth Crime Bill Act which, as Angela Davis put itfacilitated the incarceration of more women.  This was especially true for black and Latina women, who, by 2005, were 200% and 69% (respectively) more likely than white women to be incarcerated.  In short, the ‘94 Crime Bill and anti-violence feminists’ advocacy for criminalization-based strategies in general, was a catastrophe for many survivors of color.   This has been discussed at length hereherehere, and here, as a few examples.

[…] Instead of uncritical support of law-and-order legislation like VAWA, I wish that feminist advocates would promote a politics grounded in racial justice that address the profound structural conditions that help drive domestic and sexual violence for so many of us.  A politics that says yes to making sure that non-Native men cannot abuse Native women and others with impunity through the restoration of sovereignty that ultimately creates space to develop community-based responses to violence and doesn’t further empower the colonial state (as advocated by Andrea Smith and Sarah Deer).  And yes to amnesty for undocumented immigrants who are survivors of violence (among others), but not dependent on their coerced participation with police and prosecutors, as would be required from the “good” version of VAWA.  And yes to the public recognition of the existence of queer relationships and access to services for queer survivors of domestic and sexual violence, but why hinge that recognition to a state that regularly and intentionally wields violence against queer people of color who are poor, incarcerated, immigrants, indigenous, disabled, and/or black?  (More on that visionary politics here.)  And critically, yes to pushing back against the state’s invitation to be complicit in “crime control” policies that we know — and have known — terrorize black survivors and others whose bodies are routinely targeted by the state.
What do you think about this? How does VAWA reflect (or respond to) the issues Smith critiques? What strategies do you suggest?

Welcome to the Class!

Hello! I’m really looking forward to this spring quarter with you. Please be sure to review the course syllabus very carefully as it constitutes a contract between us. The syllabus contains detailed information on course expectations and assignments. Make sure you bookmark both this blog and the course smartsite since you will need to check these frequently.

Lecture Expectations

Class begins promptly at 2:10pm. Please do not arrive late or leave early as this disturbs others’ concentration. Laptops are only allowed in designated rows in the classroom. This reduces unnecessary distraction in class. If you use a laptop in class, you may be asked to share your class notes with me. I do this to ensure you are taking notes and not twittering or updating your Facebook status. If you use your cell phone to take notes, you must make arrangements with me beforehand.  Please make sure your cell phone is on silent, not on vibrate. Vibrate mode is still loud and disturbs those around you. It should go without saying that we are all adults and should respect each other’s opinions and turns to speak.

Email Etiquette

Emails will generally be responded to within 48 hours Mon-Fri. Please make sure to use complete sentences and correct grammar in electronic communication. See  “Email Etiquette: How to Not Communicate With Your Professor” for more details. Also see this tumblr post.


This obviously won’t be tolerated in the class. The UC Davis Office of Student Judicial Affairs defines plagiarism as:

“using another’s work without giving credit. If you use others’ words, you must put them in quotation marks and cite your source. You must also give citations when using others’ ideas, even if you have paraphrased those ideas in your own words.”

Please see “Avoiding Plagiarism: Mastering the Art of Scholarship”  for more information. Students caught plagiarizing will fail the course and be reported to SJA.

Late Paper Policy

Late papers are only accepted with PRIOR consent of the instructor. These papers will be marked down 1/3 grade for each 24 hours they are late. If you foresee a scheduling issue, you must make arrangements with me 72 hours BEFORE the paper is due. Papers that are late without warning will not receive any credit.