Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Si, se puede

Feminist Thoughts
By Erica Chu

Si, se puede

On May first, I walked with thousands marching for comprehensive immigration reform. This was my first immigration rally, and I was spurred to this small action because of my anger over Arizona’s SB1070, a state law much in the news because many say it amounts to state-mandated racial profiling and police harassment. This march, however, was about so much more than Arizona. I listened to the chants and speeches, I read the signs, the t-shirts, and buttons. I looked at face after face, and as the crowds dispersed, I felt an uneasy feeling. I’d been wrong. I had thought immigration reform was important, but it had never seemed to be something I needed to be immediately concerned about. I stood in Daly Plaza and realized I only thought that because there had been no roadblocks in my migration story.

I think back to the story of my father coming to this country. He had $300 in his pocket and carried with him all the sacrifices of his parents, grandmother, and siblings…and all their hopes for a better life. I think of his parents’ journey from China to the then-British-colony of Hong Kong, and of their flight from economic depression and political uncertainty. I think too of the journeys my mother’s relatives made from England and Germany fleeing the same problems and of the celebrated sacrifices made by those white relatives we call “pioneers” and “homesteaders,” not “resident aliens” or “illegal immigrants.”

What all my migrant relatives have in common is that they had access to the documentation that “authorized” their move from one place to another. They worked incredibly hard over generations, taking pride in their work and contributing to the economy. Eventually, I became the beneficiary of their labor.

I think of the most recent chapter of my own migration story—how I came to Chicago to pursue my education and to find a certain amount of freedom to pursue the kind of political and sexual/gender identity I valued. Why shouldn’t others have broader opportunities to do the same?

As LGBTQAI people, we are members of class of people historically (and often currently) classified as “perverted,” “sick,” “dangerous,” or “illegal.” Many of us struggle for the documents that are freely given to others of a more “authorized” identity. We of all people should recognize the dehumanizing effects of classifications determined by those in power.

I hope you will join me in admitting how wrong we are if we think immigration is not an issue that concerns us. LGBTQAI people are joined together because we fight for the right to cross the borders of what others think is appropriate for someone of our gender. Let’s continue the struggle at our national borders and fight for the right of hard-working Americans to be recognized as such. These two seemingly dissimilar struggles are in fact working for the same goals: dignity, freedom, and equality. And yes, each is possible. Si, se puede.

Erica Chu is a student at Loyola University Chicago and is seeking a PhD in English with a concentration in Women Studies and Gender Studies. She manages the blog and can be reached at