The article entitled ‘Supporters of Same-Sex Marriage Join Backers of In-State Tuition for Illegal Immigrants in Maryland’ speaks to the formation of a recent alliance between same-sex marriage supporters and undocumented (student) youth in the state of Maryland. The Associated Press reporter interviews policy makers, organization directors, and undocuqueer youth to delineate the collaboration of Equality Maryland and Casa de Maryland as one founded on ‘personal responsibility.’ The article quotes Senator Richard Madaleno as saying, “It’s about hope, dignity and opportunity and personal responsibility, because an education is about your ability to go out and get that education. No one gives it to you. You have to earn that diploma. Marriage is about personal responsibility. These are potentially the two most important aspects of someone’s life.”
On the one hand, I completely understand the pairing of these two organizations as two of the most politically contentious and socially marginalized groups; yet the rendition of why this pairing is occurring in this case is weak. First, what does ‘personal responsibility’ mean? In the case of the access to education of undocumented youth it seems to mean that the excluded student is personally responsible for acquiring a degree. Is that the same personal responsibility for same-sex couples? If I understand one of the major platforms of same-sex marriage advocates, personal responsibility in the latter case is arguing that people have the individual choice and it is, in layman terms, their business who they do or do not choose to love and/or marry.
Secondly, to not mention the activity and mobility in the immigrant rights movement, particularly the immigrant youth/student movement, is to undermine, if not negate, the true motive and power behind the alliance. Prior to Obama’s Executive Order outlining the plan for Deferred Action on June 15th, 2012, the US had not seen any alterations to immigration policy since 1986. Over twenty-years passed before any relief was given to immigrant communities. Moreover, it was not solely for immigrants but immigrant youth specifically. To say that the success of immigrant youth organizers in achieving some policy enactment, despite how temporary it may be (Deferred Action expires after 2 years and requires renewal), does intentionally or unintentionally not play into the alliance formation is misled.
This is not to say that I am opposed to the intersectionality between sexuality and immigration status. Nor am I opposed to organizations of any sort forming bonds of solidarity. In fact, I believe organizational and population isolation is a detriment of many grassroots movements (including the complete success of the feminist movement). I do, however, believe credit should be given where credit is due. The immigrant youth movement is quickly mobilizing and so much of that comes from the dire needs of the community and the blatant experiences of marginalization, exclusion, and racism. Why not openly recognize that fact and develop transparent community partnerships? Finally, yes, there are undocumented queer youth and young adults; but neither identity should be tokenized in the struggle of the other. Perhaps this is just me nit-picking, but it’s worth noting if we are truly moving toward a state of social equality.