BY STEVE ROTHAUS, srothaus@MiamiHerald.com
Ten young South Florida protesters on Monday called on U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., to include gay and lesbian people in an immigration reform package set to be unveiled Tuesday.
"We want to make certain that [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] equality isn't left out of comprehensive immigration reform," said protest organizer Gabriel Garcia-Vera, 24, of GetEQUAL Miami, who describes himself as "a queer Puerto Rican and someone who identifies as a Latino voter."
GetEQUAL is a grassroots national LGBT organization dedicated to "full legal and social equality," according to its website.
Garcia-Vera was joined by other young activists representing Florida Immigration Coalition, Students Working for Equal Rights and Dream Defenders.
"There is always a group of people standing up against a system that is always somehow criminalizing us. Black and brown communities are coming together on the side of Dream Defenders and today we are also taking a stand for our LGBTQ community," said Kimberly Gonzalez, 27, president of Dream Defenders' Miami Dade College Kendall Campus chapter.
"LGBTQ rights are human rights and as individual groups fighting what may seem like different forms of oppression, we are here to stand together with the understanding that oppressors are the same," said Gonzalez, who does not identify as LGBT.
A bipartisan group of eight senators, including Rubio, plans to unveil a sweeping immigration bill on Tuesday to secure the border, remake legal immigration, boost workplace enforcement and put 11 million people here illegally on a path to citizenship, according to Associated Press.
In February, Rubio told the website BuzzFeed he hopes LGBT immigration doesn't become a "central issue" in immigration reform.
"I think if that issue becomes a central issue in the debate it's going to become harder to get it done because there will be strong feelings on both sides," Rubio said.
About 900,000 immigrants in the country identify themselves as gay, bisexual or transgender, including more than 48,000 members of same-sex couples in which one or both spouses or partners aren’t U.S. citizens, according to a recent study by the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law, a research center on sexual and gender identity issues.
Sergio Cesario, a Brazilian-American citizen in Miami, said his partner, Mauro, could be deported if immigration reform doesn't include LGBT people.
In 2005, Cesario became critically ill with inherited kidney disease and returned home to Brazil, where he met Mauro. They fell in love and Mauro came to the United States with him.
Mauro eventually donated a kidney to Cesario, saving his life.
"He gave me the gift of love and it's so difficult to separate ourselves," Cesario said. "It would be very difficult to live apart because of a law that is unjust."