By: Hertz Alegrio, Queer Dream Summer Intern at API Equality Los Angeles
[The Queer Justice Fund supported API Equality Los Angeles to host Hertz Alegrio, an intern from the Queer DREAM Summer program. This program provided opportunities for undocumented youth and students to work with LGBT organizations to open up dialogues and to build stronger connections around issues of immigration and undocumented youth who are LGBT. In the post below, Hertz shares his experiences working with AAPI communities on LGBT and undocumented youth issues. – Alice Y. Hom, Director, Queer Justice Fund]
Summer may only be three months long, but a lot can happen during this spirited season. Kids grow inches and transition one step closer to maturity, seniors graduate and enter a new stage of life, friendships form and romances blossom, and lives can forever be transformed. Well, I haven’t grown any taller since high school and I don’t believe I had a summer fling. What I know for sure is that this summer has been life-changing for me and the 1.4 million young undocumented Americans who will benefit from Deferred Action.
The recent announcement of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals has elevated the spirits of many who have felt hopeless, despondent, and let-down after a decade of failed congressional action regarding the DREAM Act. These past few months, I’ve seen optimism in the immigrant community I haven’t seen since 2010, when the Federal DREAM Act was last up for a vote. This optimism is of course tempered with caution, but across the country countless community forums, town halls, and legal clinics are being led by undocumented youth directly affected and their allies.
This summer won’t just be memorable because of this new policy. It will be incredibly unforgettable for the 150 undocumented American students from across the country who participated in the second DREAM Summer Internship program and the first ever Queer DREAM Summer Internship program. The undocumented youth movement has been largely led by both women and queer people who have worked tirelessly to make sure the intersections of the immigrant and LGBT movements were recognized through the creation of safe spaces such as the Queer Undocumented Immigrant Project. And within the undocumented youth movement, Asian Pacific Islanders have begun to gather and mobilize thanks to spaces such as ASPIRE. In cities across the U.S., undocumented student leaders and activists have been paired up with organizations working on varying social justice causes, including domestic workers and carwasheros rights. For me and other Queer DREAM Summer participants, it was an opportunity to connect the LGBT and Immigrant Rights movements.
As a gay undocumented Asian American, I had the wonderful opportunity to intern with API Equality-LA, a civil rights organization working in the API community for the fair treatment of LGBT people. Through my internship, I worked on projects that connect different identities. During our July General Coalition Meeting we had a panel of speakers who shared their immigration experiences as LGBT and API individuals. I’m also collecting stories for &: Queer Asian Intersections to highlight the complex and nuanced multiple identities within our community. Many of my fellow Queer DREAM Summer interns have been doing similar work: some organizing panels on what it means to be queer and undocumented, others creating safe spaces for API undocumented youth. We feel honored to be interning at organizations that support us in trying to make a difference.
This incredible summer experience would not have been available for me or the other 150 student activists without the generosity of organizations such as the Queer Justice Fund. Summer may only be three months long, but I will remember it fondly for the changes we made and the work we’ve contributed. Many of us DREAM Summer interns witnessed first-hand the power of our community when we come together with hope, generosity, and commitment.
Hertz Alegrio hails from Anaheim, California, and is an illustration student in Los Angeles. He is interested in the intersection between the immigrant rights and LGBT movements, particularly from an API lens, and the stories of those who identify as API, undocumented, and LGBT. Though he loves to paint, he is currently interested in comics as a powerful medium for storytelling.