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Thomas Saenz, president of MALDEF, speaks at Creating Change



In a show of solidarity between the immigration and LGBT movements, Tom Saenz, the president of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF), delivered the opening keynote address for the Creating Change conference in Dallas.

Creating Change, the largest national conference for LGBT equality, is put on each year by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. MALDEF is a premiere national civil rights organization, leading in many issue areas of significance to the Latino community, including pressing for comprehensive immigration reform. Saenz, MALDEF’s president, is a veteran civil rights leaders and was formerly counsel to Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

Last night, Saenz told the audience of over 1,000 that it was the largest and most enthusiastic indoor crowd he had spoken to as MALDEF president. He spoke of the connections between the Latino and LGBT communities including the fact that large sectors of both populations must live in the shadows with less than full equality.

Saenz called for comprehensive immigration reform that would bring undocumented immigrants out of the shadows and provide them with critical consitutional rights. He also called for full equality for the LGBT community. And he insisted repeatedly that comprehensive immigration reform will not be comprehensive without UAFA and LGBT families included. He pointed out that insisting on UAFA’s passage also focuses the immigration debate back the American immigration system’s core principle: family unification.

MALDEF and Saenz have been consistently outspoken in their demand that all immigrants be included in comprehensive immigration reform, including gay and lesbian couples. In an interview last fall, Saenz told the Associated Press that comprehensive immigration reform must include in its key components “creat[ing] equity for same sex partners who want to come to the U.S. or get green cards.” Saenz does not see the LGBT community as separate from the Latino community, but both integral parts of the other. MALDEF feels it must represent LGBT Latinos as part of its constituency, just as the LGBT movement must represent and fight for immigrants as part of our community.

MALDEF and Immigration Equality have a close working partnership. Last year, MALDEF co-presented at an LGBT Equality Caucus briefing on immigration, along with Congressman Nadler, Shirley Tan, and Immigration Equality. MALDEF has also consulted with Immigration Equality and other LGBT organizations to ensure that LGBT Latinos are counted in the next U.S. census, and we are partnering to ensure that critical immigration reform information reaches the LGBT community and LGBT immigration issues reach the Latino community.

Immigration Equality salutes Tom Saenz for being a critical national leader for civil rights. We also commend the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and Creating Change organizers for recognizing how critical immigration reform is to the LGBT community.

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