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The National Center for Lesbian Rights Celebrates Cesar Chaves Day

A Statement from Immigration Project Director Noemi Calonje

(San Francisco, CA, March 31, 2007) — As Immigration Project Director, the work I do everyday at NCLR is getting harder and harder as our broken immigration system continues to tear our families and our communities apart.

The number of days when I feel completely hopeless and close to tears because there is absolutely nothing I nor NCLR - nor any attorney, no matter how powerful - can do to help the scores of people who contact me who are in the direst of situations, is growing. These visits, calls, and emails I get are from men and women, often with children, who are at the end of their line of hope, desperate, persecuted, afraid, and with nowhere else to turn. And so I go about my work, trying to search for some light amidst all the darkness.

I listen to the undocumented lesbian moms who are afraid to take their children to school because they fear the immigration authorities. I meet with single undocumented gay dads who work long hours for far less than minimum wage in order to provide for their children. They risk arrests during immigration raids at their place of employment as well as in their own homes. I try to remain optimistic when our undocumented transgender community struggles not only with their legal status, but also the most blatant discrimination at work or on the street on a daily basis.

Throughout the country, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has rounded up and deported thousands of undocumented immigrants. Their violent and inhumane actions are sanctioned by what they are calling "Operation Return to Sender." These raids have taken place at supermarkets, BART stations, day laborer sites, libraries, and even schools.

In stepping back to think about why NCLR celebrates César Chávez and his legacy, I found some hope. For a better future for our communities and our country as a whole.

March 31st is the day we honor the struggle and work of César Chávez, someone who knew first-hand the hardships immigrants face in this country. It was his determination to achieve fairness, equality, and justice for his people that kept what seemed like a hopeless struggle alive for many years. He understood that all our struggles - whether for economic and racial justice, immigrant rights, or LGBT equality - are all interconnected and as people of this nation, we must fight for indivisible justice.

At NCLR, we are proud to carry on his legacy in opposing persecution, oppression, and discrimination in all its forms.

And it is in honor of that spirit that we advocate for legislation that protects all immigrants. We support true comprehensive immigration reform that would: support efforts to create and affirm the broader definitions of family patterns in which LGBT people already live; end the 1-year deadline for applying for asylum; repeal the HIV ban; end the indefinite and mandatory detention of non-citizens; eliminate the backlog and raise the cap on family visas so millions of families who have been separated for years can be reunited; eliminate the 3 and 10-year bars for so-called unlawful presence; eliminate employer sanctions (the policy of using employers as immigration agents); and legalize the 12 million undocumented immigrants who currently contribute to our society each and every day.

It is the legacy of this honorable man that teaches us that all battles have hope. Let this day remind us, not only of the struggle, but also of our responsibility to keep that same hope alive today and in the future. I challenge each one of us to spread the word and stand up for all our brothers and sisters, immigrants and workers - regardless of national origin, race, sexual orientation, gender identity, or immigration status - until all of us can live with safety, dignity and fairness.


Noemi Calonje
NCLR Immigration Project Director

For more information on NCLR's immigration and asylum project, see

The National Center for Lesbian Rights is a national legal organization committed to advancing the civil and human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and their families through litigation, public policy advocacy, and public education.

media contacts:


Erik Olvera
Director of Communications
National Center for Lesbian Rights
office: 415.392.6257 x324

Bethany Woolman
Communications Associate
National Center for Lesbian Rights
office: 415.392.6257 x305


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