Issue 14.2 | 2017 / Guest edited by Gema Pérez-Sánchez and Brenna Munro

Queer Migration Politics as Transnational Activism

Queer Migration Politics as Transnational Activism

Organizations like the US-based Human Rights Campaign have set their sights on international pursuits after the achievement of marriage equality in the United States, and President Obama, in a landmark visit to Kenya and Ethiopia in summer 2015, chastised East African countries for their records on LGBTI rights. As this occurs, many are rightfully concerned about the next phase of LGBTI activism.[1] Both are examples of a specific viewpoint that communicates and participates in the idea that the problems of LGBTI rights now exist outside US borders, not within them. Maintaining borders between “us” and “them,” such rhetoric also suggests that US solutions are universal ones.

If those examples do not reflect how we should think the queer or LGBTI in relation to the transnational, and I firmly maintain they don’t, how should we think queer activism transnationally? In its most mainstream forms, transnational gay and lesbian activism has centered on global gay human rights, international “equality” agendas and other campaigns, tourism and mobility, global homophobia, and visibility politics. It has also often trafficked in Islamophobia, anti-blackness, neocolonialism, and, very obviously, neo-liberal capitalism.[2] In its most radical forms, transnational queer activism from and in the global South and North works closely with communities on the ground and challenges logics and systems that often shape mainstream engagement with, and promotion of, transnational queer or LGBTI activism. These confronted logics and systems include newer formations like homonationalism, homotransnationalism and pinkwashing, alongside enduring ones such as colonialism, liberalism, capitalism and imperialism.[3]

Significant powerful writing addresses the mainstream global gay rights industry and the radical queer projects that challenge it and broader systems of oppression.[4] My focus is, instead, on local/national instantiations of what I call queer migration politics—political work in the many intersections and interstices among queer (though not necessarily LGBTI) and migration politics.[5] Queer migration politics are often locally or nationally focused, but the ways they can challenge borders and bordering logics offer fresh insight into the old adage, “think globally, act locally.” These are useful for thinking queer activism transnationally out of the approaches mentioned above. Queer migration politics challenge static borders of nation-states and us vs. them logics.

Transnationalism is often associated with heightened mobility, but often, queer migration politics are incredibly confined to singular locales—nation-states, states or provinces, cities or even neighborhoods.[6] This geographical confinement is due to people’s precarious legal status and the risk for arrest, incarceration, and deportation.[7] When queer migration activists are not geographically constrained, queer migration politics frequently target the laws or practices of particular locales because it is those local, state or national policies that most directly restrict and constrain their daily lives.[8] Even when seemingly focused only on or from a locale, or toward a local or national concern, queer migration politics also simultaneously point at, and outside, the boundaries of nation-states.

Queer migration politics regularly question or confront the legitimacy of borders and restrictive policies that enforce their existence and thereby expunge particular people. As Wendy Brown explains, nation-states “exhibit a passion for wall-building,” both literally and metaphorically, when it comes to the movement of people.[9] Jenna M. Loyd, Matt Mitchelson and Andrew Burridge explain that walls and cages are erected in the name of national sovereignty, which then renders certain people “illegal” and “criminal.”[10] When confronting bordering logics for the movement of people, queer migration politics challenge national sovereignty. The move of queer migration politics differs from much mainstream immigration politics that often, through a logic of inclusion, reinforce the legitimacy of national borders. The challenges of queer migration politics to sovereignty operate as part of the waning of nation-state sovereignty logics, but in emphasizing people (not capital), work against the logics of neoliberal globalization.[11]

In this essay, I discuss two instantiations of queer migration politics that iterate different challenges to national sovereignty, borders and bordering through critiquing the laws of a singular nation-state: in both cases, the United States. These examples show that seemingly-contained challenges to a nation-state’s laws or imaginaries are actually challenges to bordering logics and perhaps to national sovereignty. I selected these two seemingly disparate cases because they illustrate the importance of location and borders for queer migration politics throughout different periods of neoliberal globalization. Although these cases are “cherry-picked” in one sense, I drew them from extensive research into different iterations of queer migration politics throughout the late 20th and early 21st centuries and put forth these two as ideal types. As instances of queer resistance, they both stand in opposition to the tendencies of mainstream immigration politics and the global gay rights industry that help to call attention to the situatedness of borders, relationships among the global and local, and the functions of normativities.
First, I consider activist responses to US President Barack Obama’s November 2014 executive orders on immigration, which in part allegedly shifted his administration’s focus away from deporting “families” and toward deporting “felons.” Queer migration activists, many of whom are the most marginalized by state-level policies, responded to this framing by queering literal and metaphorical bordering logics in important ways. Second, I turn to activist responses to the 1990 and 1992 International AIDS Conferences, which were scheduled to be held in the United States, despite the US ban on HIV-positive migrants and visitors. Here, activists built and drew upon transnational networks of AIDS workers in order to challenge the legitimacy of US national law and its self-proclaimed status as leader of the global economic-political order.

Queer Migration Politics from National to Transnational

On November 20, 2014, the Obama administration announced the end of a controversial program known as Secure Communities, or S-Comm. S-Comm was a massive program that functioned more or less as an extension of a provision in the Immigration and Nationality Act called 287(g). 287(g) allows local law enforcement agencies to enter an agreement with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) that essentially deputizes these local agencies as ICE agencies; S-Comm made it so that any person who was arrested and booked into a local jail would have their information run through an FBI criminal database and also through Department of Homeland Security (DHS) immigration databases to see if they were deportable. If so, ICE could issue a “detainer,” which asked the local jail to let them know when a non-US citizen would be released. ICE could then decide whether to bring the person into federal custody. S-Comm was controversial because it terrorized entire communities by opening them up to possible deportation for only minor police interaction, criminalized anyone suspected of being undocumented, and led to hundreds of thousands of deportations. Immigrants and advocates championed the end of S-Comm, but what did Obama propose in its place?

An informational announcement from US Citizenship and Immigration Services put it this way: “On November 20, 2014, President Obama announced a series of executive actions to crack down on illegal immigration at the border, prioritize deporting felons not families, and require certain undocumented immigrants to pass a criminal background check and pay taxes in order to temporarily stay in the U.S. without fear of deportation.”[12] Most mainstream media and many immigrant rights organizations emphasized only this latter point: the extension of the President’s deferred action program beyond youth to the parents of US citizens or legal permanent residents. Few focused on the other pieces centered on a program DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson introduced as “PEP,” the Priority Enforcement Program. Under PEP, as the name suggests, immigration officials would focus only on “priority” targets, specifically the following:

  1. Those who threaten national security, public safety or border security: including “terrorists” or those suspected of espionage, members of street gangs, aggravated felons and those apprehended at borders;
  2. Those convicted of three (non-traffic or separate immigration related) misdemeanors, one significant misdemeanor, visa abusers, or those who cannot prove they have been here since January 1, 2014; and
  3. Those with “other immigration violations.”[13]

Another November 20 memo from Johnson, “Policies for the Apprehension, Detention and Removal of Undocumented Immigrants,” added some clarification to the application of PEP, noting, “Nothing in this memorandum should be construed to prohibit or discourage the apprehension, detention, or removal of aliens unlawfully in the United States who are not identified as priorities herein.”[14] In other words, the three priority groups should be used as guidelines, but anyone could still be removed even if not considered part of one of the priority groups. Both S-Comm and PEP were instruments of national sovereignty designed to strengthen the US state’s ability to both enforce its international borders and reinforce walls between who is worthy of belonging and who must be excluded.

When it comes to the administration’s framing of PEP, bordering logics were front and center in the catch phrase “felons, not families.” The “deporting felons, not families” rhetoric must be read as a direct response to outrage with the Obama administration’s policies that split hundreds of thousands of families by deporting some 2.5 million people from 2009-2016. Pleas to stop dividing families have long been central to immigrant rights and justice advocacy, but the singularity of this rhetoric has arguably been even more prominent since Obama took office. This rhetoric of the immigrant rights movement is often paired with contentions that immigrants are not criminals. Both strategies by the movement enact bordering logics that imply some are worthy of inclusion and others are not. One could easily contend that Obama took this catch line directly from the mainstream immigrant rights movement.
Queer migration activists, before and after Obama’s announcement, have confronted both of these rhetorical devices, and have especially critiqued how reliance on “family” arguments create exclusionary distinctions. In my book, Queer Migration Politics, I wrote about a number of challenges to such arguments, including several pieces from scholar-activist-writer Yasmin Nair and the now-defunct Queers for Economic Justice (QEJ)’s “Queers and Immigration: A Vision Statement” (2007). The QEJ statement highlights the problem with accepted definitions of family within law and in the rhetoric of advocates; as the authors noted, “the broad universe of non-heteronormative family units created by LGBTQ immigrants is automatically excluded from receiving immigration benefits. Both the LGBTQ and immigrant rights communities need to work towards expanding their narrow definitions of ‘family’ in order to better serve all immigrants, including LGBTQ immigrants.”[15] The statement also argues that criminalization of people associated with unauthorized immigrants in the form of harboring provisions functions to divide people’s kin networks. The task is to simultaneously confront both the boundaries around family and the divisions created to keep people separate. Both confrontations not only resist divisive logics, but they also intervene in the legitimacy of the nation-state’s ability to make such determinations about family and criminality.

After Obama’s November 2014 announcements, most advocates celebrated the extension of the deferred action program that provided select undocumented youth with a work permit,[16] but some also brought a queer critique to bear upon who would be left out, and, in fact, targeted as deportable priorities. Based on interviews with several activists, Julianne Hing reported that the following groups were among those left out of the deferred action order: parents of undocumented youth who benefited from the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), seasonal workers without connections to US citizen children, LGBT immigrants—especially youth and trans people—who are more likely to have been homeless and therefore to have committed low-level criminal offenses, domestic violence survivors who can’t get visas under the Violence Against Women Act, and black immigrants who are more likely to be racially profiled by police and therefore either have a felony record or have family members who do.[17] These groups were left out or targeted because the Obama administration did not recognize their family relationships as legitimate or worthy of inclusion, and/or because the administration failed to acknowledge how even “legitimate” families might be harmful and thus create conditions that put someone in a deportable position.

Several partners in the Not One More Deportation Campaign, which claimed a significant role in Obama’s decision to issue executive orders, also commented on the contradiction in Obama’s framing with specific emphasis on LGBT people. Yesenia Valdez, a national organizer for Familia: Trans and Queer Liberation Movement noted,

As a community, we know that we do not fit the normal definition of families that continue to dominate public discourse. Many LGBTQ undocumented immigrants do not have families that are US citizens or permanent residents that could allow them to qualify for the program. Additionally, we know that our community, especially trans women of color, is unfairly targeted by law enforcement through racial discrimination or for engaging in survival sex work. These daily realities mean that many members of our LGBTQ community will be left out of the president’s plan.[18]

Like the QEJ statement, Familia refused to accept the legitimacy of any program that reinforced troubling divisions. Opal Tometi, the executive director for the Black Alliance for Just Immigration and co-founder of Black Lives Matter, recognized that black people are most likely to be impacted by enforcement measures, adding: “We won’t stand for a system that criminalizes us, and then pits family against people who may have a criminal record.”[19] Tometi also reiterated concerns both about limiting definitions of family and the negative impacts on families that such divisions between alleged “felons” vs. “families” create. Although these instances of queer migration politics are on one level from within the nation-state toward that nation-state, the challenge to border logics between those who are worthy and unworthy of belonging then questions the right of the nation-state to enforce such divisions.

These instances of queer migration politics demonstrate that queer transnational resistance is not just the work of mobile cosmopolites, but can also be the labor of those most marginalized by state policy. Here, activists brought a queer critique to bear upon powerful national fictions about family and belonging and how such fictions reinforce literal and metaphorical borders. I now turn attention to an earlier instance of queer migration politics that also centers the local/national and directly challenges borders. Here, activists enacted a kind of queer resistance by relying on transnational networks and creating transnational publicity to challenge unjust national laws.

Queer Migration Politics from Transnational to National

Controversy regarding the 1990 and 1992 International AIDS Conferences (IAC) provides another opportunity to examine how queer migration politics offer a way to imagine the relationship between the localized and the global through a critique and use of borders. These protests surrounded the ban preventing HIV-positive people migrating to, or regularizing their status in, the United States. The first IAC was held in 1985; the International AIDS Society was founded in 1988 and tasked with facilitating the organization of future conferences. IACs are the largest meeting of AIDS workers, and, over time, grew beyond only scientists to also include sociologists, behaviorists and people living with HIV. As with most large conferences, sites for future events are selected well in advance, so the choice of San Francisco for the 1990 IAC preceded the 1987 federal ban on HIV-positive migrants from coming to the United States. Because HIV-positive, non-US citizens would no longer be allowed to travel to the United States to attend the conference, this severely limited who would be able to participate in the important conversations scheduled on US soil.

The question of the ban apparently did not come up quickly enough, or perhaps organizers believed that the ban would, in fact, be lifted beforehand. As a result, organizers did not move the 1990 conference on the grounds that there was too little time to do so.[20] Interested organizations from around the world began to call for a boycott of the conference in November 1989 on several grounds, including that this would prevent some people from attending, lead to the harassment or violation of privacy for those who did, and tacitly condone the actions of the US federal government.[21] Despite organizers’ attempts to persuade the Bush administration to change the policy, and its leaders’ ability to obtain temporary waivers for participants, 130 groups and organizations boycotted the conference in the end.[22] Some observers claimed that as many as 2,000-3,000 people did not register who otherwise would have.[23]

The IAC was already a contested site in the minds of AIDS activists. As Deborah Gould notes of this time period, the federal government was ignoring the issue and refusing to put funding toward it while all levels of government considered policies like quarantine and mandatory testing.[24] Although scientists often wanted to be allies, they regularly missed the importance of political perspective and dismissed the queer, in-your-face approach of political activists. Local activists from ACT UP and immigrant rights groups organized massive protests of the conference’s events. Protestors staged media spectacles, marched, and chanted outside the San Francisco conference building.

The boycott and protests, built through existing transnational networks, used border restrictions to generate “transnational publicity,” or “the rhetorical crafting and circulation of discourse by a broad range of advocacy groups, individuals, and organizations that intervene in particular rhetorical situations, constraining and enabling the options that publics have in responding to the issues and subjects they take up.”[25] Protestors’ actions opened space for scientists to express political views they might not have otherwise expressed, at times blurring boundaries between activist and scientist. To indicate solidarity with those who boycotted and express opposition to discriminatory laws, many conference attendees wore red armbands, as recommended by the Bay Area Physicians for Human Rights. Some delegates read protest statements before or during their scientific presentations, including Lars Olaf Kallings, then-president of the International AIDS Society.[26]

Reportedly, some official delegates gave their passes to protestors who were then able to bypass security to attend and disrupt the closing session, namely Health and Human Services Secretary Louis Sullivan, who gave the conference’s last speech. This was one of the most widely covered actions staged by activists. The introduction given by Paul Volberding, IAC Chair, used the word “honorable” to describe Sullivan. Whether the official cue, activists immediately began groaning, and the sound steadily increased. Volberding waited. The audience never quieted. Sullivan then started his speech. Protestors charged the stage, played sirens, whistles and horns, held signs, and started chanting. Activist interruptions stalled the proceedings for several minutes. Eventually the chants erupted into screams of, “Shame! Shame!” as activists shook their fists in rhythm. They threw crumpled paper and paper airplanes at the stage. Sullivan maintained his calm and only once addressed the protest. His words remained inaudible as he continued his speech praising the Bush administration’s advancements and financial resources in the fight against AIDS. In this instance, protestors clearly had an effect and brought scientists into political space. Afterwards, some scientists were quoted as agreeing that Sullivan deserved such treatment because of the discriminatory policies he advocated and represented.[27] Boycotters and protestors thus intervened in one specific event in order to draw attention to one country’s laws that had global impacts.

While the 1991 conference was scheduled for Florence, Italy, the 1992 conference was again set to be held in the United States, this time in Boston. As it became clearer that the ban would not be lifted before the conference, rumblings of boycott began to emerge. After much discussion, conference organizers decided to move the conference abroad to Amsterdam. This did not deter activists from using the occasion to generate more transnational publicity aimed at US border restrictions. As the conference approached, the Immigration Working Group (IWG) of ACT UP Golden Gate and ACT UP San Francisco led the international charge, using attention focused on the Amsterdam conference as an opportunity to further pressure the US government.[28]

The IWG called July 19, 1992 as a “Day Against Travel and Immigration Restrictions” in order to draw attention to the US policy.[29] Urging organizations to stage appropriate “high visibility actions” that the media would capture and circulate, the IWG suggested sites like Immigration and Naturalization Services (INS) offices, but also “symbolic and real borders.” In addition, members spent that spring writing letters to celebrities, world leaders, and global ACT UP chapters to gain more support and attention. These letters were addressed to leaders including French President Mitterrand, European member of Parliament Bandrés Molet, and celebrities such as Magic Johnson and Elizabeth Taylor. Letter writers sought transnational publicity by targeting key opinion leaders and stakeholders to put wanted pressure on the United States.[30]

Activists also sent letters to conference organizers, demanding time at the podium to focus specific attention on US policy in the ways activists desired. Most specifically, they requested that Tomás Fábregas, an HIV-positive legal permanent resident from Spain who lived in the United States, be the person with AIDS selected to speak at the opening ceremony. This was a request the conference organizers repeatedly did not approve, reportedly to avoid an “unwieldy opening ceremony.”[31] For years, Fábregas played a crucial part in activism drawing attention to the US policy, building links between queer direct action groups like ACT UP, predominantly gay non-profits like the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, and immigration advocacy groups such as the Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights and Services. Although he risked being banned from returning to the United States, Fábregas decided to travel to Amsterdam to represent others in more vulnerable positions that would not be able to do so. He was not allowed to address the IAC, but in choosing to take the trip, he relied on existing transnational publicity to both challenge US sovereignty and simultaneously protect him from the US applying its sovereignty by deporting him.

The centerpiece of the protest strategy in Amsterdam involved ACT UP’s transnational publicity and a press conference by ACT UP to denounce US policy, connecting that policy with similar laws in countries with which the US may not want to be compared. These media events throughout the conference opened up possibilities for audiences to make connections among and between countries, policies and treatment of HIV-positive people. Before, during and after the July conference, Fábregas publicly dared US immigration authorities to detain and deport him as he sought to re-enter US territory after attending the conference in Amsterdam.

Fábregas’ remarks at the press conference he coordinated along with Elizabeth Taylor’s organization AmFAR (American Foundation for AIDS Research) on July 23, 1992 and upon his return to the United States on July 25 show how focusing on the localized or national context has significant transnational implications as this becomes the site for fostering transnational publicity and subsequent networks and connections. In his statements, Fábregas used the US national border both as a literal site and a metaphor for all borders, as a theatre in which to call for transnational coalition. In his Amsterdam statement, Fábregas begins by suggesting he is merely there to offer his personal experience as “a person trapped by the dangerous and discriminatory HIV and immigration travel restrictions.” He personally speaks of those in the United States and how stressful the policy has been for him and his partner, but he does not look to make the occasion about him. He goes on,

We are joined by over four and one half million people of every nationality who have been forced by the U.S. government to submit to HIV testing when applying for residency in the United States of America. And we are joined by the seventeen million foreign born currently living through the U.S. who need to be reached, and can be reached, but are not being reached with the education and support of services we know are effective in preventing the transmission of HIV. I am one of them, and I can assure you that those seventeen million will not seek an HIV test if the result means possible deportation.

Here, Fábregas notes the connection between all those who suffer under such policies, calling out the irony that these policies actually enable rather than prevent the spread of HIV for people who can and should be reached, and are not being reached due to the policy. But Fábregas recognizes his relative privilege and does not intend to make his experience a representative for all others. He continues: “I am here today. But I left many friends at home who cannot risk making their story known.” Fábregas begins by telling the story of another member of the ACT UP immigration working group, a Brazilian national who cannot get his permanent residency approved because he contracted HIV (in the United States). Fábregas describes the negative health impacts his friend experiences under the stress, but he again stops, wishing not to make the experience of people in the United States a stand-in for all others. He also builds connections between the US policy with African students required to take HIV tests to study in Belgium, and Burmese sex workers in Thailand who work until they contract HIV and then are deported and often killed when they return home. Fábregas’ use of this last example shows how so-called first world countries like the US and Belgium are implicated in the extreme example of Burma and Thailand as they are each presented as manifestations of similar policies and logics. In blurring the experiences and subjectivities among and between European immigrant gays in the US, African students in Belgium, and Burmese sex workers in Thailand, Fábregas calls on those who hear his speech to understand the complex interrelatedness and impacts of HIV/AIDS for a transnational community. Here, queer resistance challenges bordering logics between supposed developed and underdeveloped countries and among different kinds of people living with HIV/AIDS.

Fábregas ends his statement at the press conference in Amsterdam by telling George Bush when and where his flight arrives back to the United States. Upon his arrival and wearing a “No Borders” t-shirt, Fábregas denounced US policy, even as he reentered the country without major incident. His arrival speech focuses entirely on the US policy, even as he repeats many of the same points from his speech two days prior. The Bush administration didn’t bother detaining Fábregas. This lack of response reveals the porousness of the US border and the farce of border restrictions, even as borders and bordering logics constantly threaten and thus participate in the deaths of so many.[32] While his actions and the government’s inaction may not pose a direct challenge to national sovereignty as Fábregas certainly hoped would happen, Fábregas again reveals the US border and the restrictions that constitute it as sites where transnational coalition is possible.

Concluding Thoughts

At a time when large Western organizations and the governments of large Western countries advocate for a particular brand of international gay politics, this paper offers some thoughts on alternative ways to think about transnational queer activism. Specifically, by discussing two instances of queer migration politics that primarily target the laws of particular nation-states, I show that seemingly contained challenges to a nation-state’s laws or imaginaries are actually challenges to bordering logics and perhaps even to national sovereignty. Moreover, such challenges can also serve as mechanisms for activating and fortifying transnational publicity, networks and connections. Queer migration politics may manifest in ways that don’t address borders and bordering, but given the centrality of both within queer migration politics, this current runs strong. What I hope this paper shows is that even when thinking about transnational queer activism, the biggest and most important struggles at home and elsewhere might very well be where we currently are.

  1. J. Lester Feder, “Human Rights Campaign’s Move Into International Work Puts Global LGBT Advocates on Edge,” BuzzFeed News November 5, 2013,; Kristen Holmes and Eugene Scott, “Obama Lectures Kenyan President on Gay Rights,” CNN July 25, 2015, [Return to text]
  2. Jin Haritaworn, Adi Kuntsman, and Silvia Posocco, eds., Queer Necropolitics (New York: Routledge, 2014); “Murderous Inclusions,” International Feminist Journal of Politics 15, no. 4 (2013); Scott Long, “’Gay Killings,’ Emos, and Iraq: What’s Going On,” A Paper Bird: Sex, Rights, and the World, March 8, 2012,, January 3, 2013; “HRC and the Vulture Fund: Making Third World Poverty Pay for LGBT Rights,” Paper Bird, November 4, 2013,</.a>. [Return to text]
  3. Homonationalism, a term coined by Jasbir Puar, explains the way certain gay identities are taken up in the service of the nation against brown, usually Muslim, others. Homotransnationalism is an extension of this concept by Jin Haritaworn and Paola Bacchetta that describes “the production and specifically transnational circulation of neocolonial, orientalist, sexist, and queerphobic discourses, such as about persecuted Muslim women or queers” (134). Palestinian feminist Ghadir Shafie describes pinkwashing as “a deliberate strategy used by Israel’s government, agencies, and the Israeli LGBT community to exploit Israel’s relatively progressive stance on gay rights, and deflect international attention from its gross violations of human rights and international law” (83). Pinkwashing can also be used by and concerning other entities, but most directly connects to Israel in popular understanding. See: Paola Bacchetta and Jin Haritaworn, “There Are Many Transatlantics: Homonationalism, Homotransnationalism and Feminist-Queer-Trans of Color Theories and Practices,” in Transatlantic Conversations: Feminism as Traveling Theory, ed. Kathy Davis and Mary Evans (Farnham, UK: Ashgate, 2011); Jasbir K. Puar, Terrorist Assemblages: Homonationalism in Queer Times (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2007); Ghadir Shafie, “Pinkwashing: Israel’s International Strategy and Internal Agenda,” Kohl: A Journal for Body and Gender Research 1, no. 1 (2015). [Return to text]
  4. For some good work that challenges oppressive logics, see: Jin Haritaworn, Queer Lovers and Hateful Others: Regenerating Violent Times and Places (London: Pluto Press, 2015); Selections from: Haritaworn, Kuntsman, and Posocco, eds., Queer Necropolitics; Jin Haritaworn, Tamsila Tauqir, and Esra Erdem, “Gay Imperialism: Gender and Sexuality Discourse in the ‘War on Terror’,” in Out of Place: Interrogating Silences in Queerness/Raciality, ed. Adi Kuntsman and Esperanza Miyake (York, UK: Raw Nerve Books, 2008); Joseph A. Massad, Desiring Arabs (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007). See especially Massad’s chapter on the Gay International. Some recent work that addresses more of the “global gay rights industry”: Phillip Ayoub and David Paternotte, eds., LGBT Activism and the Making of Europe: A Rainbow Europe? (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014); Jordi Díez, The Politics of Gay Marriage in Latin America: Argentina, Chile, and Mexico (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015); Ryan R. Thoreson, ed. Transnational LGBT Activism: Working for Sexual Rights Worldwide (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2014). [Return to text]
  5. Karma R. Chávez, Queer Migration Politics: Activist Rhetoric and Coalitional Possibilities (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2013). A quick note on the distinction I make between LGBTI and queer: LGBTI is primarily an identity or set of identity markers which people use as the basis for political actions. See Nicholas De Genova, “The Queer Politics of Migration: Reflections on ‘Illegality’ and Incorrigibility,” Studies in Social Justice 4, no. 2 (2010); Eithne Luibhéid, “Introduction: Queer Migration and Citizenship,” in Queer Migrations: Sexuality, U.S. Citizenship, and Border Crossings, ed. Eithne Luibhéid and Lionel Cantú Jr. (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2005). As for queer, certainly this has a variety of meanings that are in no way agreed upon by theorists or activists. My use of queer in relation to im/migration politics has multiple meanings—it may, at times, refer to politics by people who identify as LGBTI or queer as a marker of sexual or gender identity and use that identity as a way to orient their politics; it may also refer to bring a queer approach to immigration politics, which can mean radical/in-your face politics (see De Genova), or politics based on a queer critique of the normativity of borders and relationality (see Luibhéid, “Introduction”). [Return to text]
  6. On transnationalism, see: Laura Briggs, Gladys McCormick, and J. T. Way, “Transnationalism: A Category of Analysis,” American Quarterly 60, no. 3 (2008); Inderpal Grewal, Transnational America: Feminisms, Diasporas, Neoliberalisms (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2005). [Return to text]
  7. Eithne Luibhéid, “Sexuality, Migration, and the Shifting Line between Legal and Illegal Status,” GLQ 14, no. 2-3 (2008). [Return to text]
  8. See my Queer Migration Politics. See also, for example: Hinda Seif, “‘Unapologetic and Unafraid’: Immigrant Youth Come out from the Shadows,” New Directions for Child and Adolescent Development 134(2011); Lynn Stephen, Jan Lanier, Ramón Ramírez, and Marcy Westerling, “Building Alliances: An Ethnography of Collaboration between Rural Organizing Project (ROP) and CAUSA in Oregon,” (New York: New York University and Leadership for a Changing World, 2005); Melissa Autumn White, “Documenting the Undocumented: Toward a Queer Politics of No Borders,” Sexualities 17, no. 8 (2014). [Return to text]
  9. Wendy Brown, Walled States, Waning Sovereignty (Brooklyn, NY: Zone Books, 2010). [Return to text]
  10. Jenna M. Loyd, Matt Mitchelson, and Andrew Burridge, “Introduction: Borders, Prisons, and Abolitionist Visions,” in Beyond Walls and Cages: Prisons, Borders, and Global Crisis, ed. Jenna M. Loyd, Matt Mitchelson, and Andrew Burridge (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2012). [Return to text]
  11. It is beyond the scope of this short essay, but it is important to note that the waning of nation-state sovereignty in globalization that Brown identifies does not necessarily mean progressive change leading toward global social justice; sovereignty may simply shift elsewhere to other global sites. [Return to text]
  12. “Executive Actions on Immigration,” US Citizenship and Immigration Services November 20, 2014, Accessed July 19, 2017. [Return to text]
  13. Jeh Charles Johnson, “Secure Communities,” Department of Homeland Security Memorandum, November 20, 2014, Accessed July 19, 2017. [Return to text]
  14. Jeh Charles Johnson, “Policies for the Apprehension, Detention and Removal of Undocumented Immigrants,” Department of Homeland Security Memorandum, November 20, 2014, Accessed July 19, 2017. Of course, starting under the Trump administration in January 2017, all Obama-era immigration orders ended with the exception of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. Trump began his administrative term by issuing four of his own draconian executive orders regarding immigration. [Return to text]
  15. Queers for Economic Justice. “Queers and Immigration: A Vision Statement.” Scholar and Feminist Online, 6.3 (2008), [Return to text]
  16. Carlos, ““We should be deporting felons, and not families” – an immigrant student speaks out.” PBS Extras: Student Voices December 10, 2014, . [Return to text]
  17. Julianne Hing, “Who Will Lose Under Obama’s Executive Action,” Colorlines November 21, 2014,, accessed July 19, 2017. [Return to text]
  18. “#Not1More: Our Victories and Our Fights Will Continue.” Not One More Deportation, Press Release, November 20, 2014,, accessed July 19, 2017. [Return to text]
  19. Opal Tometi, “Statement from Opal Tometi, the Executive Director of the Black Alliance for Just Immigration regarding President Obama’s executive action on immigration and deportation,” BAJI Blog November 22, 2014,, accessed July 19, 2017. [Return to text]
  20. Tomás Fábregas, Memo to ACT UP Golden Gate, “US Policy on HIV Infected Foreigners,” August 6, 1991. GLBT Historical Society, Jorge Cortiñas Papers, Collection Number 1998-42, Box 2, Folder 8. Retrieved March 27-29, 2013. [Return to text]
  21. Kelly Toughill, “US Eases Visa Rules for AIDS Conference,” Toronto Star, April 17, 1990. It is difficult to say who first called for the boycott as stories conflict. Some sources say the UK Consortium was the first; others say it was the Geneva-based League of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. See: Peter McIntyre, “Aids Meeting Faces Boycott over Rules on Entry to US,” Independent, November 20 1989, 3. [Return to text]
  22. Eric Sawyer, “Absolutely Fabregas,” Poz (June 1997). , last accessed March 23, 2013. [Return to text]
  23. n.a., “Restrictions Set Off AIDS Session Boycott,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 15, 1990. [Return to text]
  24. Deborah B. Gould, Moving Politics: Emotion and Act Up’s Fight Against AIDS (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009), 11. [Return to text]
  25. Sara L. McKinnon, Gendered Asylum: Race and Violence in US Law and Politics (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2016), 22. [Return to text]
  26. Andrew Orkin, “Policy Protests, Scientific Spats Take Centre Stage at Sixth International AIDS Conference,” Canadian Medical Association Journal 143, no. 4 (1990). [Return to text]
  27. Paul Taylor, “Protest Disrupts Close of AIDS Conference; Activists, Scientists Decry US Policy,” Globe and Mail, June 25, 1990. [Return to text]
  28. There are many indications of this throughout the Tomás Fábregas Papers, Collection 1996-44 and the Jorge Cortiñas Papers, Collection 1998-42 at the GLBT Historical Society. I cite specific instances throughout. [Return to text]
  29. ACT UP Immigration Working Group Letter to ACT UP Members. 1992. GLBT Historical Society, Tomás Fábregas Papers, Collection 1996-44, Box 1, Folder 2. Retrieved March 28, 2013. [Return to text]
  30. See for example, several letters to Elizabeth Taylor, dated March 20, 1992; March 18, 1992; June 2, 1992; and June 29, 1992; GLBT Historical Society, Tomás Fábregas Papers, Collection Number 1996-44, Box 1, Folders 5 and 6. Retrieved March 27-29, 2013. See letter to Magic Johnson on February 27, 1992, Box 1, Folder 2. See letter to Bandres Molet on June 15, 1992, Box 1, Folder 5. See letter to President Mitterand on June 10, 1992, Box 1, Folder 5. [Return to text]
  31. See “Letter to Jonathan Mann,” March 20, 1992. GLBT Historical Society, Tomás Fábregas Papers, Collection Number 1996-44, Box 1, Folder 2. Retrieved March 27-29, 2013. Already in March, this letter indicates that the request has been denied at least one time on the grounds that it would make the opening ceremony “unwieldy.” “Letter from Richard Rochon to Jonathan Mann,” June 22, 1992, Box 1, Folder 8. GLBT Historical Society, Tomás Fábregas Papers, Collection Number 1996-44, Box 2, Folder 5. Retrieved March 27-29, 2013. [Return to text]
  32. “Statement of Tomás Fábregas.” July 25, 1992. GLBT Historical Society, Tomás Fábregas Papers, Collection Number 1996-44, Box 2, Folder 5. Retrieved March 27-29, 2013. [Return to text]