Hike Croton Dam and Help Support the Action Fund
By Christopher Edwards on 10/12/2010 @ 06:33 PM
Immigration Equality supporter William Lopez is once again leading a fundraiser hiking trip to Croton Dam in Croton-on-Hudson, N.Y. This year, with the intensification of our work on Capitol Hill, the hike will support the Action Fund.
He'd love your support or have you join him in the walk. Details are after a statement from William about the hike:
I'm a Colombian affected directly by the unfair immigration laws in the USA. I'm organizing a hiking trip to help raise money toward the $11,000 goal for the month of October.
[A goal that is being matched dollar-for-dollar by three binational couples]
I would like to raise at least $500 on this activity. The hike is not very difficult so everybody can go and invite family and friends and be generous on your donations. If we want UAFA pass on the Congress we have to contribute to the cause.
In the same way that I'm organizing this trip, anybody can organize fundraising events, parties, cooking classes, every dollar counts.
|When:||Saturday October 16th 2010|
|Meeting Place:||Croton-Harmon Train Station
Croton-on-Hudson N.Y. 10520
|Suggested donation:||As much as you can|
|Directions, etc.:||Download the complete information kit. (PDF)|
Questions? Email William.
DC Celebrates: Our Families. Together.
By Rachel Tiven on 10/07/2010 @ 01:24 PM
I hope you’ll join me on Thursday, October 21st for our fall D.C. reception and fundraiser, presented by Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams.
Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams
1526 14th Street, NW
(between P & Q Streets, Logan Circle)
Washington, DC 20005
Thursday, October 21st
6 – 8 PM
This year, we’ll be joined by Sister Jeannine Gramick, a Roman Catholic Nun and Co-Executive Director of the National Coalition of American Nuns. Sister Gramick is not just any nun; she is an outspoken supporter of our families. She is co-founder of New Ways ministries, and is one of the most prominent, pro-LGBT voices of faith working to end discrimination against our community.
We’ll also be joined by Immigration Equality client Roi Whaley, who was recently featured in The Advocate. Roi, who is battling stage III cancer, is currently separated from his Filipino partner, Aurelio. They turned to our legal team for help, so that Aurelio can return home to Mississippi with Roi.
We hope you will join us, and bring along your friends. And please bring your checkbook. There is no obligation to contribute, though we hope that if you’re impressed by our hard work on the Hill that we hope you’ll want to be part of it.
After last week's record-breaking UAFA co-sponsorships in both the House and the Senate, we’re very excited to see you in Washington to celebrate the remarkable progress we’re making on behalf of LGBT immigrant families!
(We’re very excited to announce a special opportunity to win a $1,000 Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams shopping spree while supporting the work of Immigration Equality Action Fund. Browse their fabulous catalog here.)
DADT / DREAM Act Unity Statement
By Staff on 10/07/2010 @ 11:45 AM
We are proud to stand with GetEQUAL, United We Dream, Presente.org today on two vital issues facing our community: Repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and passing the DREAM Act. Our joint statement is below:
Patriotic Americans Say: “Let Us Serve”
Passage of the DREAM Act and repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” are bipartisan measures which enjoy the support of a majority of Americans. Both make economic sense and both would right a moral wrong in America.
The grassroots movements advocating for both the repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” and passage of the DREAM Act call on our Senators to support these measures and to stand up to politicians who push talented gay and immigrant Americans into the shadows in order to loudly rile up an angry minority.
Gay, lesbian, and immigrant service members have fought and died throughout our country’s history so that every human being in the United States could be free. It is in their honor that we fight a shared injustice, motivating us all to join hands and fight together. We are actively healing past differences and are determined to overcome every obstacle that stands between us and our full humanity.
When a woman serving her country in Afghanistan sees her life and career destroyed because she is lesbian, or a man who has risen through the ranks decides not to re-enlist because of homophobic policies, all of us suffer.
When an immigrant youth who has grown up in America -- who graduates from high school and considers himself to be an American in every way -- has to live in fear of deportation instead of being allowed to pursue his dreams in the military or the classroom, all of America pays the price.
Both passage of the DREAM Act and repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” are absolutely necessary to restore the basic principles of justice and liberty which have defined America since our founding. And both are significant down payments on the struggles for equal justice under the law for the immigrant and LGBT communities in America.
Our lives have been tossed around like political footballs for too long, and we will not accept the cowardice of political leaders who hide behind complaints about “process” or false claims that justice for some is a substitute for justice for all. Our futures are sewn together and equality can only be obtained when all of us can feel the warmth of freedom.
It is for these patriots and the thousands like them that we fight for justice:
Felipe Matos came to the United States from Brazil at the age of 14. In high school, he joined the NJROTC because he wanted to join the Navy and serve the country he loves and calls home. Even though he earned one of the highest scores in the military aptitude test and many recruiters called him for two years, he was not able to serve. Felipe went on to Miami Dade College, where he is studying business administration, was elected president of the student government, and has served as the student representative on the Miami Dade College Board of Trustees. “I identify myself as queer and I have a partner who I love dearly. I need passage of the DREAM Act and repeal of ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ for me to be able to serve in the Navy without fear and out of the shadows.”
Lt. Dan Choi graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point and is fluent in Arabic. He served as an infantry officer with the United States Army in Iraq and later served in the National Guard. Lt. Choi served for a decade under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” a policy that is completely antithetical to the values he learned at West Point. Deception and lies poison a unit and cripple a fighting force. He served his country with honor, yet was discharged from the military in the summer of 2010, one year after publicly announcing that he was gay.
Cesar Vargas grew up in Brooklyn, graduated from high school and then college. Now, he's in his third year in law school and dreams of serving as a JAG officer or on the front line as an intelligence officer to lead Marines. Cesar considers himself an American in all but paperwork, but cannot serve the country he loves because he lacks immigration papers.
Corporal Evelyn Thomas, born in Los Angeles and raised in Texas, joined the Army National Guard and then the U.S. Marine Corps. She served at Camp Pendleton for four years until another Marine found a letter in her locker about her relationship with a woman. She was honorably discharged in 1991. In October 2009, Thomas founded a ministry for gays in the military who fear they may be discharged for speaking openly to base chaplains about their sexuality. The Sanctuary Project Veterans is a ministry of Pilgrim United Church of Christ in Carlsbad, CA, and it provides a safe haven, support, legal advice, and services for soldiers harassed due to the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy.
Nelly came to the U.S. at nine years old with her parents, who wanted to provide her with a better life. She went on to graduate from high school with a 4.0 GPA, was elected class president, and even served as Cadet Commander of her high school’s ROTC program -- all while holding a job to support her family. “I took the military entrance exam and got very high scores. I was set to get a good job in the army,” Nelly said, “but when it came time to submit my documentation, I couldn’t go any further.”
Petty Officer Autumn Sandeen joined the United States Navy in 1980 as a Fire Controlman. She served on two Guided Missile Fast Frigates as a Mark 92 Fire Control System technician, and one Guided Missile Fast Frigate as a Mark 15 Close-In Weapons System technician. She retired after 20 years as a Fire Controlman First Class. At the end of 1999 and beginning of 2000, Sandeen was sexually harassed by a subordinate and Executive Officer for being perceived as an effeminate gay male. After retiring from the U.S. Navy, she was awarded a Veteran’s Administration Service Connected Disability rating. She began transitioning as a male-to-female transsexual on February 6, 2003, and has worked with many transgender advocacy organizations.
Gaby Pacheco was brought to this country from Ecuador at age 7. In 2006, immigration agents raided her family home, and they have been fighting deportation since. Gaby was the highest ranked Junior ROTC student in her high school and scored highest on the military’s vocational aptitude test. The Air Force tried to recruit her, but her immigration status prevented her from serving. With a military career not possible, Gaby went on to earn two associate’s degrees and served as president of both the student government and the statewide community college student association. Gaby is currently working on her bachelor’s degree in special education.
Celebrating Milestones, Where Do We Go From Here?
By Gannon Long on 10/04/2010 @ 03:28 PM
Last week was among the best yet for the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA). We are at the brink of real change for our families because of you!
There’s no doubt momentum is building, let us count the ways:
Raised our voices in Washington
While bestselling author Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat, Pray, Love) lobbied for our families on Capitol Hill last Thursday, you and other amazing grassroots activists across the country generated almost 300 phone calls and 35 letters, asking Congress to support UAFA.
If you still have not called, please do so now!
More support in Congress, than ever before
In the month of September, your persistence helped us add 10 new cosponsors in the House, and 2 in the Senate. With 135 total cosponsors in the House and 26 in the Senate, we have more support in Congress than ever before. Sign up today to learn how YOU can add to our list of cosponsors!
First ever, LGBT-inclusive comprehensive immigration bill
For the first time ever, the Uniting American Families Act has been introduced in Congress as part of a Comprehensive Immigration Reform bill! Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) introduced the bill last week; please call (202) 224-4744 to thank him for supporting our families.
Keeping the momentum going
There’s no doubt UAFA is picking up steam and our voices are being heard on Capitol Hill, but we can’t let that momentum stop. We need to keep going strong.
So what can you do now to help keep the pressure on? Meeting with your congressperson is the most effective way for you to advocate for UAFA. We need elected officials to hear our stories and personally understand why no one should have to choose between family and country.
Sign up for our upcoming online trainings on Tuesday, October 5 or Wednesday, October 6, at 8:30 PM Eastern/ 5:30 PM Pacific. We’ll cover everything you need to know about organizing a meeting with your Representative in Congress — no experience necessary. Join us!
Senator Menendez Introduces Inclusive Immigration Reform
Posted on 09/30/2010 @ 10:28 AM
The Immigration Equality Action Fund today hailed the introduction of a comprehensive immigration reform bill in the Senate, by Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ, pictured), which includes the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA), a measure to end discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender immigrant families.
“The Immigration Equality Action Fund welcomes Senator Menendez’s inclusive legislation, and calls on Congress to pass comprehensive reform, and fix our broken immigration system, immediately,” said Rachel B. Tiven, the group’s executive director. “This new bill includes numerous, positive developments for LGBT immigrants, including UAFA, the DREAM Act and a pathway to citizenship. All three components are important to ensuring that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender immigrants are able to contribute fully to our country while keeping their families together. The LGBT community must press for the passage of Senator Menendez’s bill, and call on our allies in Congress to support the legislation. This legislation will finally end the obstacles so many families – both gay and straight – struggle with every day.”
Under current immigration law, lesbian and gay Americans are unable to sponsor their foreign-born partners for residency in the United States. As a result, LGBT binational couples are forced apart, or into exile, by discriminatory immigration laws. UAFA – sponsored in the Senate by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and in the House by Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) – would eliminate that double standard, and apply immigration laws equally to LGBT Americans, and their partners. UAFA is currently co-sponsored by 161 lawmakers in both chambers of Congress.
“It is simply unconscionable that our immigration laws tear families apart,” Tiven concluded. “Senator Menendez’s legislation, which is a truly comprehensive bill, would provide LGBT families with important opportunities to keep their families together. The bill’s introduction is welcome news not just for lesbian and gay Americans, but also their extended families, their communities and our country. The Immigration Equality Action Fund is committed to working for its passage.”
Stand with Elizabeth
By Rachel Tiven on 09/30/2010 @ 09:49 AM
Dear Immigration Equality Supporters,
I wanted you to be the first to know: Elizabeth Gilbert, author of the runaway best-seller Eat, Pray, Love, has just arrived on Capitol Hill to begin a day of lobbying on behalf of our families.
All day today, Elizabeth will be walking the halls of Congress with Immigration Equality Action Fund staffers, and meeting one-on-one with lawmakers to personally ask that they support the Uniting American Families Act.
Our morning kicked off at 7:30am, with a briefing for Elizabeth by our policy team. Before we wrap up at 5:30 this afternoon, we will have met with Democratic and Republican lawmakers in both the House and the Senate.
We couldn’t be more excited to have Elizabeth with us in Washington. Now, we need you to join us, too.
Help amplify her voice on Capitol Hill:
Today, Elizabeth will be bringing our stories to Congress. But we need your help and involvement – tomorrow and every day after that – to ensure our momentum continues and our voices are heard.
Stand with Elizabeth as she speaks out for LGBT binational families. Together, we can ensure that no one is faced with the untenable choice between family and country.
Mobilizing Against Injustice, Wherever It Is
By Christopher Edwards on 09/27/2010 @ 07:05 PM
Last week I joined 40-something of the best LGBT activists in the country at New Organizing Institute Education Fund's LGBT Boot Camp. Over the course of the week we worked on simulated campaigns to overturn "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT), learned from the best practitioners in organizing, and shared with each other our goals and aspirations for the LGBT movement while figuring out ways we can all better work together.
It was truly an inspiring week. And I was very happy and honored to have made it through the selective application process.
Why Immigration Is a LGBT Issue
One of things that came up for me during the event was having to underscore why immigration is an LGBT issue. Our Executive Director Rachel Tiven has spoken passionately on this before but I never had my own story, my own understanding that drove home this point.
That changed at LGBT Boot Camp on Thursday night when we reviewed the case study of BastaDobbs.com — a coordinated campaign between general political and immigration groups to pressure CNN to "Stop Dobbs" (or "Basta Dobbs" in Spanish).
Listening to the clips from Dobbs' show and looking at his tactics — half-truths, outright lies, and innuendo to defame immigrants in the U.S., I thought of how similarly those that would stop the march to LGBT equality have employed these exact same tactics.
In particular, Dobbs lumped together undocumented immigrants from Latin America with rapists and murderers. I remembered a time in 1989, when I was in high school and just starting to come out. I was in a driver's education class where my teacher made this exact same comment about LGBT peoples. He casual mentioned that we'd be on the road with "rapists, murders, and homosexuals." Exactly like Dobbs, demonizing through word association.
We've been here before. We've been harassed over our families. We've been faced with a public that would rather see our sex lives than have empathy for us as humans.
Just like immigrants of all stripes have. This is why immigration is an LGBT issue. We must stand on the right side against hatred and bigotry. Whereever it is found.
Elizabeth Gilbert — a straight ally with a foreign-born spouse — is joining us to stand up for our families and UAFA on Capitol Hill. We, as individual citizens, must join her in her lobbying congress. We must show the immigration communities that we understand their situation. That we are ready to mobilize against injustice.
You can join Elizabeth at our Engage, Lobby, Love site where you will find 3 ways to become directly involved. Remember where we've been and the hatred we've suffered, and let that be a reminder that we can't make change without taking action. Join Elizabeth on her journey for our families.
Upsurge in UAFA Co-Sponsors Continues
By Julie Kruse on 09/27/2010 @ 03:17 PM
The list of co-sponsors for the Uniting American Families Act continues to grow. By the end of last week, we again beat our record high for co-sponsors in both the House and the Senate. With the addition of Representatives James Garamendi (D-CA, pictured) and Robert Andrews (D-NJ), we now have a total of 134 cosponsors in the House – including our lead sponsor, Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY). Senator Mark Udall (D-CO) also added his name to the list of co-sponsors in the Senate, bringing our total co-sponsors there to 25, including our lead sponsor, Senator Leahy (D-VT).
(See last week's press release for statements from Senator Leahy and Congressman Nadler about the recent upsurge in co-sponsors.)
Thank you to the grassroots for your continued efforts to have your member of Congress support the Uniting American Families Act! If your Senators and Representatives are cosponsors, please call their office, via the Capitol switchboard, at (202) 224-3121 and thank them for standing up for our families!
Sister Jeannine Gramick to Join Immigration Equality in Washington, D.C.
By Steve Ralls on 09/27/2010 @ 11:34 AM
Immigration Equality is proud to announce two very special guests for our upcoming Washington, D.C. reception – hosted by Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams – on Thursday, October 21st.
This year’s headline speaker is Sister Jeannine Gramick (pictured), a Roman Catholic nun and Executive Co-Director of the National Coalition of American Nuns. For more than 30 years, Sister Gramick has worked for justice and peace for sexual minorities, including co-founding New Ways Ministries. She has also served on the national boards of the National Assembly of Women Religious, the Religious Network of Equality for Women and the Women's Ordination Conference, and her work was the centerpiece of a critically acclaimed documentary film, In Good Conscience: Sister Jeannine Gramick's Journey of Faith, by the Peabody and Emmy award-winning director, Barbara Rick. In 2006, she was named a 2006 Laureate of the International Mother Teresa Awards for her role as a human rights activist.
In June, Sister Gramick told reporter Sarah Posner that she strenuously disagrees with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ position against equality for LGBT binational families. “I’m a lifelong Catholic,” Gramick said. “I spend my life hopefully working for justice so that people can look and see there are Catholic people who at least try to be just and try to follow the Gospel. But frankly the US bishops continually embarrass me. They are an embarrassment to the Catholic Church at this point, particularly with the stand they are taking.”
Gramick, who has ministered to gays and lesbians since 1971, was investigated by the Vatican in the 1990s and ordered to stop ministering to the LGBT community. She ignored the Vatican’s order.
Sister Gramick will be joined in Washington by Immigration Equality client Roi Whaley, who is currently separated from his Filipino partner, Aurelio Tolentino, as he also battles Stage III lung cancer. Whaley turned to Immigration Equality for help after Aurelio was forced to leave the United States and Whaley was left to battle his illness without his partner. The couple, who were recently profiled in The Advocate, are working with Immigration Equality attorneys to appeal for humanitarian parole for Tolentino, which would allow him to temporarily return to the United States and be by his partner’s bedside.
Immigration Equality’s D.C. reception will take place at the Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams store in Washington, D.C. – at 1526 14th Street, N.W. – from 6-8pm on October 21st. The event is open to the public. More details will be posted soon in the events section of our website.
An Invitation to Share Your Story
By Rebecca Merrell on 09/27/2010 @ 09:37 AM
The following is a guest post from Rebecca Merrell, a writer who is currently working on a project about the experiences of LGBT people from the Middle East. Please note that Immigration Equality is not an official sponsor or participant in the project, but is passing along this information for supporters who may wish to participate. All questions should be directed to Rebecca, at the email address in her post. Immigration Equality can make no promises, guarantees or agreements for individuals who participate in the project.
My colleague from Lebanon, Dima, and I are working on a project currently entitled, “Prisoners of the Rainbow”, for which we are collecting stories from the LGBT community about their experiences of discrimination in, and/or departure from, Middle Eastern countries or the Arab world. Our goal is expose the injustices and crimes, and human rights abuses, against the LBGT community within this niche. The collection of stories strives to tell about the lives of the characters from all angles - including from the perspectives of mothers, siblings, lovers, co-workers, friends, religious leaders, and outsiders - in order to create a well-rounded, multi-dimensional account of the current climate faced by the LBGT community. Some of our stories are fiction but based actual accounts; others are non-fiction excerpts based on interviews or correspondence with LGBT members.
We respect and understand the need for privacy and therefore do not ask that you provide your real name unless you want to. Our goal is to increase awareness of the inequality and discrimination that permeates through these regions of the world. We would greatly appreciate any contributions to our collection.
To participate, or for more information, please email firstname.lastname@example.org .
UAFA Momentum Continues, with New House & Senate Co-Sponsors
Posted on 09/17/2010 @ 11:06 AM
Immigration Equality is excited to announce two new co-sponsors (in addition to four announced earlier this week) for the Uniting American Families Act: Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA, pictured) and Congressman Martin Heinrich (D-NM). Their support of LGBT binational families brings our total number of UAFA co-sponsors to 130 (in the House) and 25 (in the Senate), including our two lead sponsors, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY).
If you are a constituent of Senator Harkin or Congressman Heinrich, please be sure to thank them for standing up for our families!
Four New UAFA Cosponsors as Congress Returns from Recess
By Connie Utada on 09/15/2010 @ 10:59 AM
September is the beginning of a new school year and the end of Congress’ August recess.
Four new House members co-sponsored the Uniting American Families Act during the recess: Representatives Tim Ryan (D-17th OH), John Hall (D-19th NY), Gerry Connolly (D-11th VA), and Joe Baca (D-43rd CA). Some of these co-sponsored after a lobby day for gays and lesbians in the foreign service. And grassroots action was essential to this success!
If your Representative is one of our new co-sponsors, please call their office and thank them for their support.
Click here to sign up for a training on how to meet with and urge your own Representative or Senator to cosponsor UAFA during the upcoming October recess!
Behind the Scenes of The Washington Post
By Steve Ralls on 09/14/2010 @ 10:58 AM
Yesterday’s Washington Post coverage of LGBT binational families has generated a lot of conversation, questions and buzz.
There’s no question that having our families – and their stories – on the front page of the paper of record in the nation’s capital is a very good thing. When lawmakers and their staff arrived at work yesterday, they saw the moving story of a couple united in love, but divided by law . . . learned that a prominent Washington Republican is also fighting to be with his immigrant partner, too . . . and were reminded that, at a time when “pro-family” issues are at the center of some political debates, there are real families – across party lines – who are counting on real leadership in Congress to make a difference for their families.
Like most media, however, not everything was perfect. There are some particular areas of concern that we and some of our supporters have noted, including:
Where were the supportive faith voices? It’s an excellent question and we absolutely would have loved for supportive clergy to be part of the story. Immigration Equality did, in fact, point The Post to faith leaders who have spoken out in favor of our families, and we believe the reporter did include some of those voices in an original draft, but that editors regrettably allowed some of those voices to fall on the cutting room floor.
We still want to ensure those voices are heard, however, and are working to rally our allies in the faith community to speak up about the omission of supportive voices in the article. Look for letters to the editor – and feedback on The Washington Post website – in the days ahead.
Why is it all about comprehensive reform? Some of you have asked: Why is Immigration Equality only pressing for passage of the Uniting American Families Act as part of comprehensive immigration reform? The simple answer is: We are not.
Our philosophy has always been the same. We will pursue every available option for ending discrimination against our families. When we opened our Washington, D.C., office last year, we were clear: When it comes to passing UAFA, we mean business. Since then, our policy team has been working around the clock on a strategy that builds support for UAFA either as a stand-alone bill, or as part of comprehensive immigration reform. If Congress tackles comprehensive legislation – and it offers the first opportunity to win – we want to be part of that bill. And if the political reality becomes one that presents an opportunity to pass UAFA on its own, we want to be prepared to seize that opportunity as well.
(Prior to my arrival at Immigration Equality, I worked for nearly ten years building media campaigns for repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” The flood of press attention that has now helped lead us to a scheduled Senate vote for repeal - next week - also began, in large part, with a strategy that started on the editorial and newspaper pages of The Washington Post.)
In the coming days you’ll see more evidence of our continued work on UAFA. We expect new co-sponsors to sign on – very soon – and new momentum for UAFA in conjunction with our upcoming Elizabeth Gilbert campaign on Capitol Hill.
Too many families face separation every day to force even one of them to wait one more day than they have to in order to reunite. That’s why we’ve never had an either/or strategy . . . but believe it is our duty to pursue every possible victory in every way.
And that is also why we will continue to put our stories on the front page and work to ensure that prominent media outlets shine a light on the struggles our families face. When we do so, we take real steps forward. Last week, after Immigration Equality showcased the story of a couple battling Stage III cancer while forcibly separated from each other, his Congressman finally took note, and stepped forward to offer help. When we enlisted Elizabeth Gilbert’s help to be a voice for our families, the public paid attention, and some key media on Capitol Hill reported on our issue for the first time.
In short, generating questions, conversation and buzz are all important tools for generating the momentum we need to win. When our issue arrives in prominent news outlets – like The Washington Post, The New York Times and more – it’s a sure sign that progress is afoot.
LGBT Binational Families Make Front Page Headlines
Posted on 09/13/2010 @ 09:30 AM
This morning’s Washington Post includes front page coverage of the campaign to end discrimination against LGBT binational families.
In a profile of local couples impacted by discriminatory immigration laws, reporter Shankar Vedantam writes that, “The demand by these couples to gain the same immigration rights as heterosexuals is supported by key members of Congress.”
One “Washington gay couple, who requested that their names not be published because the foreign partner is a Latino man currently living in the country under false pretenses and the American partner is a prominent Republican whose identity could easily lead authorities to the other man, said gays and lesbians fall in love in the same unpredictable way as straight people,” the paper notes. “Sometimes, the object of that love happens to be a foreigner.”
"'When you love someone, it feels the same,' said the Latino man, who is in the country on a tourist visa and has been working in violation of it. He is afraid that his immigration status could be exposed at any time, and he could be forced to leave. He travels outside the country periodically to keep his tourist visa valid, always making sure when he presents his visa at the border that he has an air ticket showing when he plans to leave the United States."
"I am insecure because I am worried," he said. "If I have trouble with the police, they will send me back to my country. I have a partner. All my life is here. My family lives in Mexico City, but I feel comfortable here. I drive everyday - if I have an accident or the police stops me and ask me for my papers, I am afraid."
"Every time he leaves, I wonder is he going to come back to his house, to our friends, to my family," added his partner.
Noting that “advocates for such an overhaul say, there are also powerful social and political forces that could move changes forward,” Vendantam adds that, “the issue is personal as well as political” for the families who are impacted.
Immigration Equality told Vendantam we remain confident that equal rights would be part of any overhaul. In the Senate, we noted, an immigration bill would have to pass through the Judiciary Committee, where Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) has been a strong backer of equal gay and lesbian immigration rights.
To read the full coverage from this morning’s Washington Post, click here.
On the Radio: This Saturday on KKFI
By Staff on 09/10/2010 @ 09:40 AM
Tune in this Saturday as Immigration Equality’s policy counsel, Connie Utada, speaks with KKFI Radio about our work on behalf of LGBT binational couples.
Connie will join couples from the Kansas City area, and update listeners on our work to pass the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA).
The show kicks off around 2:15pm ET. To listen in, click here and select “Listen Live” in the left corner of your browser.
Our Stories, in the News
By Steve Ralls on 09/09/2010 @ 10:19 AM
In case you missed it: We’re making headlines!
Immigration Equality’s communications team has been hard at work, continuing to ensure that our families’ voices are heard, and that our stories are told. This week, we’re making headlines again, with compelling stories about binational families . . . updates on our legislative work . . . and more coverage highlighting the struggles so many LGBT immigrants, and their loved ones, face under the current immigration system.
If you haven’t read it yet, be sure to start with this amazing profile – by The Advocate’s Andrew Harmon – of Immigration Equality spokescouple Roi Whaley and Aurelio Tolentino. Roi and Aurelio, who have been separated because of discriminatory immigration laws, are also battling another enemy: Roi’s stage III lung cancer. The couple turned to Immigration Equality’s legal team for help in their fight to be reunited, and within days of first telling their story in the media, we heard from Roi’s Congressman – Gene Taylor of Mississippi – who has indicated he will step in and help bring Roi and Aurelio back together.
You can also read more about Roi and Aurelio at The HuffingtonPost.
This morning’s Bay Area Reporter also tells the story of a binational couple forced into exile. Jerry Abrams and his Pakistani partner, Miel, have been forced to leave the United States, and are unable to remain together in either partner’s home country. Now living in South Africa, Jerry (a retired IBM employee) is now focusing his energy on helping the victims of the devastating floods in Pakistan. "There's still thousands of people in relief camps that are still struggling to find food," Abrams said.
You can read Jerry and Miel’s story online here.
And also be sure to check out more coverage from the Reporter about the struggles LGBT asylum seekers often face when seeking refuge in the United States. The paper’s coverage includes an interview with Ann Lewis, of the New York office of Ropes and Gray. Just this year, the firm was awarded a Safe Haven Award for its work on behalf of Immigration Equality pro bono clients.
Then, check back here for another, major news story – in one of the country’s top newspapers – coming soon.
With your help, we’re keeping our stories on the front pages, and at the forefront of the national conversation.
For a complete list of recent news articles, visit our online newsroom, here.
Listen, Lobby, Love
By Staff on 08/19/2010 @ 02:22 PM
I’ll be joining the hosts of b OUT 2, the BloomingOut radio podcast, this evening to talk about Immigration Equality’s work with Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love.
The program’s podcast will be available for download by clicking here.
Tune in to learn more about Gilbert’s work on behalf of LGBT binational couples . . . her upcoming lobbying visit to Washington, D.C. . . . and how you can be part of our upcoming campaign, Engage, Lobby, Love.
IE Trains Grassroots Activists to Meet with their Congresspeople In-District
By Gannon Long on 08/17/2010 @ 03:16 PM
Last Wednesday, August 11th, Immigration Equality Policy Director Julie Kruse and I trained 20 activists on how to meet with your members of Congress. The meetings allow you to urge your member of Congress to cosponsor UAFA – and to build an ongoing relationship with them. We scheduled the training at the start of Congress’s August recess, when Representatives and Senators will be home - and close to you and available to meet! - until mid-September.
My favorite part of the training was being able to interact with activists from all across the country. The webinar allowed people to submit questions in real time, and to meet each other in the training chat room.
Most of the folks who joined in are in binational couples. While many of you have heart breaking stories of being separated from their homes, partners, and loved ones, you also display inspiring resilience and courage. From all over the country (and the world), activists on the call demonstrated how dedicated they are to boosting each other’s spirits; meeting with their representatives; and doing whatever it takes to pass the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA).
Everyone on the call agreed to meet with their members of Congress to talk about UAFA. In the coming weeks, I am setting up regional groups across the country, to keep the focus on key districts and states. This way, members of binational couples and allies from the same state or Congressional district can keep in touch with each other and coordinate meeting strategies. We can also work together to modify our training, to target it more toward specific regions or members of Congress.
Meeting with your representative takes some persistence, but we ask you to do it because it is the single most effective way to convince your member of Congress to co-sponsor UAFA. At the end of the day, it’s not facts and figures from Washington that move hearts and minds in Congress – it is people like you, from all across the country, telling your stories about facing tremendous obstacles just to hold on to the people you love – and showing them that UAFA is a critical issue facing constituents in their districts.
If you missed the webinar and would like a PDF of the slide show, or would like help getting your meeting off the ground, please contact me at email@example.com. I also encourage you to visit our Take Action center. I look forward to working with you to pass UAFA.
¡Juntos podemos! (Together we can!)
By Christopher Edwards on 08/17/2010 @ 11:10 AM
Staying together shouldn't be this hard.
Nine years ago -- August 16, 2001 -- I went to San Francisco's long-running Brit pop dance party Popscene with my boyfriend. It was our first date. I still have the set list from that night.
We had met the previous month at a show; he bought me a beer. (There is some debate about who spoke to whom first.)
None of this is remarkable of course.
Just your normal met-cute story of two twentysomething San Francisco college students. Even that my boyfriend was born in Japan is not remarkable. Lots of binational couples meet while in school.
No, what makes this story unfortunately difficult iIs that we both happen to be male. And in the U.S. -- and his native Japan -- that gives us few options for staying together.
Over the last nine years, we've become nomads in my own country. We eventually left California seeking stability and work for both of us on the East Coast. First in Washington, DC, which was an all-around failure, and now New York City, which has been more successful.
But the cost — physical, emotional, and financial — of these moves and our attempts to forge a life together cannot be understated.
Our peers are settling down, buying homes, having or adopting children, going to grad school, starting businesses, and otherwise stepping into their adult lives.
All of these things, we'd love to do. Dreams we've shared that have been denied by our broken immigration system that does not recognize us as family.
Each year that goes by gets more and difficult and the problems compound. He hasn't seen his much beloved-grandparents in years. I'm increasingly frustrated by my country's refusal to make our situation right. My family traces its roots in the U.S. back to the 18th century. We had land grants in Michigan signed by James Monroe.
Not that any of this should matter.
I'm an American citizen. Born in Pennsylvania, raised in the midwest by midwest--born American citizens. I have no out-sized sense of entitlement here. I'm lucky to have been raised by loving parents in a good home in relative affluence under the rights and privileges of American democracy. And yet the very promise of that democracy is denied to my partner of nine years.
As he and I celebrate our ninth anniversary, I want to ask something of you. There is one national organization with the legal and lobbying prowess to fix the immigration system for same-sex partners — Immigration Equality. After years of volunteering with them, at the dawn of their Washington-focused Action Fund, I joined the staff. We need your support.
Political work -- grassroots mobilizing, lobbying -- is incredibly expensive work. We're up against extremely well funded organizations. To stay in the game, we need your help.
Honor our relationship with a monthly contribution to the Action Fund today. Give what feels right but perhaps $36 per month for the 36,000 relationships like ours. Or, if you are feeling especially generous, you can can make a donation of $90 a month to honor our nine years.
When I first started dating my partner, who has been coming to the U.S. since he was in middle school, why America. He told me, because I love movies and rock and roll where else would I want to be?
What the Prop 8 Stay Means
By Staff on 08/17/2010 @ 11:00 AM
In light of the latest in the on-going soap opera that is the California Proposition 8 case, Immigration Equality's legal director, Victoria Neilson, updates our legal-focused blog on what the stay means for LGBT binational couples. To read Neilson's comments, click here.