President Obama Wants to Hear from You
By Steve Ralls on 09/28/2011 @ 02:14 PM
Last week, the White House launched a new, online site that allows everyone to weigh in on issues they care about. We the People is the first-ever White House petition site. Users can search for petitions related to issues they care about . . . or create one of their own. Administration officials have declared that any petition garnering 5,000 signatures or more will receive a response from the White House.
Among the issues already highlighted at the petition site are immigration rights for LGBT families, and repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).
We’re getting you started with two petitions we think you’ll care about.
- Click here to ask the President to support the Uniting American Families Act
- And here to demand repeal of DOMA
Of course, the White House site is filled with petitions on a variety of issues many of you care about – including multiple petitions for many different causes. So, after adding your voice to the petitions above, search for others, too.
Together, we can send a strong, united message to the President: End the discrimination LGBT families face under federal law.
Five New UAFA Cosponsors
By Julie Kruse on 09/16/2011 @ 11:47 AM
John Larson (D-CT-1), Chair of the House Democratic Caucus; Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO-5, pictured), Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus; Mike Thompson (D-CA- 1); and Danny Davis (D-IL-7) have joined as cosponsors of the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA), and 124 in the House. Maria Cantwell, Democratic Senator from Washington state, also signed on, bringing the total number of cosponsors to 23 in the Senate.
Local faith leaders have played a major role in urging their members of Congress to cosponsor UAFA. In an effort led by Immigration Equality Outreach Consultant Tom Tierney, over 1,200 local faith leaders have joined the Faith Coalition for the Uniting American Families Act. Many of these leaders have called, mailed, and met with their members of Congress about UAFA.
Also, state and local LGBT organizations, such as PROMO in Missouri, Equality Illinois, Equality California, and Equal Rights Washington have pressed their Congressional delegations to sign on to UAFA and help families facing separation in their states. A big shout out to these groups! Local PFLAG and Stonewall Democrats chapters have also reached out, as have many local elected officials. A big shout out to these folks!
Most importantly, you have reached out to your members of Congress to tell them: support your constituents - cosponsor UAFA! Thank you so much for your advocacy and keep up the good work!
This support for legislative change ending discrimination against LGBT families in immigration law comes at the same time as members of Congress press the administration to help families until the law changes. Members continue to urge the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice to hold the green card applications of gay and lesbian spouses of Americans rather than denying them, and to stop deporting any of these spouses or partners.
In a statement on the administration’s new deportation policy of August 18, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said:
It is my hope that today’s action by the Administration will result in the suspension of immigration proceedings against gays and lesbians who have petitioned for their spouses, such as my constituents, Bradford Wells and Anthony John Makk, who face separation because of the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act.
Immigration Equality continues to fight for administrative relief for all LGBT immigrants and their families right now, but it is also essential that the law changes to provide a permanent, long-term solution.
Please urge your Senators and Representative to cosponsor the Uniting American Families Act. The more cosponsors UAFA has, the clearer the mandate: immigration reform MUST include LGBT families!
Click here to urge your members of Congress to cosponsor UAFA.
October 4: Join Bradford & Anthony in Washington
By Rachel Tiven on 09/12/2011 @ 05:21 AM
After a summer of sharing their story in major news outlets like CNN, MSNBC, Countdown with Keith Olbermann and in front page news stories across the country, Bradford Wells and Anthony Makk will be joining Immigration Equality in Washington. They will be meeting with key Congressional leaders ... and they’d like to meet you, too.
Please join them — and the Immigration Equality team — on Tuesday, October 4th, for our Third Annual Capital Reception & Fundraiser, hosted by Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams. We’ll have important updates on our work to help families like Bradford & Anthony ... celebrate the successes of the past year ... and build the support we need to continue our critical work on Capitol Hill.
Tuesday, October 4th
Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams
1526 14th Street, NW
(between P & Q Streets, NW, in Logan Circle)
Washington, DC 20005
The event is free, however your support is welcome, and critical to our success. We hope that if you're moved by our work, you'll help us reach our goal of $15,000 for our on-going work on behalf of LGBT immigrant families. Donations can be made online at ImEqActionFund.org/DCevent
Thank you for being part of the Immigration Equality family. I look forward to seeing you in Washington on October 4th.
How our Laws are Made
By Connie Utada on 09/07/2011 @ 06:01 PM
Some of you have asked: what is happening with the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA), H.R. 1537 / S. 821, five months after being introduced?
The short answer is that it is sitting in the Judiciary Committee but that response may not be useful to get to the solution we are seeking: to end discrimination in immigration law by allowing gay and lesbian couples to sponsor their foreign-born partner and children for immigration purposes. Currently, there are 120 cosponsors in the House and 21 in the Senate and, the numbers are continuing to climb.
The process of a bill becoming a law is very long and often times, frustrating. The three minute clip of Schoolhouse Rock's I'm Just a Bill is helpful but does not quite do it justice.
I'm Just a Bill (Schoolhouse Rock!)
To understand what that process looks like, we thought it would be beneficial to provide a graphic that lays out the progression in a very colorful, chutes-and-ladders manner depicting the many avenues a bill must go through toward final approval.
Copyright © Creative Commons License: Mike Wirth
Looking at the How Our Laws Are Made graphic above, UAFA is currently located in the left-side lime green panel titled “Committee Assignment” on the House side; and, in the rust/burgundy panel at the beginning of the Senate side. Also noteworthy is the stick figure holding its arm up, carrying a briefcase marked: Lobbyist (on the far left) — that is the Immigration Equality Action Fund.
To help move the UAFA out of its current position, please contact your Representative and both Senators to either thank them for cosponsoring the UAFA or to ask them to cosponsor the bill.
Why Do We Ask For Zip Code?
By Christopher Edwards on 09/06/2011 @ 01:45 PM
Members of Congress are focused on constituent services. They see as their primary purpose. This is a difficulty we, and other immigration groups, face when advocating for exiled and immigrant families.
So as such it's important that we have U.S. zip code information. It's why we ask for it in our Contact Congress alarts and it's why we collect that information for our listserv sign-up (at right).
That being said, we understand we have a large segment of our audience that is out of the country and it's why make sure to make regular use of our blogs both at Immigration Equality and here at the Action Fund as well as our Facebook and Twitter feeds to keep you up-to-date.
So what to do if you are living in exile? I recommend that you use the zip code of your family or use your previous zip code before you moved into exile. The reason you are living in exile is very much apart of your story and your former representatives in the U.S. need to know it and know why you are no longer a tax-paying member of their district.
Many years ago I moved from California to DC in order to find work for both myself and my foreign-partner. But DC has no voting representation and I continued to use my address in California in order to reach out to my Congressperson and Senators there and let them know I had become a nomad in my own country. And why.
So do the same today, take action and let Congress know why you are not living in the U.S. Find 5 ways you can take action here.
DHS: "Our understanding of family includes LGBT families"
By Julie Kruse on 08/19/2011 @ 01:41 PM
Yesterday, the White House and the Department of Homeland Security confirmed: their understanding of family includes LGBT families.
The White House and DHS said that LGBT family ties, including those of gay spouses and partners, will be considered as DHS conducts a case-by-case review of the approximately 300,000 immigrants currently in deportation proceedings to determine which cases are high priority and low priority. DHS plans to close many low priority deportation cases. DHS and DOJ will also utilize these factors in determining whether to place someone in deportation proceedings in the future, or to close a deportation case. Immigrants whose cases are closed will not be subject to deportation in the future “unless the facts of their case substantially change.”
Today’s announcement from DHS appears to be very good news for LGBT couples who are facing imminent separation via a removal order or deportation. LGBT spouses and partners will likely benefit from more of the deportation cancellations and delays that we have seen a few of in the last few months. This is truly groundbreaking, as Immigration Equality does not know of cases in which deportations were cancelled or delayed due to lesbian or gay partnerships or marriages prior to the administration’s decision that DOMA is unconstitutional.
We must all work to ensure this important development makes a difference for real families.
- It’s terrific the administration and DHS consider families to include LGBT families. We must make sure the field officers and attorneys prosecuting cases know that so they actually exercise discretion in the field when determining whether to drop or commence deportation proceedings. LGBT families were not listed in a long list of factors for consideration for discretion in a June memo that this new memo will be based on, as we had requested. So we must continue to press for them to put this new policy in writing.
It IS very helpful that the New York Times and many other media sources put it in their coverage. This will help educate immigration practitioners around the country and aid attorneys advocating for LGBT immigrants that have American spouses or partners.
Nancy Pelosi put it in her press announcement about the new policy also. She definitely shows that immigration is a DOMA issue and vice versa!:
"It is my hope that today’s action by the Administration will result in the suspension of immigration proceedings against gays and lesbians who have petitioned for their spouses, such as my constituents, Bradford Wells and Anthony John Makk, who face separation because of the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act."
- This is not the moratorium on the deportation of lesbian and gay spouses and partners that the Washington Post editorial called for this week. It will help families on a case by case basis only.
- This change does not impact the many couples who need relief but have not received a removal order or deportation notice. It does not help LGBT folks filing for a spousal-based green card for their lesbian or gay spouse, who want that application held in abeyance (as so many of you have asked in signing our petition) so they can stay here legally. Instead, they will continue to live in the constant worry that they are or will be out of status, and could be picked up by police participating in Secure Communities or an ICE agent who may or may not have heard about the new guidelines, and placed into detention and/or deportation proceedings. Or, if the Utah, Alabama, or Georgia laws go into effect, the US partner could be criminalized for “harboring” their loved one.
As our legal director Vickie Neilson said in a recent blog: "What better proof do we need that our immigration system is broken than that the response of many [to the case of Bradford Wells and Anthony Makk] — friends and foes alike — has been “why doesn’t he just fall out of status, violate the immigration laws, and then some day, immigration may exercise discretion on his behalf to not deport him?”
Many Immigration groups share the concern that this new process does not outline an affirmative process by which immigrants can win relief, only a way to address deportations. This is extremely significant. For example, someone whose deportation is cancelled based on this new process will be able to apply for work authorization, but someone who is simply undocumented and not facing deportation cannot. Similarly, an LGBT spouse/partner whose visa is expiring can do nothing under this new policy to stay in status.
- DHS said that there will be “the same narrow mechanisms” in place to allow LGBT spouses and partners they have already deported to return to the US. Nonetheless, parole, the mechanism that allows people to return to the US, is one of the areas which the DHS June memo outlined should be a process in which DHS employees can exercise discretion. Immigration Equality only knows of one gay spouse who returned via humanitarian parole following a deportation, after major advocacy by Senator Kerry.
- Administrative relief is a critical interim solution for our families. But, it can be reversed by any future president. We must continue to fight to end the discrimination against our families in immigration, by pressing for passage of the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA).
Click here to email you members of Congress to urge them to cosponsor and support UAFA.
Thanks for all of your terrific advocacy for inclusion of LGBT families and gay and lesbian spouses and partners in any immigration reform. The hard work had an important payoff yesterday! Please continue to watch this blog or follow us on Twitter and Facebook. The updates are coming fast and quickly so please stay connected.
Join Bradford & Anthony for a Special Call This Friday
By Bradford Wells & Anthony Makk on 08/17/2011 @ 07:36 PM
We hope you will join us for a special conference call this Friday, August 19th at noon eastern time to learn about what’s next for us and other families in our situation.
The extraordinary support you have shown our family over the past few weeks has meant so much. From the thousands of messages you’ve sent to the White House on our behalf, to the notes of support you’ve left online, we have moved beyond words by your actions and well wishes.
With your help, we know we can win. Just this week, the Washington Post editorial board published a powerful editorial calling for help not just in our case, but for every lesbian and gay family facing separation because of discriminatory laws. Make no mistake: This is a turning point for our families, and it is imperative that we seize it.
Please join us this Friday at noon eastern time to learn more about how you can help. To join our call, simply dial (800) 868-1837 and use access code 393639#.
We look forward to talking with you — and thanking you — on Friday’s call.
Please join us.
P.S. Can't make the call? Please make a contribution. The legal intake hotline is running at four times — 4x! — its volume just six months ago, and your support allows Immigration Equality to continue providing free, expert immigration advice to the community. Thank you!
Video: Immigration Equality Clients Share Their Story on 'Countdown'
By Steve Ralls on 08/11/2011 @ 09:50 AM
Anthony John Makk and Bradford Wells speak out against the Obama administration's decision to use the Defense of Marriage Act to deny Makk, a citizen of Australia, permanent residency. The gay couple were legally married seven years ago in Massachusetts. Makk is also the primary caregiver for Wells, who's battling AIDS. He's been ordered to leave the country by Aug. 25.
Bringing in New UAFA Cosponsors
By Daniel Rotman on 08/04/2011 @ 12:19 PM
Being the Student Coordinator for the Newly Elected Members of Congress Program last January at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government has proven to be quite fruitful: I have been able to take the contacts and relationships I made with newly elected members and translate them into meaningful relationships for Immigration Equality.
Many of the freshmen Democrats who were elected into the 112th Congress are very supportive of LGBT and immigration rights. Being able to harness my contacts with them and their sincere interest in the issue has translated into several new co-sponsors of the UAFA and new allies in the House. Congressman Clarke of Michigan joined as a co-sponsor within 24 hours of our meeting with him. Congresswoman Hanabusa of Hawaii joined as a co-sponsor within 8 hours of our meeting with her. And, Congressman Keating of Massachusetts joined as a co-sponsor within 2 hours of our meeting with him. We also signed on Congresswoman Wilson of Florida.
I am so happy to have been able to help make this contribution to IE and my experience as a whole this summer has been so great. I love the work we did out of DC this summer at IEAF and am proud of the work the org does as a whole.
I look forward to continuing to be a part of the fight!
Daniel Rotman is the 2011 Policy Fellow at Immigration Equality Action Fund. Please join his work for the Uniting American Families Act and LGBT immigrant families by reaching out to your congressperson, or former congressperson if you're living in exile, today!
Put a Halt to HALT
By Connie Utada on 07/21/2011 @ 11:57 AM
The House of Representatives has scheduled a hearing on Tuesday, July 26th at 1:30pm in an attempt to roll back the important progress we’ve made toward keeping our families together. Congressman Lamar Smith (R-TX) has introduced legislation, known as the Hinder the Administration’s Legalization Temptation Act (HALT), to eliminate ICE’s ability to use discretion in deciding who should be targeted for deportation. Smith’s bill follows the agency’s June memo instructing ICE officials to take immigrants’ American families and spouses into consideration when deciding who is a priority for removal from the United States.
If successful, Congressman Smith’s bill would strip away any possible discretionary relief for LGBT immigrant families facing separation.
Congresswoman Lofgren, who has been a steadfast ally of our families, is prepared to take on Smith’s discriminatory crusade during Tuesday’s hearing ... but we need to show up and provide visible support for her advocacy on behalf of our families.
Please join us on Tuesday, July 26th at 1:30pm in Room 2141 of the Rayburn House Office Building. Our families’ presence will send a strong message to Congress to not roll back relief for immigrants and their loved ones. If you’re able to join us, please RSVP here and bring a friend with you, too.
Thank you for standing with us. I look forward to seeing you on Tuesday.
What did our Founders say about immigration?
By Rachel Tiven on 07/04/2011 @ 12:41 PM
“He has endeavoured to prevent the Population of these States; for that Purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their Migrations hither ...”
— The Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776
King George’s refusal to pass comprehensive immigration reform helped spark the American Revolution. Our Founders knew that the nation’s future lay in robust immigration, and England’s failure to encourage and regulate it was one of the top ten grievances in the Declaration of Independence.
Two-hundred and thirty-five years later, we must again demand that our leaders take responsibility for naturalizing foreigners and encouraging migration to this great country. On this Fourth of July, here are three reasons why:
- Frances Herbert and Takako Ueda are going to be separated by immigration laws that don’t respect their marriage and their 11 years together. Sign our petition asking the President to keep them together.
- Jose Antonio Vargas can’t be a citizen, even though he grew up in the U.S., graduated from high school and college here, and won a Pulitzer Prize. As a gay man, he proudly came out of two closets in his incredible article “My Life as an Undocumented Immigrant.”
- New York, the Empire State, can’t fix this problem with marriage equality. Nor can Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Iowa, Connecticut or the District of Columbia. To free Frances and Takako, Jose, and every other LGBT immigrant family, we need to repeal the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” and pass comprehensive immigration reform.
Watch your inbox for an action alert this week on the Senate’s new comprehensive immigration reform bill, which includes the Uniting American Families Act. Better yet, friend us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.
For Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness, have a happy Independence Day!
From CNN a Story on One Couple, Fighting to Stay Together
By Christopher Edwards on 06/28/2011 @ 03:37 PM
Today CNN told the heartbreaking tale of one bitnational couple in Vermont fighting to stay together. Watch the video below or at the CNN site (where you can recommend it to your friends).
Sign the petition now at http://imeqactionfund.org/francesandtakako
Tuesday: CNN Profiles Our Families
By Steve Ralls on 06/27/2011 @ 04:05 PM
On Tuesday morning, CNN will turn its attention to the discrimination, and obstacles, that LGBT couples face under current immigration law.
At 11:30am, correspondent Soledad O'Brien will report on an Immigration Equality couple who are fighting - with help from our legal team - to remain together in the United States. Tuesday's segment will also include an interview with our executive director, Rachel Tiven, about how immigration law impacts LGBT families . . . and what we're doing to change that.
Be sure to tune in on Tuesday at 11:30am ET. Then, check back here for a special announcement about how you can be part of the campaign to keep this family together.
VICTORY! Marriage Equality in New York
By Staff on 06/24/2011 @ 08:29 PM
All of us at Immigration Equality, and the Immigration Equality Action Fund, join our families, supporters and allies in celebrating today’s historic vote in favor of full marriage equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender couples. New York joins five other states — plus the District of Columbia — in respecting the commitment and union of all families. We applaud lawmakers who, quite literally, worked overtime to make this legislative victory possible.
As more and more states recognize, and respect, our families, pressure continues to grow for the federal government to repeal the discriminatory and unconstitutional Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). A majority of the American people support marriage equality, and want to see LGBT families given the respect, and legal protections, they deserve.
Until DOMA’s demise – and until our families are recognized under U.S. immigration laws – we will continue to fight for our families.
Immigration benefits — including the ability of an American citizen to sponsor their spouse for residency here in the U.S. — are purely federal. Because DOMA prohibits conferring any of the more than 1,000 federal benefits even to couples who have a marriage recognized at the state level, the estimated 5,000 families in New York with one non-resident partner still face painful, and unconscionable, choices as they fight to remain together.
As our legal director, Victoria Neilson, noted earlier this year, “DOMA is still in force and will continue to bar federal government agencies — including the ones that control immigration – from recognizing valid marriages.” (See our full FAQ on marriage and immigration, online here.)
Even today, our legal team is working to assist married New York couples as they face painful separation. As the Daily News reported earlier this year, Long Island residents Edwin Blesch and his South African husband, Tim Smulian, could be torn apart as early as next month. Despite being legally married in South Africa – and despite the fact that their marriage has been recognized by New York for some time — Edwin has few legal options for keeping Tim in the United States.
As we celebrate today’s progress in New York, we also re-commit to fighting for DOMA’s repeal. Until the federal government follows in the footsteps of states like New York, and provides equal protection to our families, couples will continue to be separated.
Make no mistake, though. Hope is here, and change is on the horizon. A recent memo from Immigration & Customs Enforcement may offer an option to fight for an end to the removal of LGBT immigrant spouses. And our policy and legal teams are continuing to work with the Administration to bring about a moratorium on the separation of our families.
Until every family has an option to remain together, however, we will not rest.
(If you are married, or thinking of marrying, and have questions about how doing so may impact your immigration situation, or contact Immigration Equality’s legal team via our website.)
Coming Out as Immigrant Families
By Christopher Edwards on 06/23/2011 @ 02:47 PM
Last week I joined 2,500 activists, bloggers, journalists and activist/blogger/journalists in Minneapolis for the 2011 Netroots Conference. Amongst strategy sessions and big name keynotes were the personal stories of activists and none were quite as moving as the lesbian and gay DREAM Act students who framed their struggle within the narrative of the LGBT movement. Invoking the words of Harvey Milk and the power of "coming out."
It began on Tuesday with the LGBT Pre-Conference where the DREAM Act students talked about among other things how it was more difficult to come out as a undocumented than to come out as gay:
This conversation led at least one audience member, gay DC blogger Carlos QC, to publicly come out as undocumented.
During that same session i took the opportunity to tie the story of LGBT immigrants into the narrative of fear and bigotry against all immigrants, explaining how LGBT immigrants were not allowed into the country at all before 1980 and how after that HIV-positive immigrants were legally barred from entering the country. These discriminatory practices were carried out by means of search and intimidation. Officials reviewed luggage for any signs of sexuality or HIV meds. Not unlike some binational couples still face while having their computers searched.
I also came out at the conference as being one half of a binational couple, talking a little bit about my 10-year relationship. By my doing so, others at the conference felt they could do the same to me and others.
There is power in identifying ourselves. Whether we come out as LGBT, undocumented, or part of a binational family. We are saying, that we will not be intimidated to live in fear and hide in the shadows. And we create a space for others to reveal their stories as well.
This week we see how that works when Pulitzer-winning journalist Jose Vargas came out in the pages of New York Times as gay and undocumented. Jose, who won his Pulitzer for his work on the Virginia Tech shootings at the Washington Post, writes of his experience as undocumented:
I decided then that I could never give anyone reason to doubt I was an American. I convinced myself that if I worked enough, if I achieved enough, I would be rewarded with citizenship. I felt I could earn it.
I’ve tried. Over the past 14 years, I’ve graduated from high school and college and built a career as a journalist, interviewing some of the most famous people in the country. On the surface, I’ve created a good life. I’ve lived the American dream.
But I am still an undocumented immigrant. And that means living a different kind of reality. It means going about my day in fear of being found out. It means rarely trusting people, even those closest to me, with who I really am. It means keeping my family photos in a shoebox rather than displaying them on shelves in my home, so friends don’t ask about them. It means reluctantly, even painfully, doing things I know are wrong and unlawful. And it has meant relying on a sort of 21st-centry underground railroad of supporters, people who took an interest in my future and took risks for me.
We hear often about "playing by the rules" as if our lives were a game that if we as binational families could just give try harder, prove to be just a little bit more worthy we will finally be able to live without the fear that our partners will be deported. This is too often the story of immigration in the U.S.
After Japanese were interned during World War II the concept of the "model minority" was born. The idea that if Japanese were better educated, more enterprising, more self-sufficient they would never be treated that way again. Japanese-Americans blamed themselves for the bigotry and hate they experienced.
And they aren't' alone. In my own family, my grandmother was the child of a mother from Ireland and a father from Austria. She hated being an immigrant more than anything. As a family with a German-sounding last name, Kurzweil, they were forced to move to Canada so my grandfather could find work in the face of anti-German backlash after World War I. My grandmother wanted nothing more than to just blend in. To her, her greatest success story was finally being that Republican, suburban housewife she so very much craved. No one could tell she was an immigrant's child then!
We have forgotten our immigration stories in this country because there is so much shame associated with growing up as immigrants in the U.S. So many stories of oppression and bigotry — not to mention working an immigration system seemingly designed to confuse — that are suppressed within our family narratives, we have trouble empathizing with the stories of immigrants we see today. In our national dialogue on immigration we have lost the connection between previous generations of immigrants and the current generation of immigrants. And with that loss, we've lost an understanding not just of the difficulty in integrating but the difficulty in immigrating period. Our families all came here in many, many different ways to seek the American Dream. Undocumented families and our LGBT binational families are no different.
As we head into LGBT Pride weekend, we see the wisdom and the courage our LGBT history in standing up against fear and oppression. The times now for immigrants — with papers or without, LGBT or not — and their families to come out and stand up to tell our stories. It's the only way to help others understand how broken the system is and to identify real people with the statistics. It has been undeniably at the root of the success of our LGBT movement and it must happen to move the U.S. to a more just and humane immigration system for our LGBT families and for ALL families.
Remember to share your story. We collect those stories and use them directly in our conversations lawmakers and those setting policy for immigrants.
Immigration Equality Calls on ICE to Recognize LGBT Families in New 'Discretion' Memo
By Steve Ralls on 06/20/2011 @ 04:14 PM
Immigration Equality today called on U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to broaden and clarify the definition of ‘family’ and ‘spouse’ used in a June 17 memo to ICE field offices, special agents and counsel. The memo, which outlines cases in which ICE officials should exercise ‘discretion’ when prioritizing who should be targeted for removal from the United States, fails to specifically include lesbian and gay spouses or partners, despite earlier correspondence indicating those families would be given such considerations. While the recent memo specifies that those with “family relationships” in the United States, and individuals with a “U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse” may be considered for discretion, it does not indicate those terms to be inclusive of LGBT spouses and families.
“Our legal team works every day with LGBT families who are about to be separated,” said Immigration Equality’s executive director, Rachel B. Tiven. “While ICE has taken a significant step in recognizing that tearing families apart should not be a government priority, it must be explicit that lesbian and gay families are protected, too.”
In a May letter to Members of Congress who had called on ICE to halt the deportation of LGBT spouses, the Department of Homeland Security and Department of Justice noted that both agencies would “continue, where appropriate, to exercise discretion in individual cases based on the unique factors presented by that particular case.” Despite those assurances, and repeated calls by lawmakers and Immigration Equality to use such discretion, there is no specific mention of LGBT families among the 19 scenarios cited in Friday’s memo. Though the memo noted that the “list is not exhaustive,” Tiven expressed concern that the absence of any LGBT-specific example would lead field offices to believe those families are exempt from leniency in enforcing removal.
“Given the absence of any LGBT family recognition at the federal level, the decision not to explicitly include our spouses and partners in the ICE memo is striking,” Tiven said. “If the Administration does support efforts to keep LGBT families together, it should tell its field offices as much. If it does not, it must explain why. In the interim, families are being torn apart and American citizens are being separated from their spouses. There is simply no government interest served in such draconian enforcement of our immigration laws.”
Image via Wikipedia
U.N. Human Rights Council Calls for LGBT Equality
By Guest on 06/20/2011 @ 11:49 AM
This guest post is from Immigration Equality legal interns, Samara Fox and Elaine Cintron.
The United Nations Human Rights Council adopted a resolution this past Friday affirming the universal rights of all LGBT individuals. It is the first ever resolution addressing the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. The resolution, introduced by South Africa, aims to bring heightened attention to the widespread violence and discrimination that LGBT people experience around the world. It also commissions a study detailing the many forms of disparate treatment that individuals experience in various nations because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Immigration Equality applauds the 23 nations that voted in favor of the resolution and the 40 sponsors of the resolution from around the world. Many nations opposing it had some of the worst LGBT human rights records to date. Daniel Baer, a U.S. deputy assistant secretary, said after the vote that the resolution will provide hope for the LGBT people of those nations, sending a message “that there are many people in the international community who stand with them, and who support then, and that change will come."
This Saturday: Rally with Rachel at NY Pride
By Steve Ralls on 06/15/2011 @ 03:47 PM
The first NYC LGBT Pride Rally occurred one month after the Stonewall Riots in June 1969 when 500 people gathered for a "Gay Power" demonstration in Washington Square Park. It was followed by a candlelight vigil in Sheridan Square. From 1997 to 2009, the Rally was held in Bryant Park.
In 2010, the Rally moved to its new home at Central Park's SummerStage in Rumsey Field, 5th Ave and 72nd St.
This Saturday, 2011 Pride celebrations will get underway with the kick-off rally featuring Immigration Equality's executive director, Rachel Tiven.
The rally gets under way on June 18th at 3pm, and Rachel will address the crowd at approximately 3:30. She'll be joined by headline performer Oh Land, the cast of Broadway's Priscilla Queen of the Desert and emcees Ross Matthews and Christine O'Leary.
If you're in New York on Saturday, join Rachel at Rumsey Playfield Central Park . . . and don't forget to sign up to march with Immigration Equality supporters on Sunday, June 26th, too. Everyone who marches with us receives a free Immigration Equality t-shirt!
Image via Wikipedia.
'Out in America,' and In the Immigration Equality Offices
By Steve Ralls on 06/08/2011 @ 08:38 PM
In conjunction with tonight's premiere of 'Out in America' on PBS, New York's Channel 13 visits with Immigration Equality and interviews our executive director, Rachel Tiven.
The full documentary, chronicling the LGBT movement in American, premieres on PBS stations across the country this evening at 8pm ET.
A Safe Haven Success — Thank you!
By Win Chesson on 06/07/2011 @ 05:57 PM
We did it!
Thanks the tremendous efforts and incredible generosity of our supporters, especially our Host Committee, this year’s Safe Haven Awards was our best yet! We raised half a million dollars and had record attendance, including guests from our pro bono community, business coalition partners, and loyal supporters like you. Thank you.
With not even one empty seat in the gorgeous TimesCenter theatre we were at capacity and able to meet (and exceed!) our first ever $50,000 challenge match from binational couple Martin Chavez and Adam Norbury. Together we raised over $150,000 Tuesday night — more than triple our record for money raised the night of any IE event. This is simply incredible and a testament to each of you.
On behalf of the entire Immigration Equality team, thanks again for to our many donors and supporters who dedicated time, treasure, and talent over the past several months to make the Safe Haven Awards a success.
We are also extremely grateful for the fantastic photography of Charles Ludeke.
Please check out his wonderful photos from the event, below: