Today in NYC: Vigil to commemorate David Kato, slain Ugandan activist
By Christopher Edwards on 02/03/2011 @ 10:35 AM
Today, February 3rd, in Immigration Equality and Immigration Equality Action Fund join the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) and over 35 other human rights and LGBT ors to honor the life of slain Ugandan activist David Kato.
In a statement, IGLHRC explained of David Kato:
Kato, a prominent leader of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) movement in Uganda, was found murdered in his Kampala home on January 26. His photograph had been published in a Ugandan tabloid that called for hanging gay people; he had recently led a successful lawsuit forcing the publication to desist. The groups also voiced concern that homophobia may prevent Ugandan authorities from conducting a full and fair investigation of Kato's murder.
"David Kato was a hero not just to LGBT Ugandans, but to all Ugandans, and to all supporters of human rights," said Frank Mugisha, Kato's colleague in Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), an LGBT rights organization in Uganda. "As we mourn him, we must also ensure that his killers are brought to justice and that no LGBT Ugandan ever faces the same deadly violence again."
For the complete statement on Kato's life, the vigil, and the sponsoring organizations, see here.
Candlelight vigil and silent procession
To honor slain Ugandan LGBT activist David Kato
February 3, 2011, 4:00 pm at Dag Hammarskjold Plaza; 5:00 pm at Uganda House
Dag Hammarskjold Plaza at the corner of 2nd Avenue and 47th Street, NY, NY.
Uganda House at 336 East 45th Street between 1st and 2nd Avenues, NY, NY.
The keynote speech will be delivered by Val Kalende, Board Chair of Freedom and Roam Uganda, an LBT organization in Uganda.
Additional speakers include:
- Cary Alan Johnson (International Gay & Lesbian Human Rights Commission)
- Reverend Kapya Kaoma (Public Research Associates)
- Amanda Lugg (African Services Committee)
- Kagendo Murungi (Wapinduzi Productions)
- Dr. Cheikh Traore (United Nations Development Program)
- Invited guests included United States and New York City government officials.
- Speaker list in formation.
ADDITIONAL EVENT INFO
Found at Facebook, here.
Sen. Patrick Leahy Calls on Senate Colleagues to Support UAFA
By Steve Ralls on 02/01/2011 @ 02:24 PM
The Senate's lead sponsor of the Uniting American Families Act has called on his colleagues to support the legislation, and end discrimination against LGBT binational families.
In a January 25th floor speech, Leahy urged Senators to include UAFA among the priorities for fixing America's immigration system.
". . . I hope Senators will also recognize the fundamental unfairness that exists in our immigration laws for gay and lesbian Americans and that this is also an economic issue," Leahy said. "I have said many times that no American should be forced to choose between their loved ones and their country. But this is the reality many Americans face, and it is wrong. Due to this false choice, many talented Americans choose to leave their country for nations that treat binational, same-sex couples fairly, often at a cost to their employers and our Nation's economic growth."
Senator Leahy has been a champion for binational couples. In addition to sponsoring UAFA in the United State Senate, he also spearheaded - and chaired - the first-ever Judiciary Committee hearing on binational families. All of us at Immigration Equality are proud to continue working with the Senator as he leads the fight for our families in the United States Senate.
Immigration Equality Tells House Subcommittee: Remember LGBT Binational Families
By Steve Ralls on 01/27/2011 @ 01:06 PM
Yesterday, the House Subcommittee on Immigration held its first hearing of the 112th Congress. The Subcommittee's new Chairman, in the weeks leading up to yesterday's hearing, made clear that he intends to kick-off the new Congress by focusing lawmakers' attention on "enforcement-only" issues, which would ultimately mean tearing more immigrant families apart.
In response to the Chairman's remarks - and in anticipation of yesterday's hearing - our friends at the National Immigration Forum mobilized allied organizations to speak out on behalf of immigrant families. The Immigration Equality Action Fund was proud to join the Forum and give voice to our families, too. Yesterday, we submitted the following statement for the record:
As the House Immigration Subcommittee begins its work to oversee the country’s immigration policy, the Immigration Equality Action Fund urges lawmakers to fix our nation’s broken immigration system through comprehensive reform legislation which honors our nation’s history as a country of immigrants, and works to enact policies which benefit businesses and keep families together.
Only Congress can fix the broken immigration system, and it must prioritize tackling this immensely important issue. We must update our country’s immigration laws in a way that recognizes the enormous economic contribution that millions of immigrants – both documented and undocumented – have made to fuel our nation’s progress. Those who are undocumented should be provided with a pathway to citizenship. At the same time, we must also ensure that immigration reform prioritizes family unification, which has been the foundation of U.S. immigration policy for decades, ensuring that American citizens and residents are united with immigrant loved ones. These should include lesbian and gay Americans, whose families are too often torn apart because of the inability of those Americans to sponsor their foreign born partners for residency.
It is critically important that American businesses have the policies and laws they need to best compete in the global economy. Our immigration system is an important component of ensuring that competitive edge. We urge lawmakers, as they begin work in this new Congress, to ensure our laws allow businesses to recruit and retain the best and brightest talent and allow families to remain together in, and contribute economically to, the country they call home.
# # #
Immigration Equality on HuffingtonPost: The Economic Case for Inclusive Immigration Reform
By Steve Ralls on 01/26/2011 @ 04:33 PM
In Tuesday night's State of the Union address, President Obama called on Congress, once again, to tackle the issue of comprehensive immigration reform. In his first remarks on the topic since the Senate voted down the DREAM Act -- which would have provided young people a path to citizenship in return for service in our armed forces or obtaining a degree at a college or university in the United States -- the President laid out the case for fixing a woefully broken system that hasn't been reformed in decades.
It is no accident that the President included immigration as part of a speech that focused heavily on boosting our country's economy. The two are inextricably linked, and smart reform can be part of the plan to put the U.S. further ahead on the road to economic progress. No matter where you fall on the issue of immigration, there is no denying that our immigration policy impacts our workforce, tax base and businesses, too.
In his remarks on Tuesday, President Obama specifically noted the absurdity of continuing to force talented young people, who are educated and trained in the United States, to leave the country once their education is complete. "As soon as they obtain advanced degrees, we send them back home to compete against us," the President said. "It makes no sense."
He's right, of course. But there's another piece of the immigration puzzle that makes no sense, either.
Current immigration laws are forcing some American citizens to quit their jobs, sell their homes and leave their own country. That's right: American citizens. More than 36,000 of them, who happen to be lesbian and gay and have a partner from another country, face the unimaginable choice of leaving their country -- and their jobs -- behind, or tearing their families apart.
Join us in Minneapolis?
By Gannon Long on 01/24/2011 @ 12:52 PM
The Immigration Equality team will be visiting Minneapolis ... and we want you to help us create change for LGBT immigrant families.
I'll be in your city from February 2nd through 6th for Creating Change, the annual conference of the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force. I'll be joined by my Immigration Equality colleagues Connie Utada, Stephen Silva, and Win Chesson. And, I hope you'll join us, too.
We'll be hosting an informal Immigration Equality Meet & Greet on Thursday evening, February 3rd. Then, we'll be leading Creating Change workshops on Friday and Saturday. (To attend our workshops, you must register for Creating Change online at www.creatingchange.org, where you can also find details about the weekend. Our workshop descriptions are below.)
On Thursday, February 3rd from 5-7 pm, right before the Creating Change plenary session, join as Solera Restaurant in downtown Minneapolis just a short two blocks from the conference hotel.
To RSVP and find out more information, see the event at Facebook.
We'll also talk about how you can be part of our campaign to pass the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA). Because both of Minnesota's Senators hold key positions on the Senate Judiciary Committee — where UAFA will receive its first votes in Congress — it is crucial that they hear from constituents like you — and your loved ones — about the importance of ensuring UAFA's success.
Thank you for everything you do on behalf our families ... and thank you for being part of the Immigration Equality family, too. I hope to see you in Minneapolis this February!
Friday, February 4th, 9 – 10:30AM
Ending Anti-LGBT Discrimination in U.S. Immigration Law
Come to this dynamic workshop on advocating against LGBT discrimination in US immigration law, focusing on how YOU can take action to pass the Uniting American Families Act (H.R. 1024, S. 424). We will describe the obstacles bi-national and immigrant LGBT families face under current law, offer legislative updates on UAFA and comprehensive immigration reform, and provide you with the tools you need to take action in your own community. We will encourage you to ask questions, take action, and share models of success from your own grassroots work. You will leave with a concrete plan to create change in your own community.
Presenters: Gannon Long, Immigration Equality, Washington, DC; James A. Ferg-Cadima, Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Washington,DC; Ben de Guzman, Co-Director for Programs, National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance, Washington, DC; Jesse Garcia, President, LULAC 4871 - The Dallas Rainbow Council, Dallas, TX
Friday, February 4th, 10:45-12:15
Creating Your Own Change With GenEQ U
Creating Your Own Change with GenEQ U offers a comprehensive guide on small-scale, local queer conference planning, highlighting a series of suggested steps to successfully plan and execute a gender and sexuality diversity-themed conference with intersections around progressive movements to engage allies and create sustained relationships between the host institution and its surrounding community.
Presenters: Steve Silva, Immigration Equality/Yale University, Brooklyn, NY; Kati Moug, Yale University, Brooklyn, NY; Amalia Skilton, Yale University, Brooklyn, NY
Saturday, February 5th, 3-6PM
More $, More Power: Asking for What We Need and Getting It!
Ever feel like money is the thing holding your group back from achieving your goals? Worry that you’ll turn people off by asking for funding? Feel like our movement feeds into classist, racist and ageist assumptions about money? You’re not alone. By raising money in a different way, we can reinvent the power structure of our movement. Let’s break down the barriers of anxiety and assumptions about asking and giving. No gimmicks—live conversations with real people work. We’ll arm you with tried and true methods, examples and tools to make asking feel great and the money roll in.
- Learn to change WHO funds the LGBT movement
- Tackle classism & discomfort around asking
- Move fundraising from scary to possible and empowering
- Help to reinvent the power structure by teaching EVERYONE to raise $
- Raise not just little, but big $ so organizations can be bigger, support more leaders, lift goals and buy and pay for needed things
- Learn that direct asking puts $ in the bank NOW
Trainers: Win Chesson, Associate Director of Development, Immigration Equality; Rodrigo Lehtinen, Field Organizer, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force
Host a Valentine Fundraiser for Immigration Equality
By Win Chesson on 01/24/2011 @ 10:33 AM
Will you host a Valentine’s Party Fundraiser for Immigration Equality?
Valentine’s Day can be a difficult time for binational families being torn apart under the current immigration laws. Our annual Valentine’s campaign seeks to turn the harm from that injustice into action, highlighting the symbolism of the holiday for binational families. Will you host a Valentine’s event for us?
Last year’s ten parties spanned three continents, generated hundreds of actions, and raised over $20,000. Events ranged from champagne brunches and glitzy soirees to intimate dinner parties and cozy pot lucks to house boat bar nights. This year our goal is to find 20 hosts that raise $25,000 collectively. With your help, our 2011 Valentine’s Day campaign can:
- Inspire and empower new supporters to take action for UAFA
- Deepen and expand support of UAFA by inviting Members of Congress
- Raise money and critical resources we need to win.
We will provide everything you'll need for success: our house party tool kit, a regular check-in with our national headquarters, an invitation to your Member of Congress, our DVD showcasing binational couples' stories, and a slideshow of binational family factoids.
For details about our worldwide campaign, interested hosts should contact Win Chesson, Associate Director of Development, at win (at) imeqactionfund.org.
Can’t host an event? You can still participate in this year’s Valentine’s campaign by making a Valentine’s donation online here.
UPDATE: Ask Your New Elected Officials to Stand Up for Our Families!
By Julie Kruse on 01/19/2011 @ 01:05 PM
It’s an exciting time here in Washington, DC, as members of the 112th Congress take office – including over 90 freshmen Representatives and 13 brand new Senators. Many of these officials know little about the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA), which would allow gay and lesbian Americans to sponsor their foreign-born partners for immigration status.
Will you take a moment right now to educate your Representative and Senators about UAFA, and ask them to support this bill when it’s introduced in the new Congress?
As a constituent, you are in a unique position to influence your elected officials in Washington, DC, by telling them what matters to you and your family. Today – the first day of the new Congress – is a great day to reach out to your Representative and Senators and share your story. We need you to begin a relationship with them. Our families are working to build support for UAFA in every part of this country - and that begins with you. Please contact your elected officials today.
UPDATE: Former Cosponsors in Congress in 2011
All cosponsors will have to come back on to the bill again as all bills expired at the end of last year. So those who cosponsored in the past and have left Congress will not be counted as cosponsors again. Those who remained will need to come back on the bill again this year.
The list of current members who cosponsored in 2009-2010 is below.
Of the 25 Senators who were cosponsors last year, 21 have returned to Congress. And of the 135 Representatives in the House who were cosponsors last year, 121 have returned.
If your Senators and Representatives cosponsored before, you can thank them and ask them to do it again this year! The lists are below.
Current Senators who were cosponsors in 2009-2010
Patrick Leahy (VT)
Daniel Akaka (HI)
Barbara Boxer (CA)
Sherrod Brown (OH)
Maria Cantwell (WA)
Benjamin Cardin (MD)
Bob Casey (PA)
Richard Durbin (IL)
Al Franken (MN)
Kirsten Gillibrand (NY)
Tom Harkin (IA)
Daniel Inouye (HI)
John Kerry (MA)
Frank Lautenberg (NJ)
Robert Menendez (NJ)
Jeff Merkley (OR)
Chuck Schumer (NY)
Mark Udall (CO)
Sheldon Whitehouse (RI)
Ron Wyden (OR)
Bernie Sanders (VT)
Current Representatives who were cosponsors in 2009-2010
Gary Ackerman (NY-5)
Rob Andrews (NJ-1)
Joe Baca (CA-43)
Tammy Baldwin (WI-2)
Xavier Becerra (CA-31)
Shelley Berkley (NV-1)
Howard Berman (CA-28)
Tim Bishop (NY-1)
Earl Blumenauer (OR-3)
Robert Brady (PA-1)
Lois Capps (CA-23)
Michael Capuano (MA-8)
Andre Carson (IN-7)
Kathy Castor (FL-11)
Judy Chu (A-32)
Yvette Clarke (NY-11)
Wm. Lacy Clay (MO-1)
James Clyburn (SC-6)
Gerry Connolly (VA-11)
John Conyers (MI-14)
Joseph Courtney (CT-2)
Joseph Crowley (NY-7)
Elijah Cummings (MD-7)
Susan Davis (CA-53)
Danny Davis (IL-7)
Peter DeFazio (OR-4)
Diana Degette (CO-1)
Rosa DeLauro (CT-3)
Ted Deutch (FL-19)
Mike Doyle (PA-14)
Donna Edwards (MD-4)
Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC)
Keith Ellison (MN-5)
Eliott Engel (NY-17)
Anna Eshoo (CA-14)
Sam Farr (CA-17)
Chaka Fattah (PA-2)
Bob Filner (CA-51)
Barney Frank (MA-4)
John Garamendi (CA-10)
Raul Grijaliva (AZ-7)
Luis Gutierrez (IL-4)
Jane Harman (CA-36)
Alcee Hastings (FL-23)
Martin Heinrich (NM-1)
Jim Himes (CT-4)
Maurice Hinchey (NY-22)
Mazie Hirono (HI-2)
Rush Holt (NJ-12)
Mike Honda (CA-15)
Jay Inslee (WA-1)
Steve Israel (NY-2)
Jesse Jackson Jr. (IL-2)
Hank Johnson (GA-4)
Eddie Bernice Johnson (TX-30)
Dennis Kucinich (OH-10)
James Langevin (RI-2)
Rick Larsen (WA-2)
John Larson (CT-1)
Barbara Lee (CA-9)
Sheila Jackson-Lee (TX-18)
Sander Levin (MI-12)
John Lewis (GA-5)
Nita Lowey (NY-18)
Carolyn Maloney (NY-14)
Edward Markey (MA-7)
Doris Matsui (CA-5)
Carolyn McCarthy (NY-4)
Betty McCollum (MN-4)
Jim McDermott (WA-7)
Jim McGovern (MA-3)
Gregory Meeks (NY-6)
Mike Michaud (ME-2)
George Miller (CA-7)
Brad Miller (NC-13)
Gwen Moore (WI-14)
Jim Moran (VA-8)
Jerry Nadler (NY-8)
Grace Napolitano (CA-38)
Richard Neal (MA-2)
John Olver (MA-1)
Frank Pallone (NJ-6)
Bill Pascrell (NJ-8)
Ed Pastor (AZ-4)
Donald Payne (NJ-10)
Chellie Pingree (ME-1)
Jared Polis (CO-2)
David Price (NC-4)
Mike Quigley (IL-5)
Charles Rangel (NY-15)
Laura Richardson (CA-37)
Steve Rothman (NJ-9)
Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA-34)
Bobby Rush (IL-1)
Tim Ryan (OH-17)
Linda Sanchez (CA-39)
John Sarbanes (MD-3)
Janice Schakowsky (IL-9)
Adam Schiff (CA-29)
Allyson Schwartz (PA-13)
Bobby Scott (VA-3)
José Serrano (NY-16)
Brad Sherman (CA-27)
Albio Sires (Ny-13)
Louise McIntosh Slaughter (NY-28)
Adam Smith (WA-9)
Jackie Speier (CA-12)
Pete Stark (CA-13)
Betty Sutton (OH-13)
John Tierney (MA-6)
Paul Tonko (NY-21)
Edolphus Towns (NY-10)
Niki Tsongas (MA-5)
Nydia Velazquez (NY-12)
Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL-20)
Maxine Waters (CA-35)
Henry Waxman (CA-30)
Anthony Weiner (NY-9)
Peter Welch (VT)
Lynn Woosley (CA-6)
David Wu (OR-1)
3 ways to help us win ...
By Win Chesson on 01/14/2011 @ 09:00 AM
.. without spending a dollar more!
Thank you to the hundreds of supporters who donated to Immigration Equality last year. With your help, we can continue to make progress for our families. The new Congress was sworn in last week, and we will put your gift to immediate use in our work on Capitol Hill as we educate lawmakers — including more than 90 freshmen Representatives and 13 new Senators — about the plight of LGBT immigrant families.
We also wanted to be sure you knew about three more ways you can support our work:
- Double your gift with a corporate match! If you were one of the nearly 1,400 people who recently made a contribution to Immigration Equality or the Action Fund, please ask your employer to match your charitable giving. Many employers will match your contribution to Immigration Equality — all you have to do is ask today.
- Host a Valentine's Day fundraiser! We will provide everything you'll need for success: our house party tool kit, a regular check-in with our national headquarters, our DVD showcasing binational couples' stories, and a slideshow of binational family factoids. Interested hosts should contact Win Chesson at win [at] imeqactionfund.org for more details.
- Become a monthly donor! Your reliable, monthly income reduces overhead costs and allows the organization to invest its resources more strategically. Simply take your 2010 giving total, divide it by 12, and sign up today as a Passport to Equality monthly donor! Check the button that reads “I want to make a recurring donation every month.”
Your support has already made a critical impact. Our new grassroots organizer is mobilizing support for UAFA in key districts across the country. Our new staff attorney — dedicated solely to binational couples — is working to ensure our families are not torn apart.
On behalf of Immigration Equality and Immigration Equality Action Fund, our clients, and our constituents — tens of thousands of couples fighting for equality and thousands of people fleeing persecution from abroad — thank you for making this progress possible.
On Being a Binational Gay Couple
By Ryan on 01/11/2011 @ 02:52 PM
So part of being in a relationship with someone who’s not American, is understanding what it means to be in a binational relationship. The implications of such is that one is American, and one isn’t. No big deal.
For most couples, the adjustment of a multicultural, binational relationship might be most for your family and friends and involve a bit of learning- thats probably the fun part. They probably didn’t know what to expect- what they’d eat, act like, take offense to, etc. My partner is Mr Happy and likes everything and is so laid back that I think everyone just found him “normal”. Well, normal for me at least. ha. Regardless for most families getting used to the fact that theres a new person in a family members life who is non traditional might be tough. For my family and friends, having my partner be non traditional meant nothing but something exciting and interesting. Until it meant limitations.
Now that we are in a binational relationship in exile, things are different. Now what it means to me is no longer just binational, but gay and binational.
You see, if one is in a male-female traditional relationship, the option for binational couples to settle together via marriage is there. Marriage for heterosexual couples where one is a citizen of the US provides a fast route for permanent residency. For gay couples, that option does not exist. In other countries like England, France, Portugal, Australia, and many more there are options.
One reason it doesn’t exist in the US is the Defense of Marriage Act from 1996, which mandates that for federal purposes marriage is between a man and women. This act allows states to also amend their constitutions to not recognize any other type of marriage. Because of this, one can get married in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Washington DC etc but not have it recognized federally. Henceforth, gay marriage provides no path to immigration. Immigration is a federal issue, and if the marriage isn’t federally recognized than the immigration sponsored on behalf of that marriage is not legitimate.
There are other avenues for gay binational couples. One that I’m currently experiencing is living abroad where we can stay together while waiting for things to change in the US. For a fee, my visa here can become a permanent residency by applying and getting a defacto partner visa. This is actually applied for by both hetero and homosexual couples, and allows for residency based on proof of at least one year in a committed relationship. This comes at a cost- six months ago this was under $1000 and has now jumped to $2700. It takes anywhere from a couple months to a six month period for approval.
Other couples bide their time between two countries. I know of a lesbian couple that spends six months at a time between London and New York City. This essentially limits any consistent income source and interrupts lives between both sides of the family.
Lastly, there are other options- specialized work visas, academic based visas to study and the annual Green Card Diversity Lottery is an option. All, are not easy. To go to University would require money, the lottery is luck based and millions apply for the 50k given out, and the specialized work visas may or may not apply to you.
Currently we are speaking with the empathetic and kind people at Immigration Equality, who assist couples and asylum seekers with paths to immigration. Besides offering advice on paths to immigration for binational couples, they also offer assistance in fighting for equality for marriage and immigration. They’ve helped many couples live together in the US via asylum or assistance to the best attorneys. They’ve been heavily working to push lawmakers to sign on to the Uniting American Families Act, which if passed would end discrimination for binational couples once and for all.
Ryan is one half a binational couple and Immigration Equality Action Fund supporter. This piece was reprinted from the his and his partner's blog detailing their life together. You can find the original post here plus a wonderful follow-up: On A Personal Note.
Sharing the stories of our families, our struggles, and our lives is essential to our advocacy work, please share yours at our Share your Story page. If you are interesting in writing for our Voices for Equality blog, please contact Christopher.
Three Paths for Progress
By Rosalba Davis on 01/07/2011 @ 11:21 AM
Every day, too many couples face separation or exile because of the discriminatory immigration laws of the United States. Loving families are being torn apart, and for those who are directly impacted, relief cannot come soon enough. All of us at Immigration Equality are dedicated to ensuring that LGBT binational couples have the representation, and voice, they need to explore every possible solution for remaining together. In 2010, in response to the overwhelming number of inquiries we receive from binational families, the organization created a new staff attorney position specifically to offer help and guidance to those families. I am honored to have that role, and to be advocating on your behalf.
There are three potential avenues for ending the discrimination that LGBT binational families face: Legislative, administrative and legal. Immigration Equality is engaged in all three arenas . . . but we need your help to ensure we win.
On the legislative front, our policy department is working hard to build bipartisan support for the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA), a bill that would provide lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender couples with the same sponsorship rights, under immigration law, currently available to straight, married couples. In the last Congress, the UAFA was co-sponsored by 161 lawmakers and included in key comprehensive immigration reform legislation, presenting another important vehicle for winning our fight on Capitol Hill. We got farther than we’ve ever gotten before, but in order to achieve victory, everyone impacted by our discriminatory immigration laws – and their families, friends and supporters – must insist that Congress pass UAFA, either as a stand-alone measure, or as part of a larger, comprehensive bill. You can help – right now – by visiting our action fund website and sending a message to your Members of Congress, urging them to support your family. Then, you can ask everyone you know to do the same.
Educating lawmakers – especially new Congressional Members – is key to our legislative work on your behalf. By using our website to contact your Member – or, even better, by meeting with your Member’s office in-person – you can help ensure that all of our leaders understand the very real impact this issue has on real families.
Until Congress takes action, Immigration Equality will also engage the federal government on administrative advocacy to help LGBT binational families, too. Immigration Equality believes the Department of Homeland Security should end the removal of noncitizens who are in committed relationships with U.S. citizen partners until Congress provides legislative relief. As such, we are working to find administrative solutions for binational couples which would allow them to remain together, in the United States, and to stop the removal of non-citizen partners, and the tearing apart of LGBT binational families.
And, of course, we will always continue our critical legal work on behalf of our families. Every day our legal team works to find solutions to keep LGBT families together, in spite of the enormous obstacles posed by the discriminatory immigration laws. With the addition of an attorney dedicated to binational couples’ issues, we are expanding this legal work.
Another possible solution for many binational couples would be if one of the current legal challenges to the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) are successful at the U.S. Supreme Court. Since immigration law is federal, even couples who have married in one of the five states (or one of the foreign countries) that recognize same sex marriage, have no ability to petition for immigration benefits based on the relationship. DOMA defines marriage for federal purposes as only the union between one man and one woman, thus preventing U.S. Immigration from recognizing any same sex marriages for immigration purposes. If DOMA is found unconstitutional, however, then couples who enter into valid marriages would have the same ability to apply for immigration benefits as couples who are in opposite marriages.
The timelines for court cases, however, are notoriously difficult to estimate, and the DOMA cases are likely years from final resolution. Thus it is critically important that we all continue to fight together on every front: legislative, administrative, and litigation, until there is full equality for same sex binational families.
Every case, of course, is unique, and no one solution is a good fit for every family. For information on your particular situation – or to learn more about becoming involved in our advocacy efforts – please call me at (202) 347-0002, ext, 118, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d be happy to set up a time to discuss your circumstance, and possible solutions to it, more thoroughly.
DHS Assigns Transgender Marriage Specialist in New York
By Aaron C. Morris, Esq. on 01/06/2011 @ 02:20 PM
Yesterday, a transgender client of mine called to tell me that she had fallen to the floor crying when she heard that her green card application had finally been approved. Although this might be cause for celebration and relief for many people, it was particularly so for her. After eleven months of battling, the Department of Homeland Security agreed to recognize the validity of her marriage to her U.S.-citizen husband.
Over the past few years, Immigration Equality has increased its representation of transgender individuals in marriage-based green card applications. Some of our clients are transgender U.S. citizens who have fallen in love with an opposite-sex foreign partner. Others are cisgender U.S. citizens who have married a transgender foreign person. In each case, and with each new immigration officer, we have had to start from scratch to prove the ability of the U.S. citizen to sponsor his or her spouse. While many immigration officers in New York were open-minded about the possibility of transgender marriage, they were almost always uncertain or confused about whether they were able to issue a green card in our cases. Such doubts invariable lead to heightened scrutiny of our clients and lengthy processing times.
Given the difficulties we have experienced, Immigration Equality requested that DHS assign a single supervisor to be in charge of all transgender marriage cases in the New York City immigration office. I am happy to report that DHS recently agreed to do so. Hopefully, this change in policy will help to ease the way for our New York clients in the future and act as a model for DHS offices in other regions.
Torn Apart Every Six Months
By Judy Rickard on 12/28/2010 @ 05:14 PM
Six months at a time; that’s how my partner Karin and I are forced to live our lives until our nations' immigration laws recognize LGBT families.
In 2009, I took early retirement from my job in California. I retired so Karin and I could be together; however, we still spend half of each year here in the United States building a life and a home together. We then spend the remainder of the year abroad, unable to remain in the U.S., my home country, because of our discriminatory immigration laws.
This year, everything changed. We learned that my brother-in-law had been diagnosed with cancer while we were out of the country. I was devastated. We returned to the U.S. and agreed that I would stay behind to help with my family, even though Karin had to leave the country again. Right after Karin left for Great Britain, my brother-in-law passed away. I was here to help him and my sister, but Karin was unable to remain with us. She had to leave our family behind.
I hope you will join me in making a generous, year-end gift to Immigration Equality or the Action Fund, in support of their advocacy on behalf of couples like Karin and myself. Your gift will be put to immediate use to help pass the Uniting American Families Act, and to provide critical legal counsel to families facing separation and exile.
Over the past few years, I have come to know the Immigration Equality team well. I was honored to join them in Washington last year for the historic Senate hearing on UAFA and the introduction of legislation by my Congressman — Rep. Mike Honda — which includes LGBT binational families. Immigration Equality and the Action Fund are leading the fight, every step of the way, to ensure our families have a voice on Capitol Hill. They are working every available avenue for success: through the courts, through Congress, and through administrative and regulatory changes.
During the past week, we’ve seen an historic victory for the LGBT community. With your help, we can make sure that Immigration Equality has the resources it needs to make the next win the one that brings Karin and I, and so many other couples, back together again.
BTW: If you donate $161 or more in 2010, I will also send you an autographed copy of the new book Karin and I have authored. Torn Apart tells the stories of LGBT binational families and the struggles they have faced to remain together. As a special thank you for your year-end gift, you'll be one of the first to receive this incredible collection.
On Bilerico: Ask, Tell . . . But Don't Love?
By Steve Ralls on 12/23/2010 @ 02:08 PM
At long last, our country's military will soon afford its dedicated, patriotic troops some of the liberties they have long fought for abroad. The end of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is surely one of the biggest steps our country has taken, since the de-segregation of our forces, to honor the men and women who selflessly sacrifice for our nation.
It will also, as I mentioned in my very first post for Bilerico, be a watershed moment for the entire LGBT community. All over the globe, countries which have made advances on LGBT civil rights began that progress by first welcoming lesbian and gay service members into their armed forces. Countries which now offer federal relationship recognition did so after their military bans were lifted. The consequences of ending our own prohibition on open service can only begin to be imagined.
The first, and immediate, impact, however, will be on our men and women in uniform. These brave men and women will no longer be forced into the shadows, or made to lie or hide. The days of secret good-bye ceremonies before deployments will soon be over, and the families of lesbian and gay troops will, at long last, also receive the accolades and recognition they deserve.
Unless, however, those families happen to include one partner from abroad.
By Steve Ralls on 12/23/2010 @ 01:11 PM
All of us at Immigration Equality and the Immigration Equality Action Fund want to wish our clients, donors, allies and families a wonderful holiday season.
With your help, 2009 has seen some of the most significant progress for our families ever. The HIV Travel and Immigration Ban came to an official end. First the first time, LGBT binational families were included in the Senate's comprehensive immigration reform measure. A total of 162 Members of Congress - the most in history - are now co-sponsors of the Uniting American Families Act. And 93 - and counting - LGBT asylum seekers won safe haven in the United States this year, thanks to Immigration Equality's legal team.
Even with these steps forward, however, we know there are still too many families facing separation and too many already forced into exile. Just this week, we were reminded of the painful consequences of our country's discrimination, when Richard Dennis saw his family torn apart as his partner was deported just one week before the holiday.
Richard's story - and the stories of all the families we hear from every day - have us more determined than ever to win.
Thank you for your support, commitment and advocacy. Your families are all truly part of the Immigration Equality family . . . not just during the holidays, but every day of the year.
NJ Binational Couple Separated Days Before Christmas
Posted on 12/22/2010 @ 06:05 PM
This week's Gay City News includes a report, by editor Paul Schindler, about Richard Dennis and Jair Izquierdo (pictured), a binational family who have been separated just days before the Christmas holiday.
Jair, who is Peruvian, was the target of an ICE sting operation in October of this year. After learning that Jair was working as a cosmetician, ICE officers made an "appointment" with him. When they arrived, Jair was placed in detention instead. Last Friday, despite an appeal on Jair's behalf by New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez, Jair was removed from the United States and returned to Peru . . . a country rife with homophobia.
Richard and Jair, and their private attorney, turned to Immigration Equality's legal team for help. Our attorneys are assisting the couple in pursuing every legal avenue possible to reunite them in the United States.
"With the assistance of Immigration Equality," Schindler reports, "O’Dwyer will continue his efforts to reopen Izquierdo’s asylum claim before the Board of Immigration Appeals and also pursue another discretionary administrative remedy know as 'humanitarian parole,' which would allow the Peruvian to return to New Jersey, again with the removal order essentially kept in abeyance. Immigration Equality’s Ralls emphasized that such parole is limited to one year, but offers the couple the best short-term solution. He cited the precedent of a Massachusetts couple where the foreign-born partner was granted the humanitarian relief based on the dangers he faced in his home country."
Of course, if Richard and Jair were a straight, married couple, Richard would almost certainly be eligible to sponsor Jair for residency in the United States. Because of discriminatory immigration laws, however, the two are just the latest family to be torn apart.
Instead, Richard will fly to Peru on Friday, in order to spend the holiday with Jair, as his attorney and Immigration Equality's legal team work to reunite them in the U.S.
"When Dennis sees Izquierdo in Peru on Christmas Eve," the paper reports, "it will be the first time they have spent time alone together since October 20. When the couple first spoke after Izquierdo’s arrival in Peru, Dennis told him to remember that they had done everything they could have to date and that 'at least you’re out of detention.'"
"Dennis said he has the support of his family and friends, as well as O’Dwyer and Immigration Equality," the story notes, "but explained he finds himself in an uncomfortable position relying on the efforts of others."
“I almost feel as though it’s me and Jair against the world,” Richard Dennis said.
To read the full story from Gay City News, click here.
Photo courtesy of Gay City News.
The Leadership Conference Announces Endorsement of UAFA
By Steve Ralls on 12/08/2010 @ 06:24 PM
Earlier today, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights — the nation's premiere civil and human rights coalition — offered its endorsement of the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA). The Leadership Conference is one of the country's most influential voices on civil rights issues, and represents more than 200 national organizations — including the Immigration Equality Action Fund — dedicated to advancing civil and human rights issues at the federal level.
The Leadership Conference was founded in 1950 and has coordinated national lobbying efforts on behalf of every major civil rights law since 1957. It is committed to working toward "the goal of a more open and just society — an America as good as its ideals."
The organization's endorsement of UAFA is significant, and puts the group on-record, with Congressional lawmakers, in support of the legislation. In announcing its endorsement, the coalition's leaders specifically applauded the Immigration Equality Action Fund's policy team for educating member organizations on the critical need to support UAFA.
As the group's website notes, "The Leadership Conference was founded in 1950 by A. Philip Randolph, head of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters; Roy Wilkins of the NAACP; and Arnold Aronson, a leader of the National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council. Their visionary leadership was grounded in their commitment to social justice and the firm conviction that the struggle for civil rights would be won ... through coalition [strategies]."
The group's track record is historic and unmistakable. It has:
- pushed for and won the passage of the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990, and the Civil Rights Act of 1991, which reversed a number of Supreme Court decisions that had weakened the original Civil Rights Act of 1964;
- pushed for and won the passage of the Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits gender discrimination in any educational program or activity receiving federal funding; Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in federally assisted programs; and The Age Discrimination Act of 1975, which prohibits discrimination based on age in programs or activities that receive federal funds;
- pushed for and won the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and the Fair Housing Act of 1968; and
- pushed for and won the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1957, the first federal civil rights law since Reconstruction.
All of us at Immigration Equality and the Immigration Equality Action Fund are proud to welcome The Leadership Conference to the growing coalition standing with us, on Capitol Hill and around the country, in support of UAFA.
LGBT Immigrants & the DREAM
By Prerna Lal on 12/07/2010 @ 12:57 PM
In the coming days, Congress will vote on a critical piece of legislation that directly impacts many LGBT immigrants and their families. I’m writing today to ask for your help as that vote approaches.
Please take a moment and click here to call your Members of Congress and urge them to support the DREAM Act. Your call can help change the lives of young lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
I’m so proud to be a part of the Immigration Equality Action Fund’s board of directors, and to work, every day, for LGBT immigrant families. From building record support for the Uniting American Families Act to ensuring the inclusion of LGBT binational families in comprehensive immigration reform, the Action Fund is working to keep our families together, and to give LGBT immigrants the opportunity to build a new life here in America.
The DREAM Act would help countless LGBT young people — including me — do just that, too.
In addition to my service on the Action Fund’s board, I am also an out and proud DREAM Activist. There are many young people, like me, who are both LGBT and undocumented. Some of us are in binational relationships. All of us are committed to working with each other to end discriminatory immigration laws that seek to tear apart our families and limit our opportunities.
As part of the Immigration Equality Action Fund board, I know how hard everyone in our organization works to improve our immigration laws. All of us are fully committed to fixing our broken immigration system, and that includes passage of UAFA as well as the DREAM Act, too. Our country, and our LGBT community, needs both ... and by working together, we can do both, too.
Today, we have an opportunity to help young, LGBT immigrants and to forge a partnership that will help binational families in their work on Capitol Hill, too.
When we stand together, everyone wins.
Pre-Order 'Torn Apart' . . . and Support the Action Fund!
By Steve Ralls on 12/06/2010 @ 10:06 AM
Anyone who follows the stories of LGBT binational families through our media work almost certainly already knows about Judy Rickard and her partner, Karin. Judy, a U.S. citizen, took early retirement from her job in California in order to be with Karin, who is British. Judy and Karin have shared their story extensively, speaking out in the media, and have also been featured on the Give A Damn campaign website.
Judy's story has also been cited, by her home district representative Congressman Mike Honda (D-CA), as one reason he included LGBT binational families in his Reuniting Families Act.
In short, Judy is a tireless advocate.
Now, inspired by Eat, Pray, Love author Elizabeth Gilbert, Judy and Karin have also penned a new book, Torn Apart, which highlights the experiences of LGBT binational families. The book includes a foreward by Gilbert - who met Judy and Karin at Immigration Equality's Safe Haven Awards earlier this year - and will be published in February.
Beginning today, however, Immigration Equality supporters can pre-order Torn Apart . . . and a portion of the purchase price will be donated to the Immigration Equality Action Fund, in support of our legislative work to pass the Uniting American Families Act. Judy and Karin have generously designated the Action Fund as a beneficiary, and $4 of each sale - using our special promo code - will be donated in support of our work.
Torn Apart, the publisher notes, "is for people in the trenches of the same-sex binational couples immigration nightmare—written by someone in the trenches. It is also for families and friends—those who love someone facing this situation. Information on couples struggling to stay together while laws tear them apart will help you understand what the challenges are and give you resources to help yourself or someone you love deal with the harsh situation we face."
And your copy can help end that dire situation by supporting the Action Fund's critical work.
To order your copy, click here and enter promo code IEAF15 at check-out. Your credit card will not be charged until your order is shipped in February, and $4 of each copy ordered will support the Immigration Equality Action Fund.
Thank you to Judy and Karin - and Findhorn Press - for making this incredible release possible. Log on today, to order your copy now.
Asking & Telling: A Letter to Our Binational Families
By Steve Ralls on 12/02/2010 @ 01:17 PM
When I was first approached about working with the team at Immigration Equality, one of the first things I was told was, “We’d like you to help us do for LGBT immigrant families what you’ve helped do for ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’”
As some, but not all, of our supporters know, I spent nearly a decade working to repeal the military’s ban on lesbian, gay and bisexual service members. When I began that work in 1999, just about half of the country supported repealing the law; by the time I left that campaign in 2008, repeal was supported by 8 out of 10 Americans.
Today, Congress is closer than ever to ending “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” While I certainly don’t take all the credit for that success, I did learn some very important lessons over that decade about how to build winning campaigns. I think it’s important for our binational families to understand some of those lessons in our work to pass the Uniting American Families Act, too.
In recent weeks, I’ve heard many of our supporters ask: Why should we support the DREAM Act? Why isn’t UAFA moving as a standalone bill in the lame duck Congress? And, is Immigration Equality pushing as hard as it can for our families?
They are all fair questions, and their answers go to the very heart of how a winning campaign is built. These universal truths apply to almost every successful legislative campaign.
We need allies. The suffering, separation and pain of LGBT binational families facing exile is why all of us at Immigration Equality come to work every day. We know there are tens of thousands of you who are counting on us to win, and win quickly. The truth, however, is that legislation passes when public support reaches a critical “tipping point” that spills beyond the borders of just those who are directly impacted. Returning to the military reference, while we knew there were 65,000 LGBT service members in the armed forces, repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” really started moving forward when veterans organizations, straight military personnel and the larger LGBT and progressive movements lined up behind it. That’s how we got to 80% support for repeal.
How we got those groups behind us is important to understand, too.
When then-Senator Kennedy wanted to add a federal hate crimes law - which, like the DREAM Act, impacted the LGBT community as well as many others - to the Defense Authorization Bill, repeal advocates steadfastly stood with him, and supported the decision . . . even though that bill, at that time, did not include a repeal measure for “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” LGBT troops understood that, by standing with their potential allies in one fight, they’d have a whole new army of supporters fighting with them when the time to move repeal came about.
The hate crimes measure passed — in large part because of those alliances that were built — and today, that same authorization bill is where repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” now resides.
Binational families have similar, important bridges that can be built now by supporting passage of the DREAM Act and other important immigration matters. If we do so — as we explained to Congress.org just last week — the long-term alliance will be strong, important and effective in passing UAFA that much sooner.
We need to pursue every option for winning, and not just one. It’s not often reported — but it’s true — that “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal legislation wasn’t introduced as a stand-alone bill in the Senate until March 3, 2010. The option of moving repeal as a stand alone bill didn’t even exist in the Senate until earlier this year. And even when that measure was introduced, it was never pursued for passage as a single issue bill. The fate of repeal has always rested on a strategy built upon a larger legislative vehicle.
That, of course, doesn’t mean that stand alone bills aren’t important. They absolutely are. Using the repeal campaign as a reference again, it’s important to point out that the House repeal bill has been around since 2005. Building support for that measure was absolutely critical in building the case for its inclusion in a larger, “must pass” bill.
The same is true for UAFA. That is why Immigration Equality seizes every possible option for passing the bill. We ask every Congressional office to co-sponsor UAFA. And, we ask Congressional leaders on immigration to include it in larger bills. We know how time sensitive this issue is, and we support any possible way to win for you. In order to win, however, we need you to stand with us in supporting all of those options, too.
We need to be strategic. It is critical that all of our families understand that the Immigration Equality team is exploring every option for keeping you together. We have a bipartisan strategy ... we have an administrative strategy ... we have a legal strategy ... and we have a messaging strategy. Those are all built with our families’ best interests in mind. They are not all developed, however, for public consumption by those who are working on Capitol Hill to oppose us.
In the 12+ years I’ve been working in Washington, one rule has always been true: Giving away your full strategy is the surest way not to win. Indeed, putting every card on the public table allows political opposition to organize, strategize and out-maneuver you.
Each of us comes to work every day to fight for you. Which is what informs the most important point of all:
We are in this together. Questions are fair, and even necessary. We try to answer as many as we can. But, at the end of the day, it is our ability to unite behind, and build, our movement that will give us the power to win. We can’t do it alone ... we can’t do it with a one-track strategy ... and we can’t do it by helping our opposition. But we can do it if we build, and stand with, allies ... if we stand together in supporting every possible avenue for victory ... and if we trust in each other that, yes, all of us want the same victory and are committed to working – together – to make that happen.
I accepted Immigration Equality’s challenge because I believe — passionately— in our cause. I have a Vietnamese partner, and I have been moved beyond words by the stories of all of your families, too. But in order to keep my promise – that I will help Rachel, Julie and the rest of our team “do for binational families what I did for ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’” I’ll need – and we’ll all need – your help, too.
In Support of the DREAM
By Steve Ralls on 12/01/2010 @ 07:25 PM
The Immigration Equality Action Fund is proud to join our allies in the immigrants' rights movement— including those at the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) and DREAMActivist.org — in urging Congress to pass the DREAM Act before adjourning this year.
For a copy of our recent statement on the DREAM Act, click here.
The following alert was issued recently issued by MALDEF:
For the last decade, MALDEF and other organizations nationwide have pushed to make the DREAM Act (the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act) into a reality. With your help, we can achieve a long-awaited victory and ensure a path to citizenship for thousands of immigrant youth and young adults seeking to obtain a college degree or to serve in the U.S. Military.
How Can You Help?
Call your respective senators and house member to tell them to call the DREAM Act for a vote before the end of this Congress, this year! We need your help to make sure that each elected member understands the support for this bill. As early as this week, Senator Reid will seek to bring the DREAM Act for a vote on the Senate floor. House leaders, including the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, have also stated it is time to vote on the DREAM Act.
Dial: 1-888-254-5087. Ask for one of your home state Senators and U.S. Representative and leave a message with their office. Call back and ask for the other Senator and then again for your member of the House of Representatives.
For the complete MALDEF action alert, please click here.