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.
On Being Positive on World AIDS Day
By Christopher Edwards on 12/01/2010 @ 11:19 AM
The appointment was supposed to be just a check-in. I already thought I'd cleared the hurdle.
Instead on October 18, 1999, at the SF City Clinic I was told that I was HIV-positive. I was 25. The date kinda sticks you know? I have a tattoo on my left of arm of chai, Hebrew for both "living" and the number 18, which I saw and still see as especially prophetic.
As I delved into my art school studies and tried to find a way to answer the anger and confusion, I spent several months becoming deeply intimate with David Wojnarowicz, whose cross-disciplinary work in the 1980s, dealt with themes about sex and love and HIV and the male body. His work was and is challenging, and right now he continues to be misunderstood as a piece of his is in the middle of a censorship controversy at the National Portrait Gallery.
Now, 11 years later — nine of those years in a binational relationship — I can let the distance between my emotions take in the meaning of HIV to me and the epidemic to our community and to Immigration Equality.
Of all the important emotions that I attach to my relationship is the understanding that the stability of that relationship, as unstable as our unjust immigration system has made it, has helped me stay healthy, helped my immune system respond in a healthy way.
Because of the important work of HIV-positive activists, living with the disease in the U.S. right now, especially in a cities like New York and San Francisco, offers a plethora of support for healthy living. I'm also indebted to the work of activists in the 1980s, 1990s, and even today that have fought so hard for that social safety net. Included in those are the activists that founded Immigration Equality, in response to ban on travel and immigration for HIV-positive people.
Being apart of Immigration Equality, then as a volunteer and now as an employee, as that ban was overturned and the very first HIV positive immigrants are allowed to seek asylum here has been an incredible journey. The overturning of the HIV ban is a very powerful statement to our perseverance as well as the perseverance of activists in creating the change we want and need.
Several years ago, thinking about the important performance work David Wojnarowicz, I kissed statistics from the worldwide AIDS epidemic as a form of blessing. Today, on World AIDS Day, I share that piece with you:
HuffingtonPost Highlights LGBT Binational Families on Thanksgiving
By Steve Ralls on 11/25/2010 @ 09:50 AM
This morning, HuffingtonPost.com's home page includes the stories of LGBT binational families as part of the site's 'Thanksgiving 2010' coverage. HuffPo - one of the most widely read sites on the web - features Immigration Equality's recent work on behalf of the Uniting American Families Act among its front page headlines for the holiday.
As most Americans begin the holiday season on Thursday, in a national observance of "thanks," many will come together with family, friends and loved ones. But for one group of Americans, the holidays can be an especially painful experience. Thousands of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender citizens in relationships with partners from abroad will be forced to spend Thanksgiving alone... or packing their bags so they can keep their families together.
Under current U.S. immigration laws, lesbian and gay Americans do not have the right to sponsor their foreign national partners for residency, as their straight neighbors do. Instead, immigration laws force these couples -- about 17,000 of whom are raising young children who are American citizens -- to separate or leave the country, forced into exile because their families are not recognized under federal law. This painful reality is forcing many American citizens, and their families, to flee their own country, exacting a heavy cost on our economy, communities and on the countless people who constitute their extended families, too.
In San Jose, California, Judy Rickard will spend Thanksgiving without her partner Karin, who is a British citizen. Judy took early retirement from her job with a university so she could be with her partner. Though Karin has been able to remain in the U.S. for six months each year, thanks to a tourist visa, the couple were forced to live abroad the remainder of the year. When Karin was forced to return to Britain earlier this year, however, Judy had to remain behind. Now, they will spend the holidays apart, while confronting a painful choice together: Will Judy sell her home and relocate abroad? And if she does, how will she maintain ties with her family -- including her elderly parents -- here in the United States?
Each day, more and more binational couples are moving abroad, as 19 countries -- and counting -- allow them to keep their families together. While many nations have amended their immigration laws to recognize lesbian and gay families (with Ireland being just the latest to do so), the United States continues to bar federal recognition of those families at nearly every turn.
The stark reality is that United States law is forcing Americans to rip their families apart, or leave their own country in order to be with the person they love.
By Staff on 11/24/2010 @ 09:59 AM
This week, families will begin the holiday season with a day of thanks. All of us at Immigration Equality and the Immigration Equality Action Fund wish our clients, families, supporters, allies and champions a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday filled with peace.
We know that, for many of you, Thanksgiving can be a difficult time,too. Too many of our families remain separated, or in exile, because of discriminatory immigration laws. To each of you, we reaffirm our commitment to ending the unconscionable discrimination you face . . . permanently, and as soon as possible.
For the LGBT asylees who have turned to us for help throughout the past year, this Thanksgiving represents new beginnings and new possibilities. We are proud to have been part of your journey, and celebrate the new life you are now building.
The entire Immigration Equality family is grateful for the enormous support and inspiration we receive, every day, from friends around the world. And, whether you are fortunate enough to be celebrating this Thanksgiving with your loved ones, or whether you are observing the holiday miles apart, please know that you are not alone. We stand with you, in spirit and determination, and re-dedicate ourselves to making sure that our families are treated equally under the law.
New Co-Sponsor on the Immigration Subcommittee!
By Connie Utada on 11/19/2010 @ 11:11 AM
Post-election, support for the Uniting American Families Act continues to grow. Congressman Pedro Pierluisi (D-PR, pictured) is the newest member of Congress to cosponsor. He is a member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the House Judiciary Committee and its Immigration Subcommittee. The total of House cosponsors is now 136 including the lead, Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY).
If your Member of Congress is a current co-sponsor please call their office, via the Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and thank them for standing up for our families! If your representative has yet to co-sponsor the bill, call the same number to ask him or her to cosponsor; you can learn of additional ways to take action here.
Bilerico: Standing With LGBT Families in This Congress, This Year
By Steve Ralls on 11/19/2010 @ 11:03 AM
As the 111th Congress moves into its final weeks, the LGBT community has rightly recognized that the window for legislative victory on issues important to our movement is quickly coming to a close. And yet, while repeal of the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" ban has also rightly been a focus of LGBT advocate and allies, another issue with an immense impact on our families has now appeared on the lame-duck radar, too.
On Tuesday, Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) announced that he had met with President Obama - and spoke with Congressional leaders - about the possibility of moving his comprehensive immigration reform bill forward before Congress goes home. Menendez's bill, the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2010 (S.3932), contains a number of measures to fix our country's broken immigration system. Among those is the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA), which would end the discrimination LGBT families face under current immigration laws, and allow LGBT Americans to sponsor their foreign-born partners for residency in the United States.
For the LGBT families who are facing separation or exile, time is - and always has been - of the essence. Immigration Equality's attorneys are hearing from more and more couples who are now separated, or exiled, because they cannot remain in the country together. In fact, in recent days, I have personally spoken to numerous couples who have already applied for residency in Canada, and are now preparing to leave the U.S. so they can remain together. There is no doubt that, for these families, passage of UAFA cannot come quickly enough.
In the bigger picture, though, passage of inclusive reform offers a very significant leap forward for all of rights, too. Passage of the Menendez bill would, indeed, mark the first time that LGBT couples receive federal recognition as a family. That, in turns, breaks down a huge wall that has long separated LGBT Americans and countless federal benefits.
In short, UAFA (either as a stand-alone measure, or as part of a larger bill, like the one sponsored by Senator Menendez) helps not only LGBT binational families, but every LGBT family, too. By mobilizing the LGBT and progressive communities behind this bill, and building support for consideration in the lame duck Congress, we can strike a blow against laws that have rendered LGBT couples invisible at the federal level.
Yesterday, the Immigration Equality Action Fund launched a national push to build support for the Menendez bill. The organization asked its supporters to call their Senators, and urge them to co-sponsor - and support passage of - Senator Menendez's bill.
In order to be successful, though, we need more than just binational families, and the wider circle of those impacted by this issue, to speak up now.
This Friday: Binational Families on WAMU's "Metro Connection"
Posted on 11/10/2010 @ 08:00 AM
This Friday, National Public Radio affiliate WAMU will look at the struggles and obstacles LGBT binational families face in their quest to remain together. WAMU's Metro Connection speaks with Immigration Equality and Washington, D.C. couple Erwin de Leon and John Beddingfield. Though Erwin and John - who is an Episcopalian minister - are legally married in the District, they face possible separation once Erwin's student visa expires.
Metro Connection reporter Rebecca Sheir reports on the lives of LGBT binational families, and the work to end the discrimination they face under current immigration law, at 1pm ET on Friday (with an encore broadcast on Saturday morning at 7am ET).
To listen in live, click here. Archived audio will also be available, beginning Friday afternoon.
GLAD, DOMA, The Second Circuit & Your Family
By Steve Ralls on 11/09/2010 @ 02:51 PM
In another bold legal move on behalf of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender families, our allies at Gay & Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD) have filed a federal law suit, in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, challenging the constitutionality of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).
GLAD's lawsuit challenges "Section 3" of DOMA, which prohibits the federal government from extending critically important benefits to LGBT couples whose marriages are legally recognized by their state or local governments. Among those benefits are the ability for American citizens to sponsor their spouses for immigration purposes.
Immigration Equality's legal team has conferred closely with GLAD, over a long period of time, to discuss the impact of DOMA challenges, such as this one, on binational families. Our conclusion? If successful, the defeat of DOMA would be very good news for those families.
The suit announced today by GLAD specifically relates to the Second Circuit, which includes couples (as indicated in the graphic above) who are legally married in Connecticut, Vermont and New Hampshire. The legal challenge follows on the heels of GLAD's successful case in Massachusetts Federal District Court, earlier this summer, which found Section 3 to be unconstitutional.
"DOMA must fall," Mary L. Bonauto, Civil Rights Project Director for GLAD, said earlier today. "In 1996, when Congress passed DOMA, the stated goal was to harm gay people and same-sex families with this law, and sadly, it has succeeded. Married gay and lesbian couples fall through the federal safety nets that exist for other married people. We have to keep the press on, and get DOMA off the books, before it does even more harm."
We applaud GLAD's leadership in working to end discrimination against all LGBT families, including binational families who have, for far too long, been denied the same immigration rights as their straight neighbors.
For more information, visit GLAD online.
Stand with our Families!: Ask your Senators to Support CIR
By Julie Kruse on 11/09/2010 @ 08:49 AM
Last week, many of you joined us on our post-election conference call to learn about what Tuesday’s vote means for our families. The short answer is that the new Congress will bring new opportunities, and new challenges.
Our work to seize those opportunities, and meet those new challenges, begins today.
For the first time ever, LGBT immigrant families are included in broader reform legislation. The Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2010, sponsored by Sens. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT), is the first comprehensive Senate bill to include our families.
It is imperative that we stand with our champions in Congress and build support for this critically important legislation.
Please call your senators today, and make the following ask:
Please co-sponsor the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2010 (S 3932). This bill will allow gay and lesbian Americans to sponsor their foreign-born partners for immigration.
Now, more than ever, we must ensure our voices are heard on Capitol Hill. By calling your Senator today, you can help us put lawmakers on notice that, regardless of which party is leading Congress, our families want – and need – LGBT-inclusive immigration reform now.
We will continue to make progress in Washington, but we can’t do it without your help. Please take a moment — right now — to call your Senators and urge them to co-sponsor this important legislation.
Join us, and demand change in this Congress, this year. We can send a strong message to Congress that our families will not step down, will not rest and will push – every day and with every lawmaker — for immigration reform that helps all families.
Thank you for being part of that effort, and for everything you do for LGBT families.
Superbowl Champion Scott Fujita Speaks Out in Support of LGBT Immigrant Families
By Steve Ralls on 11/04/2010 @ 09:17 AM
Writing that "It is time to reunite America. No family excluded," NFL linebacker and Superbowl champion Scott Fujita (pictured) joins Congressman Mike Honda (D-CA) in calling for passage of LGBT-inclusive immigration reform in today's San Francisco Chronicle.
Fujita, who now plays with the Cleveland Browns and is also a member of the NFL Players Association's executive board, offers a strong endorsement of Honda's Reuniting Families Act - the first multi-issue immigration bill to include LGBT binational families.
"The Reuniting Families Act, which I will reintroduce in the 112th Congress," Honda writes, "allows all Americans to be reunited with their families. That includes lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender permanent partners."
"We are both of Japanese American descent," Fujita and Honda note. "I was raised (and Scott's father was raised) in World War II-era internment camps for Japanese Americans. Thus we are keenly aware of the need for our society to be more inclusive."
"In the wake of Tuesday's election," they add, "political analysts are busily predicting what the outcome means for Congress and the country. With Republicans now in the majority in the House of Representatives, many policies will probably change radically. What must not change, however, is work on immigration reform. "
The benefits of passing inclusive reform, the two write, "cannot be overstated."
"American workers with their families by their side are happier, healthier and more able to succeed than those living apart from loved ones for years on end," their joint op-ed states. "By pooling resources, families can do together what they can't do alone - start family businesses, create American jobs and contribute more to this country's welfare."
To read the full op-ed, click here.