Dispatch from Washington
By Rachel Tiven on 10/06/2011 @ 03:24 PM
You’ve heard me say that we are fighting for LGBT immigrant families on every front: in Congress, in the courts, and at the White House. This week, our focus was on Congress.
Bradford Wells and Anthony Makk, who have been together for 19 years and are fighting for the right to stay together, traveled east from San Francisco to tell their story to Congressional leaders. Bradford and Anthony — whose story has made headline around the world — are determined to turn their case into progress for all LGBT immigrant families.
The most powerful women in Congress support them:
- Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, their own Representative, met with Bradford and Anthony and pledged to do everything she can to help LGBT immigrant families, and to keep them together.
- Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, representative for Florida’s 20th Congressional District and the Chair of the Democratic National Committee, was so moved by Bradford and Anthony’s story that she joined them, along with more than 100 Immigration Equality supporters, at our D.C. reception hosted by Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams.
- Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren, ranking member of the House immigration sub-committee, sponsored a packed staff briefing on Capitol Hill. Bradford and Anthony - and the Immigration Equality team helping them - urged lawmakers to support the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) and to call on the White House to end the deportations of lesbian and gay spouses.
Our amazing week in Washington was recapped in this morning’s San Francisco Chronicle. “At first [Bradford and Anthony] said they were fighting only for themselves,” the paper reports, “but now feel they represent all the estimated 36,000 binational same-sex couples who are barred spousal immigration benefits.”
Indeed, Bradford and Anthony are leading the charge, with Immigration Equality, on behalf of our families. And, they are solidifying support among leaders in Washington, too.
You can be part of their work by signing our petition — ImEqActionFund.org/TellObama — and urging the Obama Administration to halt the separation of our families. We’ll personally deliver your message to the White House, and ensure your voice is heard.
Photos from the Third Annual Capital Reception and Fundraiser
By Christopher Edwards on 10/05/2011 @ 03:13 PM
Last night in Washington, DC, the Immigration Equality family came together at Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams Showroom to celebrate the enormous victories for LGBT immigrant families in the last year and re-charge for the fight ahead. The Third Annual Capital Reception and Fundraiser was our most successful yet.
Bradford Wells and Anthony Makk who are in Washington to advocate for their family and yours on Capitol Hill led things off and were joined by Congresswoamn Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Representative of Florida's 20th District and Chair of the Democratic National Committee as well as Executive Director Rachel B. Tiven and Mitchell Gold.
More coverage soon, see below for pictures from the event. And it's not to late support the Third Annual Capital Reception and Fundraiser. Give online at ImEqActionFund.org/DCEvent
Event photography by the fantastic Judy Rolfe who has long covered Immigration Equality events. See more of her work at www.rolfephotography.com
President Obama Wants to Hear from You
By Steve Ralls on 09/28/2011 @ 02:14 PM
Last week, the White House launched a new, online site that allows everyone to weigh in on issues they care about. We the People is the first-ever White House petition site. Users can search for petitions related to issues they care about . . . or create one of their own. Administration officials have declared that any petition garnering 5,000 signatures or more will receive a response from the White House.
Among the issues already highlighted at the petition site are immigration rights for LGBT families, and repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).
We’re getting you started with two petitions we think you’ll care about.
- Click here to ask the President to support the Uniting American Families Act
- And here to demand repeal of DOMA
Of course, the White House site is filled with petitions on a variety of issues many of you care about – including multiple petitions for many different causes. So, after adding your voice to the petitions above, search for others, too.
Together, we can send a strong, united message to the President: End the discrimination LGBT families face under federal law.
October 4: Join Bradford & Anthony in Washington
By Rachel Tiven on 09/12/2011 @ 05:21 AM
After a summer of sharing their story in major news outlets like CNN, MSNBC, Countdown with Keith Olbermann and in front page news stories across the country, Bradford Wells and Anthony Makk will be joining Immigration Equality in Washington. They will be meeting with key Congressional leaders ... and they’d like to meet you, too.
Please join them — and the Immigration Equality team — on Tuesday, October 4th, for our Third Annual Capital Reception & Fundraiser, hosted by Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams. We’ll have important updates on our work to help families like Bradford & Anthony ... celebrate the successes of the past year ... and build the support we need to continue our critical work on Capitol Hill.
Tuesday, October 4th
Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams
1526 14th Street, NW
(between P & Q Streets, NW, in Logan Circle)
Washington, DC 20005
The event is free, however your support is welcome, and critical to our success. We hope that if you're moved by our work, you'll help us reach our goal of $15,000 for our on-going work on behalf of LGBT immigrant families. Donations can be made online at ImEqActionFund.org/DCevent
Thank you for being part of the Immigration Equality family. I look forward to seeing you in Washington on October 4th.
How our Laws are Made
By Connie Utada on 09/07/2011 @ 06:01 PM
Some of you have asked: what is happening with the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA), H.R. 1537 / S. 821, five months after being introduced?
The short answer is that it is sitting in the Judiciary Committee but that response may not be useful to get to the solution we are seeking: to end discrimination in immigration law by allowing gay and lesbian couples to sponsor their foreign-born partner and children for immigration purposes. Currently, there are 120 cosponsors in the House and 21 in the Senate and, the numbers are continuing to climb.
The process of a bill becoming a law is very long and often times, frustrating. The three minute clip of Schoolhouse Rock's I'm Just a Bill is helpful but does not quite do it justice.
I'm Just a Bill (Schoolhouse Rock!)
To understand what that process looks like, we thought it would be beneficial to provide a graphic that lays out the progression in a very colorful, chutes-and-ladders manner depicting the many avenues a bill must go through toward final approval.
Copyright © Creative Commons License: Mike Wirth
Looking at the How Our Laws Are Made graphic above, UAFA is currently located in the left-side lime green panel titled “Committee Assignment” on the House side; and, in the rust/burgundy panel at the beginning of the Senate side. Also noteworthy is the stick figure holding its arm up, carrying a briefcase marked: Lobbyist (on the far left) — that is the Immigration Equality Action Fund.
To help move the UAFA out of its current position, please contact your Representative and both Senators to either thank them for cosponsoring the UAFA or to ask them to cosponsor the bill.
Why Do We Ask For Zip Code?
By Christopher Edwards on 09/06/2011 @ 01:45 PM
Members of Congress are focused on constituent services. They see as their primary purpose. This is a difficulty we, and other immigration groups, face when advocating for exiled and immigrant families.
So as such it's important that we have U.S. zip code information. It's why we ask for it in our Contact Congress alarts and it's why we collect that information for our listserv sign-up (at right).
That being said, we understand we have a large segment of our audience that is out of the country and it's why make sure to make regular use of our blogs both at Immigration Equality and here at the Action Fund as well as our Facebook and Twitter feeds to keep you up-to-date.
So what to do if you are living in exile? I recommend that you use the zip code of your family or use your previous zip code before you moved into exile. The reason you are living in exile is very much apart of your story and your former representatives in the U.S. need to know it and know why you are no longer a tax-paying member of their district.
Many years ago I moved from California to DC in order to find work for both myself and my foreign-partner. But DC has no voting representation and I continued to use my address in California in order to reach out to my Congressperson and Senators there and let them know I had become a nomad in my own country. And why.
So do the same today, take action and let Congress know why you are not living in the U.S. Find 5 ways you can take action here.
Join Bradford & Anthony for a Special Call This Friday
By Bradford Wells & Anthony Makk on 08/17/2011 @ 07:36 PM
We hope you will join us for a special conference call this Friday, August 19th at noon eastern time to learn about what’s next for us and other families in our situation.
The extraordinary support you have shown our family over the past few weeks has meant so much. From the thousands of messages you’ve sent to the White House on our behalf, to the notes of support you’ve left online, we have moved beyond words by your actions and well wishes.
With your help, we know we can win. Just this week, the Washington Post editorial board published a powerful editorial calling for help not just in our case, but for every lesbian and gay family facing separation because of discriminatory laws. Make no mistake: This is a turning point for our families, and it is imperative that we seize it.
Please join us this Friday at noon eastern time to learn more about how you can help. To join our call, simply dial (800) 868-1837 and use access code 393639#.
We look forward to talking with you — and thanking you — on Friday’s call.
Please join us.
P.S. Can't make the call? Please make a contribution. The legal intake hotline is running at four times — 4x! — its volume just six months ago, and your support allows Immigration Equality to continue providing free, expert immigration advice to the community. Thank you!
Put a Halt to HALT
By Connie Utada on 07/21/2011 @ 11:57 AM
The House of Representatives has scheduled a hearing on Tuesday, July 26th at 1:30pm in an attempt to roll back the important progress we’ve made toward keeping our families together. Congressman Lamar Smith (R-TX) has introduced legislation, known as the Hinder the Administration’s Legalization Temptation Act (HALT), to eliminate ICE’s ability to use discretion in deciding who should be targeted for deportation. Smith’s bill follows the agency’s June memo instructing ICE officials to take immigrants’ American families and spouses into consideration when deciding who is a priority for removal from the United States.
If successful, Congressman Smith’s bill would strip away any possible discretionary relief for LGBT immigrant families facing separation.
Congresswoman Lofgren, who has been a steadfast ally of our families, is prepared to take on Smith’s discriminatory crusade during Tuesday’s hearing ... but we need to show up and provide visible support for her advocacy on behalf of our families.
Please join us on Tuesday, July 26th at 1:30pm in Room 2141 of the Rayburn House Office Building. Our families’ presence will send a strong message to Congress to not roll back relief for immigrants and their loved ones. If you’re able to join us, please RSVP here and bring a friend with you, too.
Thank you for standing with us. I look forward to seeing you on Tuesday.
From CNN a Story on One Couple, Fighting to Stay Together
By Christopher Edwards on 06/28/2011 @ 03:37 PM
Today CNN told the heartbreaking tale of one bitnational couple in Vermont fighting to stay together. Watch the video below or at the CNN site (where you can recommend it to your friends).
Sign the petition now at http://imeqactionfund.org/francesandtakako
Coming Out as Immigrant Families
By Christopher Edwards on 06/23/2011 @ 02:47 PM
Last week I joined 2,500 activists, bloggers, journalists and activist/blogger/journalists in Minneapolis for the 2011 Netroots Conference. Amongst strategy sessions and big name keynotes were the personal stories of activists and none were quite as moving as the lesbian and gay DREAM Act students who framed their struggle within the narrative of the LGBT movement. Invoking the words of Harvey Milk and the power of "coming out."
It began on Tuesday with the LGBT Pre-Conference where the DREAM Act students talked about among other things how it was more difficult to come out as a undocumented than to come out as gay:
This conversation led at least one audience member, gay DC blogger Carlos QC, to publicly come out as undocumented.
During that same session i took the opportunity to tie the story of LGBT immigrants into the narrative of fear and bigotry against all immigrants, explaining how LGBT immigrants were not allowed into the country at all before 1980 and how after that HIV-positive immigrants were legally barred from entering the country. These discriminatory practices were carried out by means of search and intimidation. Officials reviewed luggage for any signs of sexuality or HIV meds. Not unlike some binational couples still face while having their computers searched.
I also came out at the conference as being one half of a binational couple, talking a little bit about my 10-year relationship. By my doing so, others at the conference felt they could do the same to me and others.
There is power in identifying ourselves. Whether we come out as LGBT, undocumented, or part of a binational family. We are saying, that we will not be intimidated to live in fear and hide in the shadows. And we create a space for others to reveal their stories as well.
This week we see how that works when Pulitzer-winning journalist Jose Vargas came out in the pages of New York Times as gay and undocumented. Jose, who won his Pulitzer for his work on the Virginia Tech shootings at the Washington Post, writes of his experience as undocumented:
I decided then that I could never give anyone reason to doubt I was an American. I convinced myself that if I worked enough, if I achieved enough, I would be rewarded with citizenship. I felt I could earn it.
I’ve tried. Over the past 14 years, I’ve graduated from high school and college and built a career as a journalist, interviewing some of the most famous people in the country. On the surface, I’ve created a good life. I’ve lived the American dream.
But I am still an undocumented immigrant. And that means living a different kind of reality. It means going about my day in fear of being found out. It means rarely trusting people, even those closest to me, with who I really am. It means keeping my family photos in a shoebox rather than displaying them on shelves in my home, so friends don’t ask about them. It means reluctantly, even painfully, doing things I know are wrong and unlawful. And it has meant relying on a sort of 21st-centry underground railroad of supporters, people who took an interest in my future and took risks for me.
We hear often about "playing by the rules" as if our lives were a game that if we as binational families could just give try harder, prove to be just a little bit more worthy we will finally be able to live without the fear that our partners will be deported. This is too often the story of immigration in the U.S.
After Japanese were interned during World War II the concept of the "model minority" was born. The idea that if Japanese were better educated, more enterprising, more self-sufficient they would never be treated that way again. Japanese-Americans blamed themselves for the bigotry and hate they experienced.
And they aren't' alone. In my own family, my grandmother was the child of a mother from Ireland and a father from Austria. She hated being an immigrant more than anything. As a family with a German-sounding last name, Kurzweil, they were forced to move to Canada so my grandfather could find work in the face of anti-German backlash after World War I. My grandmother wanted nothing more than to just blend in. To her, her greatest success story was finally being that Republican, suburban housewife she so very much craved. No one could tell she was an immigrant's child then!
We have forgotten our immigration stories in this country because there is so much shame associated with growing up as immigrants in the U.S. So many stories of oppression and bigotry — not to mention working an immigration system seemingly designed to confuse — that are suppressed within our family narratives, we have trouble empathizing with the stories of immigrants we see today. In our national dialogue on immigration we have lost the connection between previous generations of immigrants and the current generation of immigrants. And with that loss, we've lost an understanding not just of the difficulty in integrating but the difficulty in immigrating period. Our families all came here in many, many different ways to seek the American Dream. Undocumented families and our LGBT binational families are no different.
As we head into LGBT Pride weekend, we see the wisdom and the courage our LGBT history in standing up against fear and oppression. The times now for immigrants — with papers or without, LGBT or not — and their families to come out and stand up to tell our stories. It's the only way to help others understand how broken the system is and to identify real people with the statistics. It has been undeniably at the root of the success of our LGBT movement and it must happen to move the U.S. to a more just and humane immigration system for our LGBT families and for ALL families.
Remember to share your story. We collect those stories and use them directly in our conversations lawmakers and those setting policy for immigrants.
A Safe Haven Success — Thank you!
By Win Chesson on 06/07/2011 @ 05:57 PM
We did it!
Thanks the tremendous efforts and incredible generosity of our supporters, especially our Host Committee, this year’s Safe Haven Awards was our best yet! We raised half a million dollars and had record attendance, including guests from our pro bono community, business coalition partners, and loyal supporters like you. Thank you.
With not even one empty seat in the gorgeous TimesCenter theatre we were at capacity and able to meet (and exceed!) our first ever $50,000 challenge match from binational couple Martin Chavez and Adam Norbury. Together we raised over $150,000 Tuesday night — more than triple our record for money raised the night of any IE event. This is simply incredible and a testament to each of you.
On behalf of the entire Immigration Equality team, thanks again for to our many donors and supporters who dedicated time, treasure, and talent over the past several months to make the Safe Haven Awards a success.
We are also extremely grateful for the fantastic photography of Charles Ludeke.
Please check out his wonderful photos from the event, below:
Erik & Ranesh Ramanathan: A Family Commitment
By Christopher Edwards on 06/03/2011 @ 03:49 PM
Erik & Ranesh Ramanathan are a binational couple living near Boston. This is the story of their over 20 year relationship and their struggle to remain together despite immigration discrimination against LGBT couples.
Watch to see how they remained together against all odds and why they work with and for Immigration Equality. Then take action and share your story at ImEqActionFund.org\share
In the Matter of Dorman: What Does it Mean?
By Victoria Neilson on 05/06/2011 @ 08:06 PM
Yesterday the Attorney General (pictured) took an unusual step in vacating (setting aside) the removal (deportation) order against a gay man who is in a long-term partnership and civil union with an American citizen. The case has received wide press coverage because this is the first time the administration has set aside a removal order for a gay couple and because it is only the second public statement about DOMA by the attorney general since he announced in February that the Department of Justice will no longer defend DOMA challenges in court.
Does this case mean that foreign nationals in civil unions or marriages can’t be deported?
Unfortunately, at least in the short term, no. The Attorney General (AG) is the head of the Department of Justice (DOJ) and he has the authority to set aside decisions by the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) as he did in this case. The BIA hears appeals from immigration court. In this case, the AG didn’t actually decide anything regarding DOMA, civil unions, and removal proceedings. Instead, he set aside the BIA’s prior decision and asked the BIA to answer questions about whether civil unions are the equivalent or marriage under NJ law; whether without DOMA, a NJ civil union would be the equivalent of a marriage under immigration law; when the couple entered their civil union; and whether they met the legal hardship standard for cancellation of removal.
What is cancellation of removal?
Cancellation of removal is a form of relief that an immigration judge can give to a foreign national who is in removal proceedings. The foreign national can win lawful permanent residence if he can show that he has been in the U.S. for more than ten years, has been a person of good moral character, and his removal from the U.S. would result in extreme, and exceptionally unusual hardship to his U.S. citizen or green card holding spouse, parent or child. Unless a foreign national has a qualifying American relative, he cannot apply for cancellation.
What happened in this case?
In this case the immigration judge found that Mr. Dorman did not have a qualifying relative and the BIA upheld that decision. The AG has now set aside the BIA decision and sent the case back to the BIA.
What will happen in this case?
It’s not clear. The BIA could issue a decision answering the AG’s questions at some point in the next few months, or it could remand the case to the immigration judge for further fact-finding. In the short-term, it’s great news for this couple because it means while the case is being fought further, Mr. Dorman can remain in the U.S. with his partner.
What does this decision mean for other cases?
It remains to be seen what effect this decision will have on other cases pending for foreign nationals in legally recognized relationships with Americans. It is certainly a positive sign that the AG is asking these questions and continuing to think about how DOMA applies or doesn’t apply in the immigration context.
Why did the AG make this decision?
Again, the answer is not clear, but it may have been as a result of pressure that U.S. Senators, led by John Kerry and Patrick Leahy, and Representatives, led by Zoe Lofgren, have put on the Administration to stop deporting the partners of Americans while the Courts and Congress grapple with the constitutionality of DOMA.
To read the full (two paragraph) decision, click here.
400 (And Counting) Faith Leaders for UAFA
By Steve Ralls on 03/18/2011 @ 11:51 AM
In an overwhelming show of support for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans with partners from abroad, a coalition of more than 400 faith leaders have called on Congress to pass the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA). The letter, first reported by Sarah Posner at Religion Dispatches, comes as Congressional leaders prepare to re-introduce UAFA, which would allow LGBT Americans to sponsor their partners for residency in the United States. Under current immigration law, tens of thousands of families face separation and exile because of discriminatory immigration laws.
The letter, released as part of the Faith Coalition for UAFA assembled by Immigration Equality, includes signatories from virtually every denomination, including Catholic, Episcopalian, Jewish, Methodist and Unitarian clergy and leaders, as well others. The statement is endorsed by faith leaders in red states and blue, and includes individuals from congregations in nearly every region of the country.
"Our diverse faith traditions," the coalition writes, "teach us to welcome and care for our neighbors with love and compassion. Of the many great injustices in this broken immigration system, family separation is one of the most egregiou s .... Immigration policies should make expeditious family reunification a top priority and should include all families as part of that foundation. For us, this is a clear matter of simple justice."
"We endorse the Uniting American Families Act," they conclude, "which upholds the fundamental value of keeping families together."
The coalition's letter follows endorsement of UAFA from groups such as the American Jewish Committee, Call to Action, Methodist Federation for Social Action, the North American Old Catholic Church and the United Methodist Church General Board of Church and Society, among others.
Save the Date: Upcoming Events Near You
By Staff on 03/13/2011 @ 04:41 PM
Spring has sprung! Following our record-setting 2010 asylum record, we're putting together a DOMA challenge on behalf of binational couples and calling on the DHS to stop denying green cards to binational spouses.
So we at Immigration Equality and the Action Fund keep spreading the word and working to raise financial support for our work. We're participating in events from coast to coast and planning some our own. Check and save the dates for these upcoming events:
March 16 / Everywhere
LGBT Immigration & Asylum Law National Conference Call
Learn more and find RSVP info
RESCHEDULED: March 23 / Washington, DC
Due to a scheduling confilict this event moved to March 23 from March 16: DC Log Cabin Republicans featuring Immigration Equality's Julie Kruse
Learn more and find RSVP info
CANCELLED: March 23 / New York, NY
Due to a scheduling conflict Women at the Helm: Shaping the LGBT Agenda has been cancelled. It will be rescheduled at a later date.
Meet and hear from our executive director Rachel B. Tiven at NYC's LGBT Center, RSVP at Facebook.
April 28 / New York, NY
Safe Haven Host Committee Party
To attend, join the Host Committee
May 31 / New York, NY
Safe Haven Awards
Save the Date
Late Jun / Los Angeles, CA
Immigrant Art Expo
Save the Date
We hope to see you at one of the events above. And keep your eye here at the Voices for Equality blog or our events section for even more events coming in late spring and summer.
LGBT Immigration & Asylum Seekers: A Call with The LGBT Bar
By Steve Ralls on 03/10/2011 @ 04:29 PM
For decades, immigrants have requested asylum by the United States from their home countries due to political strife, economic hardship, or social injustice. With regards to LGBT individuals in many communities abroad it is mortally dangerous to be open with their lifestyle therefore political asylum is critical.
On Wednesday, March 16, the National LGBT Bar Association, in partnership with Immigration Equality, will host a national call-in to discuss developments in the field of LGBT immigration and asylum seekers. It will be led by Justin Connor, with speakers Victoria Neilson, Legal Director at Immigration Equality, Scott Titshaw, Assistant Professor of Law at Mercer University, and Chad Ellsworth, Associate at Fragomen, Del Rey, Bernsen & Loewy, LLP.
LGBT Immigration & Asylum Seekers
Wednesday, March 16, 2011 | 5:00pm EST
Please RSVP to receive dial-in instructions.
This call will be approximately one hour in length and is open to the public. You may submit questions before and during the call to Immigration@LGBTbar.org.
Description: United States asylum law is derived from international agreements written after World War II. With the large influx of migrants from other countries, the U.S. wrote an internationally universal standard that would outline who would be considered as a refugee. Since then, however, courts have needed to expand such definition and circumstances that would consider one who might need asylum. In 1994, Attorney General Janet Reno declared the Matter of Toboso-Alfonso case as precedent, which was pivotal for helping to categorize homosexual men and women as a “particular social group”—which, as explained in the Refugee Act of 1980, is a possible definition for a refugee into the United States. Now in the U.S., as it pertains to the 36,000 binational same-sex marriages, asylum law is a very important issue when it comes to the Federal government recognizing LGBT unions and granting protection.
Moderator: Justin Connor is in-house counsel to a telecommunications company based in McLean, Virginia, where he handles transactional/corporate law, dispute resolution, regulatory, M&A and corporate governance issues. Justin also worked in private practice in Washington and Dubai, and practiced for several years at the Federal Communications Commission, before he won a Fulbright fellowship to Lebanon in 2004. From a client’s perspective, Justin has learned first-hand about LGBT immigration and asylum law, because his partner is Syrian and recently won his own asylum case in the United States.
Speakers: Victoria Neilson is the Legal Director at Immigration Equality. She runs the organization's pro bono asylum project and provides technical assistance and mentoring on LGBT and HIV immigration issues to attorneys around the country. She is the primary author of The LGBT/HIV Asylum Manual, a comprehensive guide for attorneys. Victoria is member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association and former chair of the New York City Bar Association’s Committee on AIDS. She was a 2009 recipient of the LGBT Law Association of Greater New York (Le-Gal) Community Vision award.
Professor Scott Titshaw has a scholarship at Mercer University Walter F. George School of Law that focuses on immigration, comparative law and issues concerning sexual minorities. He teaches Property, Real Estate Transactions, International Business Transactions and Sexuality and the Law. Professor Titshaw was an adjunct professor at the University of Georgia School of Law and practiced immigration and transactional law with Arnall Golden Gregory LLP in Atlanta. He clerked with U.S. District Court Judge Adrian Duplantier in New Orleans, and served as a legal translator with Germany’s Federal Constitutional Court (Bundesverfassungsgericht) in Karlsruhe, Germany.
Chad Ellsworth is an associate with Fragomen, Del Rey, Bernsen and Loewy, LLP. His practice focuses on the representation of individual and business clients on a wide variety of corporate immigration and related employment matters. Chad has advised human resource personnel, managers, executives and professionals and multinational corporations on immigration matters and prepared their nonimmigrant and immigrant visa petitions and applications. He has experience writing policies for, and training human resource employees, recruiters and managers on immigration laws and procedures including Form I-9, Social Security Administration’s “No-Match” Letter, Employment Standards Administration Wage and Hour Division Labor Condition Application investigations and related immigration workforce enforcement and compliance issues. He is a member of the firm’s Corporate Compliance Group. Chad also handles LGBT asylum cases on a pro bono basis.
Give A Damn Campaign Releases Immigration PSA
By Steve Ralls on 02/22/2011 @ 12:46 PM
Our friends at The Give A Damn Campaign - headed up by the legendary Cyndi Lauper - have released this new public service announcement featuring Immigration Equality supporter Judy Rickard and her British partner, Karin.
For more information on the campaign, which is highlighting immigration-related issues all month, click here.
We Cannot Just Stand Alone: Lessons from the DADT Repeal Campaign
By Steve Ralls on 02/08/2011 @ 01:10 PM
As someone who worked for nearly a decade on the campaign to repeal the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” ban on lesbian, gay and bisexual service members, I’m always amazed at the misinformation and misperceptions that have surrounded the strategy to win open service in the armed forces. One of the most pervasive, and untrue, is that repealing the military’s ban happened only when a stand-alone bill was introduced in Congress.
In fact, the history and strategy behind repeal is much more complex — and entirely different — than that.
A stand-alone bill to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was introduced in the House of Representatives, for the first time, in 2005 by then-Congressman Marty Meehan. A stand-alone measure was not introduced in the Senate until nearly six years later. In the interim, omnibus (or large, multi-issue) legislation provided the foundation for building support, in both chambers, to finally end the military’s ban.
Or, to put it more simply (and more bluntly): Repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” would not have happened without repeal legislation being included in larger, comprehensive bills.
That truth is one of three misconceptions corrected by LGBT advocate and journalist Michelangelo Signorile (pictured) in an eye-opening - and accurate - new column at The Advocate.
Signorile writes that the “revisionist history” regarding stand-alone legislation, “plays on all the others, particularly since it was grassroots activists, along with SLDN, who pushed hard early on to get repeal included in the defense authorization bill.”
“While DADT repeal did eventually pass by itself,” Signorile notes, “it would not have been taken seriously had it not originally been included in the defense bill, a must-pass piece of legislation. Attaching repeal to the bill forced senators to grapple with the prospect of voting against funding for the troops in order to pander to religious conservatives and Pentagon hard-liners. In the end Republicans and a handful of Democrats chose to filibuster the bill twice, but not without significant hand-wringing, which only heightened the repeal effort’s relevance. But even more important, as the year dragged on, the inclusion of DADT repeal in the defense bill became the excuse moderate Republican senators used to join the filibuster.”
“If repeal had been voted on as a stand-alone bill earlier in the year,” he adds, “it wouldn’t have had much relevance or momentum. And voting on the bill prior to release of the Pentagon study surely would have doomed it.”
Or, as one blogger in D.C. summarized it, “Change is about alignment and timing.”
That’s true of almost every issue – LGBT or otherwise . . . national security or immigration. And it’s a truth that sits at the center of Immigration Equality’s advocacy on behalf of binational families. We pursue every legislative path for victory. That includes stand-alone legislation and its inclusion in broader legislation, too.
Indeed, repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is probably the biggest legislative victory – for the LGBT and progressive communities – of the past few years. Yet, as Signorile rightly points out, it would not have become reality without a strategy that included placing repeal within a larger legislative vehicle. That could — as UAFA champions Jerrold Nadler and Patrick Leahy have both previously noted — be true for ending discrimination against binational families, too.
A smart strategy resulted in an historic win for lesbian, gay and bisexual military personnel. It is important that we focus on the real strategy behind that win – and not the revisionist history of how it happened – as we move forward in winning an equally critical victory for our families, too.
If we want to win, and win as quickly as possible, we cannot just stand alone.
To read Michelangelo Signorile’s full column in The Advocate, click 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.
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.