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.
How our Laws are Made
By Connie Utada on 09/07/2011 @ 06:01 PM
Some of you have asked: what is happening with the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA), H.R. 1537 / S. 821, five months after being introduced?
The short answer is that it is sitting in the Judiciary Committee but that response may not be useful to get to the solution we are seeking: to end discrimination in immigration law by allowing gay and lesbian couples to sponsor their foreign-born partner and children for immigration purposes. Currently, there are 120 cosponsors in the House and 21 in the Senate and, the numbers are continuing to climb.
The process of a bill becoming a law is very long and often times, frustrating. The three minute clip of Schoolhouse Rock's I'm Just a Bill is helpful but does not quite do it justice.
I'm Just a Bill (Schoolhouse Rock!)
To understand what that process looks like, we thought it would be beneficial to provide a graphic that lays out the progression in a very colorful, chutes-and-ladders manner depicting the many avenues a bill must go through toward final approval.
Copyright © Creative Commons License: Mike Wirth
Looking at the How Our Laws Are Made graphic above, UAFA is currently located in the left-side lime green panel titled “Committee Assignment” on the House side; and, in the rust/burgundy panel at the beginning of the Senate side. Also noteworthy is the stick figure holding its arm up, carrying a briefcase marked: Lobbyist (on the far left) — that is the Immigration Equality Action Fund.
To help move the UAFA out of its current position, please contact your Representative and both Senators to either thank them for cosponsoring the UAFA or to ask them to cosponsor the bill.
Why Do We Ask For Zip Code?
By Christopher Edwards on 09/06/2011 @ 01:45 PM
Members of Congress are focused on constituent services. They see as their primary purpose. This is a difficulty we, and other immigration groups, face when advocating for exiled and immigrant families.
So as such it's important that we have U.S. zip code information. It's why we ask for it in our Contact Congress alarts and it's why we collect that information for our listserv sign-up (at right).
That being said, we understand we have a large segment of our audience that is out of the country and it's why make sure to make regular use of our blogs both at Immigration Equality and here at the Action Fund as well as our Facebook and Twitter feeds to keep you up-to-date.
So what to do if you are living in exile? I recommend that you use the zip code of your family or use your previous zip code before you moved into exile. The reason you are living in exile is very much apart of your story and your former representatives in the U.S. need to know it and know why you are no longer a tax-paying member of their district.
Many years ago I moved from California to DC in order to find work for both myself and my foreign-partner. But DC has no voting representation and I continued to use my address in California in order to reach out to my Congressperson and Senators there and let them know I had become a nomad in my own country. And why.
So do the same today, take action and let Congress know why you are not living in the U.S. Find 5 ways you can take action here.
DHS: "Our understanding of family includes LGBT families"
By Julie Kruse on 08/19/2011 @ 01:41 PM
Yesterday, the White House and the Department of Homeland Security confirmed: their understanding of family includes LGBT families.
The White House and DHS said that LGBT family ties, including those of gay spouses and partners, will be considered as DHS conducts a case-by-case review of the approximately 300,000 immigrants currently in deportation proceedings to determine which cases are high priority and low priority. DHS plans to close many low priority deportation cases. DHS and DOJ will also utilize these factors in determining whether to place someone in deportation proceedings in the future, or to close a deportation case. Immigrants whose cases are closed will not be subject to deportation in the future “unless the facts of their case substantially change.”
Today’s announcement from DHS appears to be very good news for LGBT couples who are facing imminent separation via a removal order or deportation. LGBT spouses and partners will likely benefit from more of the deportation cancellations and delays that we have seen a few of in the last few months. This is truly groundbreaking, as Immigration Equality does not know of cases in which deportations were cancelled or delayed due to lesbian or gay partnerships or marriages prior to the administration’s decision that DOMA is unconstitutional.
We must all work to ensure this important development makes a difference for real families.
- It’s terrific the administration and DHS consider families to include LGBT families. We must make sure the field officers and attorneys prosecuting cases know that so they actually exercise discretion in the field when determining whether to drop or commence deportation proceedings. LGBT families were not listed in a long list of factors for consideration for discretion in a June memo that this new memo will be based on, as we had requested. So we must continue to press for them to put this new policy in writing.
It IS very helpful that the New York Times and many other media sources put it in their coverage. This will help educate immigration practitioners around the country and aid attorneys advocating for LGBT immigrants that have American spouses or partners.
Nancy Pelosi put it in her press announcement about the new policy also. She definitely shows that immigration is a DOMA issue and vice versa!:
"It is my hope that today’s action by the Administration will result in the suspension of immigration proceedings against gays and lesbians who have petitioned for their spouses, such as my constituents, Bradford Wells and Anthony John Makk, who face separation because of the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act."
- This is not the moratorium on the deportation of lesbian and gay spouses and partners that the Washington Post editorial called for this week. It will help families on a case by case basis only.
- This change does not impact the many couples who need relief but have not received a removal order or deportation notice. It does not help LGBT folks filing for a spousal-based green card for their lesbian or gay spouse, who want that application held in abeyance (as so many of you have asked in signing our petition) so they can stay here legally. Instead, they will continue to live in the constant worry that they are or will be out of status, and could be picked up by police participating in Secure Communities or an ICE agent who may or may not have heard about the new guidelines, and placed into detention and/or deportation proceedings. Or, if the Utah, Alabama, or Georgia laws go into effect, the US partner could be criminalized for “harboring” their loved one.
As our legal director Vickie Neilson said in a recent blog: "What better proof do we need that our immigration system is broken than that the response of many [to the case of Bradford Wells and Anthony Makk] — friends and foes alike — has been “why doesn’t he just fall out of status, violate the immigration laws, and then some day, immigration may exercise discretion on his behalf to not deport him?”
Many Immigration groups share the concern that this new process does not outline an affirmative process by which immigrants can win relief, only a way to address deportations. This is extremely significant. For example, someone whose deportation is cancelled based on this new process will be able to apply for work authorization, but someone who is simply undocumented and not facing deportation cannot. Similarly, an LGBT spouse/partner whose visa is expiring can do nothing under this new policy to stay in status.
- DHS said that there will be “the same narrow mechanisms” in place to allow LGBT spouses and partners they have already deported to return to the US. Nonetheless, parole, the mechanism that allows people to return to the US, is one of the areas which the DHS June memo outlined should be a process in which DHS employees can exercise discretion. Immigration Equality only knows of one gay spouse who returned via humanitarian parole following a deportation, after major advocacy by Senator Kerry.
- Administrative relief is a critical interim solution for our families. But, it can be reversed by any future president. We must continue to fight to end the discrimination against our families in immigration, by pressing for passage of the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA).
Click here to email you members of Congress to urge them to cosponsor and support UAFA.
Thanks for all of your terrific advocacy for inclusion of LGBT families and gay and lesbian spouses and partners in any immigration reform. The hard work had an important payoff yesterday! Please continue to watch this blog or follow us on Twitter and Facebook. The updates are coming fast and quickly so please stay connected.
Join Bradford & Anthony for a Special Call This Friday
By Bradford Wells & Anthony Makk on 08/17/2011 @ 07:36 PM
We hope you will join us for a special conference call this Friday, August 19th at noon eastern time to learn about what’s next for us and other families in our situation.
The extraordinary support you have shown our family over the past few weeks has meant so much. From the thousands of messages you’ve sent to the White House on our behalf, to the notes of support you’ve left online, we have moved beyond words by your actions and well wishes.
With your help, we know we can win. Just this week, the Washington Post editorial board published a powerful editorial calling for help not just in our case, but for every lesbian and gay family facing separation because of discriminatory laws. Make no mistake: This is a turning point for our families, and it is imperative that we seize it.
Please join us this Friday at noon eastern time to learn more about how you can help. To join our call, simply dial (800) 868-1837 and use access code 393639#.
We look forward to talking with you — and thanking you — on Friday’s call.
Please join us.
P.S. Can't make the call? Please make a contribution. The legal intake hotline is running at four times — 4x! — its volume just six months ago, and your support allows Immigration Equality to continue providing free, expert immigration advice to the community. Thank you!
What did our Founders say about immigration?
By Rachel Tiven on 07/04/2011 @ 12:41 PM
“He has endeavoured to prevent the Population of these States; for that Purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their Migrations hither ...”
— The Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776
King George’s refusal to pass comprehensive immigration reform helped spark the American Revolution. Our Founders knew that the nation’s future lay in robust immigration, and England’s failure to encourage and regulate it was one of the top ten grievances in the Declaration of Independence.
Two-hundred and thirty-five years later, we must again demand that our leaders take responsibility for naturalizing foreigners and encouraging migration to this great country. On this Fourth of July, here are three reasons why:
- Frances Herbert and Takako Ueda are going to be separated by immigration laws that don’t respect their marriage and their 11 years together. Sign our petition asking the President to keep them together.
- Jose Antonio Vargas can’t be a citizen, even though he grew up in the U.S., graduated from high school and college here, and won a Pulitzer Prize. As a gay man, he proudly came out of two closets in his incredible article “My Life as an Undocumented Immigrant.”
- New York, the Empire State, can’t fix this problem with marriage equality. Nor can Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Iowa, Connecticut or the District of Columbia. To free Frances and Takako, Jose, and every other LGBT immigrant family, we need to repeal the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” and pass comprehensive immigration reform.
Watch your inbox for an action alert this week on the Senate’s new comprehensive immigration reform bill, which includes the Uniting American Families Act. Better yet, friend us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.
For Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness, have a happy Independence Day!
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
UAFA and LGBT Immigration on MSNBC
Posted on 04/18/2011 @ 04:08 PM
Immigration Equality advocate, author, and one-half of a binational couple Judy Rickard took to MSNBC with her partner Karin to discuss the fight for immigration rights for our families and their immigration battles and how the Uniting American Families Act would help.
Thank you to Judy and Karin for their continued outreach for our families.
Make It Count
By Rachel Tiven on 04/14/2011 @ 10:58 AM
Later today, I’ll join Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and one of our most dedicated families — Shirley Tan, Jay Mercado and their twin sons — on Capitol Hill for reintroduction of the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA). At the very same time, our lead Senate champion, Patrick Leahy of Vermont, will reintroduce UAFA in that chamber of Congress, too.
If you can't join us in person, you can still be part of this incredible day. Make a donation in support of UAFA and send a clear message to lawmakers: stop deporting our families. We'll put your gift to immediate use in our work to educate every Member of Congress about why UAFA matters.
Together, we’ve come a long way. Five years ago, ending discrimination against our families was barely a blip on the national radar. Today, it is the central focus of a national debate that shows record public support for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) families. Our families’ stories have become the rallying cry for the movement to gain federal recognition for LGBT couples and topple the unconstitutional Defense of Marriage Act.
We could not have gotten this far without you ... and I’m writing today to ask that you stand with the Tan-Mercado family, Congressman Nadler and Senator Leahy by making a donation in support of our work on Capitol Hill.
As we have expanded our fight for equality to the courts and the White House, advancing this legislation in Congress has never been more important. Passing UAFA is an immediate, nationwide solution for binational couples in the US and those living in exile.
A quick glance at the news of the past few weeks shows just how much momentum we have: ABC News, Associated Press, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Miami Herald, The New York Daily News ... the list goes on.
The Advocate may have put it best, though, calling us “easily the most visible issue in the current fight against DOMA.”
Despite that visibility, however, the federal government continues separating our families and deporting the spouses of LGBT Americans. That’s unconscionable, and we will not rest until it stops.
Immigration Equality is fighting harder than ever, and we need your help to sustain our stepped-up campaign for binational families. Please make the most generous donation you can in support of the Action Fund’s work in Washington.
All eyes are on our movement. This is our moment. Help us make it count.
We need your help — RIGHT NOW
By Julie Kruse on 04/12/2011 @ 02:59 PM
We need your help — RIGHT NOW — to pass the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA).
On Thursday afternoon, Congressman Nadler will be reintroducing UAFA in the House of Representatives.
This critically important bill will immediately end the discrimination our families face under current immigration laws and positively impact every family, regardless of where they live.
To pass UAFA, however, your Representative and Senators need to hear from you. The phone number to call is: (202) 225-3121.
Please ask your family and friends to call as well; it will only take a few minutes to say:
“Hi, my name is ___________, I live at (street address and city) and I am your constituent.
"I am calling to ask Represenative/Senator ______ to cosponsor the Uniting American Families Act because it allows gay and lesbian families to stay together. No American should have to choose between the person they love and our country.”
Call three times: ask once for your Representative and then for your two Senators. They need to hear from as many people as possible. The phone number to call is: (202) 225-3121. Ask the switchboard operator to connect you with your Representative and then your two Senators; the operator can tell you who they are if you don’t know.
Then, if you are in the Washington, D.C. area, join Immigration Equality and Congressman Nadler for a special reintroduction event on Thursday at 1pm. Our executive director, Rachel Tiven, will join Congressman Nadler and other House leaders on the House Triangle at 1pm ... with our very special guests, Shirley Tan, Jay Mercado and their twin sons. The Triangle is on the southeast side of the U.S. Capitol, accessible via Independence Avenue.
Now, please take just a few minutes of your time and call your Representatives and Senators
These calls — your calls — could help make all the difference for our families.
Thank you for all that you do!
Join Us Thursday in Washington . . . with Some Very Special Guests
By Steve Ralls on 04/12/2011 @ 11:45 AM
On Thursday, a Congressional “who’s who” of champions for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender families will join Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) as he reintroduces the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA). We’ll be on Capitol Hill, with Congressman Nadler, urging lawmakers to support this critically important legislation that would end discrimination faced by LGBT binational couples.
If you live in the Washington area, we want you to join us, too. We'll be gathering at the House Triangle, at 1pm, to show our support for UAFA and our families. (The House Triangle in on the southeast side of the U.S. Capitol, and is accessible via Independence Avenue.)
If you're in D.C. on Thursday, please plan to be there. You can RSVP at Facebook. Bring your signs, bring your families and bring your friends.
Congressman Nadler, who serves as Ranking Member of the Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, will be joined by Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Immigration, as well as Congressman Mike Honda (D-CA), the lead sponsor of the LGBT-inclusive Reuniting Families Act and Representatives Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), John Conyers (D-MI), Jackie Speier (D-CA), and Jared Polis (D-CO).
Immigration Equality’s executive director, Rachel Tiven, will also be on hand for the event, along with four very special guests: Shirley Tan and Jay Mercado, and their twin sons, Joriene and Jashley.
The Tan-Mercado family (pictured) made headlines around the world – and in People Magazine – when Shirley faced removal from the United States after being detained by immigration. Despite the fact that Shirley and Jay – who is an American citizen – have been together for more than two decades, their family was faced with the very real possibility of being torn apart. Joriene and Jashley – who are also U.S. citizens – also faced the possibility of losing their mother. Today, Shirley remains with her family, through a private bill introduced on her behalf by Senator Dianne Feinstein.
As the family will recount on Thursday, however, Shirley’s private bill is only a temporary solution that offers no permanent promise for keeping their family together. For the Tan-Mercado family – and thousands of others across the country and around the world – UAFA offers the only permanent option for ending the separation of our families.
Shirley, Jay, Joriene and Jashely will provide powerful testimony – and a timely reminder – about the critical need for UAFA at Thursday’s press event. And, during their visit to Capitol Hill, they’ll be personally asking lawmakers to support its passage.
We’ll post more information on UAFA’s reintroduction here on the blog as that becomes available. And, if you haven’t already taken action to urge your elected leaders to co-sponsor the bill . . . click here, and do so now!
Help Set a New Record for UAFA. Call Congress Today!
By Julie Kruse on 04/07/2011 @ 02:59 PM
The time to act is NOW!
On Tuesday evening, many of you attended Immigration Equality’s grassroots conference call. If you took action, and reached out to your elected leaders, thank you. If you haven’t yet done so, however, please take a moment and ask your Representatives to co-sponsor the Uniting American Families Act!
Please take a few moments and call your Representative and Senators about UAFA.
Just dial the Capitol Switchboard — (202) 224-3121 — three times: Once for each of your Senators, and once for your Representative in the House. Then, tell them:
“Hi, my name is ___________, I live at (street address and city) and I am your constituent. I am calling to ask Rep./Senator _______ to cosponsor the Uniting American Families Act when it is introduced in the coming weeks. Every family deserves to stay together. No American should have to choose between the person they love and our country.”
Your calls are the key to ensuring we have a strong coalition of lawmakers supporting UAFA when it is reintroduced later this month. It is critical that every elected leader know this is an issue that impacts their constituents and families in their state and district.
Our families are counting on you to help us build the support we need.
Please call the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121. If you do not know who your Member of Congress is, the operator can identify them for you, and then connect you directly to their office.
Please take just a few minutes to make these three critical calls today.
We finished the last Congress with 162 co-sponsors in the House and Senate. That was a record ... and we want to set another record this year. I hope you’ll help us by contacting your lawmakers today.
Thank you for all that you do!
P.S. Missed Tuesday's conference call? Listen to an MP3 of the call here.
Grassroots Call: ACT NOW for the Uniting American Families Act!
By Steve Ralls on 04/04/2011 @ 12:43 PM
Join Immigration Equality Executive Director, Rachel Tiven, and hear how Immigration Equality will continue to fight for LGBT families!
While there have been some exciting breakthroughs with the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice’s letter regarding DOMA — and major news headlines about how that letter impacts our families — passage of the Uniting American Families Act is still a necessary priority for our couples. Join our upcoming call to understand why UAFA is a key part of our strategy, and what recent developments around DOMA and green cards mean for LGBT Americans and their spouses from abroad.
We’ll be discussing the upcoming reintroduction of UAFA, in the 112th Congress, and how you can help build support for this critically important bill.
Lean how YOU can press Congress to act now!
Conference Call Details:
Tuesday, April 5, 2011
8:00 PM Eastern 7:00 PM Central 6:00 PM Mountain 5:00 PM Pacific
Duration: 1 hour
RSVP online here. The call-in number, and a unique code to enter, will be sent to you before the call.
" ... When You Have Someone Who Loves You."
By Steve Ralls on 04/04/2011 @ 11:41 AM
Sunday's New York Daily News includes a moving, and powerful, profile of Edwin Blesch and his husband, Tim Smulian.
Edwin and Tim - who are being represented by Immigration Equality's legal team - are threatened with imminent separation because of discriminatory immigration laws that threaten to tear them apart. The couple, who are married in South Africa and whose marriage is recognized in Edwin's home state of New York, are currently together on Long Island. Tim's visa expires in July, however ... just weeks after Edwin is scheduled to have surgery.
"Smulian is [Edwin's] primary caregiver," reporter Erica Pearson notes, "but has no way to stay here permanently."
"It's not a good idea for me to be away," Blesch, a retired English professor, told the Daily News. "And it's not a good idea for me to be away from Tim.
"That's the conundrum."
It is also why Immigration Equality attorneys have worked with Edwin to file a spousal petition on behalf of Tim. If the two are separated by immigration, Edwin will lose his caretaker just when he needs him the most.
Rachel Tiven, our executive director, told Pearson that the couple present an especially compelling case for the law to change. "They never overstayed, not by one day, and have always been careful to follow the letter of the law," she said.
In fact, Tim and Edwin have routinely traveled for the six months each year that Tim is unable to be in the United States. Because of Edwin's health, however, travel has become more difficult.
"We need a break from the travel," Smulian said. "It's killing us."
The couple, who made the journey to Washington for visits, arranged by Immigration Equality, with their Senators, told the Daily News they hope the laws that tear couples like them apart will be overturned "in our lifetime."
"This is a basic right - to fall in love with and live with the person you want to. The pursuit of happiness, I guess you'd call it," Blesch said. "We would like to be at home, at our fire, reading...Who wants to grow old alone when you have someone who loves you?"
Read the full Daily News profile online here.
Photo by Roca/The Daily News.
Breaching the Wall, and Staying the Course
By Rachel Tiven on 03/30/2011 @ 02:41 PM
The last week has been a rollercoaster ride.
First, there were reports that some offices of USCIS – the agency that issues green cards – were holding applications of married lesbian and gay couples in abeyance. On Friday, USCIS headquarters denied that was the case. Then on Monday, a spokesperson from USCIS called the press to say that the agency had directed its local offices to hold marriage-related cases in abeyance. Today, the New York Times reports that USCIS has changed course from the position it took on Monday and that “the agency would probably resume action on same-sex marriage cases in coming days and would continue to deny immigration status to foreigners based on those marriages.” And Metro Weekly has just reported “The Hold is Over.”
If the government has changed course, Immigration Equality has not. We strongly reiterate our call for the Administration to stop separating our families. Since the historic announcement that the Department of Justice would no longer defend the so-called Defense of Marriage Act in court, we have been advocating with the Administration to stop tearing our families apart based on an unconstitutional law. We are also putting together our own federal lawsuit to challenge DOMA on behalf of lesbian and gay Americans with foreign national spouses. Our position remains the same.
In the meanwhile, the entire country is talking about our families and our issues. We are breaching the wall that keeps LGBT Americans from taking on the rights and responsibilities of marriage – including the opportunity to keep our families from being torn apart.
We have never been so close to victory, and our expert advice and analysis has never been more needed. Our legal team is fielding 20 times as many calls and emails as usual, from families who want to know: Are we finally safe? We wish that the answer were yes, because we know that every day of separation or uncertainty is too long to wait to move forward with your lives.
Because USCIS is now saying that they will not put applications on hold, most couples should not file a spousal green card application (known as Form I-130). Until the Administration agrees that no American should be separated from their family based on an unconstitutional law, those will likely be denied.
However, most couples who are considering marrying should do so. Public opinion is turning in our favor, and when we cross the finish line, your marriage – which is a powerful statement about the longevity and commitment of your lives together – will be key to ensuring that you and your husband or wife can remain together.
We are updating and expanding the legal information on our website by the hour. Please consult our legal team's latest FAQs - here - where your family’s questions may be answered. Every case is unique, and couples with complex questions can always contact our legal team via our website. Our counsel, as always, is free to the community. Please keep in mind, however, that the incredible demand for our help means that we cannot answer every question immediately, and please be patient.
Make no mistake: We will soon end DOMA and pass the Uniting American Families Act. Public opinion has tilted in our favor and we are closer than ever to making real policy changes that will keep our families together. Immigration Equality’s commitment to you remains the same. Together, we’ve put our families on the front page. Now, we can work together to win, once and for all.
March Madness at Immigration Equality
By Stephanie Harig on 03/24/2011 @ 03:40 PM
You may not care if Tennessee and UConn finally meet up in the Final Four (and we’re talking women’s basketball here — I am officially boycotting the men’s tournament, but that’s a different story), but you have to admit that the spirit of March Madness is everywhere. And even though March is almost over, the fact that the championship game is in early April means we’ve all got (at least!) a few more weeks of this madness.
Immigration Equality has not been immune from the infectious madness of March (and early April). As you probably know, we’re working on a DOMA challenge in the courts and calling on the Obama Administration to stop deporting married, binational LGBT couples. But we are also in the final stages before reintroduction of the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) in both the House and Senate. Getting relief for binational families is a priority, and Immigration Equality is working on all fronts to make that happen.
Now, in an ideal world, more people would care about the women’s NCAA tournament AND policymakers would just do the right thing: pass UAFA and extend to LGBT citizens and residents of the U.S. the right to sponsor their partners for immigration. But the political world is much more complicated – even more complicated than an NCAA bracket! Policymakers need to be convinced to do the right thing. And that means they need to hear from you.
Luckily, constituents such as yourself have more say in the democratic process than just trying to predict how far Green Bay will actually go in the tournament or whether UAFA will be passed. Our elected officials – Representatives, Senators, and the President – are supposed to be responsive to us and our needs. But they can’t do that effectively if they don’t know what your needs are.
So if you want your Senators and Representatives to support UAFA, tell them! Immigration Equality has made contacting your Members of Congress really easy! Just click here to tell Congress to support LGBT families! (See? Much easier than predicting if Baylor has enough talent around Brittney Griner to vie for the title!)
One last thing though: letters to Members of Congress are much more effective if you personalize them. So take a moment and add a personal touch to the language that Immigration Equality has provided. And once you’ve sent your own letter, tell a friend to do the same!
As March winds down, and both the NCAA tournament and the drive toward UAFA reintroduction heat up, Members of Congress need to hear from you. Neither Maya Moore nor Immigration Equality can do it on our own – we need your support and your advocacy to make sure all of UAFA’s co-sponsors return and then some!
So what are you waiting for? Click here to send a letter of support for UAFA to your Member of Congress.
We can’t win this without you!
Stephanie Harig is one of our public policy interns. She's a 2009 graduate of Miami University in Oxford, Ohio and is pursuing a masters in public policy and women's studies at George Washington University. She's originally from Ohio and likes sports metaphors.