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This posting is dedicated to Gina, who is soon exiling herself from her home on the West Coast to be with her partner in the UK.  We should be ashamed to let ourselves lose this good citizen as she does what she must for herself, and for love.  

For Americans in same-gender relationships with non-US citizens (or binationals as we
refer to ourselves), the fight to try and secure the right to sponsor our partners for legal
residency so that they can be with us in the US has been a long, and often dispiriting one.  So it is not surprising that our community has been thrown into a tumult with word this week that the United States Customs and Immigration Service (USCIS) was considering the possible changes as to how our families are treated under the law, following the Administration's recent change in stance re: DOMA.

From Jennifer Vanasco at 365gay.com just two days ago:

Newsweek/The Daily Beast has learned that the heads of two USCIS [U.S. Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services] districts, Washington, D.C. and Baltimore, informed attorneys from the advocacy group American Immigration Lawyers Association that cases in their districts involving married gay and lesbian couples would be put on hold. The news could have far-reaching effects.

Questions have been swirling because of course no one knows exactly what this meant, and in fact what seemed like potential for reprieve quickly went into backpedal mode, with emphasis on the fact that the abeyance would likely only endure short-term, as USCIS considered implications of the Administration's stance and what that might mean for changes in policy. Yesterday, we found out that USCIS press secretary Christopher S. Bentley was stating:  

“The cases were held while we were waiting for legal guidance.  There’s no need to hold the cases any longer.”
 

Essentially, what we hoped would be an end to our partners being deported, seems like a crumb tossed out instead, and cruelly so. With the abeyance now lifted, the best binational couples can now hope for--especially those facing deportation proceedings--is case-by-case review. Still, it seems a door has cracked open, and this issue is coming into the public eye with much greater frequency and to a much greater degree than ever before.  This is, I guess, a good thing--yet even so, Mr. Bentley states a falsehood, that because of DOMA these cases must be denied now and cannot be "on hold" any longer.  The denial of the right of LGBT Americans to sponsor their foreign partners has severe consequences not only for the couples involved, but for all who love and count on them.  It also inherently diminishes ALL of our families and relationships. In fact, the biased and misguided laws which penalize us for who we love--and by extension all those who love and count on us--are the main reason to hold these cases, in perpetuity!

Currently, Americans in same-gender binational relationships have these choices:
leave the country to live in one that acknowledges our families; try to maintain the
relationships long distance, which frequently leads to a ban on our partners coming in to
the country due to the federal government viewing them as overstay risks; be torn apart
and give up the chance for the family we should all be so fortunate to find; or recognize
that the law is afoul of our families, and relegate ourselves to the shadows to live with our undocumented partners. This situation must end!  No one should have to give up being American in America, and all that means, because of who they love.  

Binationals have been working on this issue for years, as well as organizations like
Out4Immigration, and Immigration Equality, to name two at the forefront of the effort.  Much of the focus has been on the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA), a bill which would open family reunification to LGBT people and their loved ones. Stop the Deportations/The DOMA Project is also a good place to follow day-by-day developments as the terrain continues to shift.  While recent developments bring up more questions than answers, what is clearly and quickly emerging is that the time to lobby legislators only has passed, and we must now also engage those who are as well enforcing the cruel laws that rip apart the lives of citizens.

Those of us who are affected know that the time is past for this cruel implication of
DOMA to be relegated to the dustbin of overturned, prejudiced policies. Now, we need
help. Out4Immigration is running a petition at Change.org(link to petition) to appeal to the President, Secretary Napolitano, and the USCIS as well as Immigration and Customs
Enforcement (ICE) to stop deporting our partners. Will you help?

Promoting the petition doesn't hurt, too!  Thanks, everyone!

Originally posted to RCAnelson on Thu Mar 31, 2011 at 08:32 AM PDT.

Also republished by Angry Gays, Milk Men And Women, and Community Spotlight.

Poll

If the Uncle Sam told you that you and your spouse could not live together in the US would you

3%2 votes
3%2 votes
75%49 votes
16%11 votes
0%0 votes

| 65 votes | Vote | Results

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Comment Preferences

  •  Good morning! (8+ / 0-)

    I have to work today, so please don’t see me as too lax in the comment section, I’ll get in where I can.  Thanks for reading, please talk about this and raise awareness about the plight of binationals in the US—and please go sign the petition at Change.org!  Link is the last one in the body of the piece.

  •  I have been through this (8+ / 0-)

    And the relationship did not survive. I cannot say for sure the roadblocks put on us was the only reason, but I know it did not help our chances to seek a life together.

    These laws are cruel and serve no public purpose.

    Where ignorance is our master, there is no possibility of real peace. - Dalai Lama

    by kimoconnor on Thu Mar 31, 2011 at 08:58:32 AM PDT

    •  Yep, me too. Same outcome. (5+ / 0-)

      Fuck the bigots and the horse they road in on.

      I'm gay and I'm pissed. I'm not giving up, I'm not giving in, I'm not backing down, and I'm not going away. I'm one of the Angry Gays. Deal with it.

      by psychodrew on Thu Mar 31, 2011 at 10:16:56 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Can you believe that this shit is still an issue? (4+ / 0-)

        It is 2011.

        WTF America.  

        Give us our equality now.

        How can anyone deny an American's right to pursue happiness based on their sexual orientation...  in 2011?

        These situations are sad and embarrassing.  

        Focus People...  come along into the new millennium with the rest of the civilized world...

        Geez, this is not the fucking middle ages... or maybe it is in the USA...

        Radical Activist Homosexual Agenda: 1. Equality 2. See #1

        by skip945 on Thu Mar 31, 2011 at 10:45:12 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Reading your comments... (4+ / 0-)

          ...I continue to share your anger.  These laws indeed serve no purpose.  I am sorry you both went through this and the relationships did not survive.  And while we are all imperfect and relationships can falter for all kinds of reasons, this is an impediment from the start.

          I just hope that we are seeing our "Berlin Wall" moment, where the barriers we've all faced for so long start to be breached.  And it's time to say no to what amounts to institutionalized bullying.

  •  Excellent diary, thank you! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    craigkg, Larsstephens

    Let's get that petition to 1000 signatures today!

  •  The first option can sometimes work. (9+ / 0-)

    Sometimes the foreign spouse could stay for years on an F-1 or J-1 student visa; then switch to an H-1B work visa; then eventually get an employment-based green card.

    But speaking as an immigration lawyer, that's a difficult and expensive road, with many uncertainties. If an employer withdraws sponsorship for any reason, it can be a disaster.  I'm currently helping a lesbian couple get through this maze, and it's going to take a long time.

    Congress should amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to define "spouse" to include any couple with a state marriage certificate.

    It is a calling...to do things about injustice.... It helps to have a goal. I've always tried to have one.--Ted Kennedy, True Compass

    by Timaeus on Thu Mar 31, 2011 at 09:54:21 AM PDT

    •  I chose the third option. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      smellybeast, Timaeus, Larsstephens

      I went through this once and it didn't work. I'm not putting myself through that again. I can live happily outside the United States. If I'm not wanted, I'll leave.

      I'm gay and I'm pissed. I'm not giving up, I'm not giving in, I'm not backing down, and I'm not going away. I'm one of the Angry Gays. Deal with it.

      by psychodrew on Thu Mar 31, 2011 at 10:49:21 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Agreed (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Timaeus, doingbusinessas

      Congress should amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to define "spouse" to include any couple with a state marriage certificate

      Or a state civil union. On this point, immigration law is just stupid.

      I won't be coming home tonight, my generation will put it right - Genesis 9:3

      by superscalar on Thu Mar 31, 2011 at 11:59:28 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I agree -- and of course Congress won't do that (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Timaeus

      anytime soon.  Federal law is and will remain the biggest equal protection issue.

      I remember from the pro-bono asylum work I did at a BigFirm that IJ's have an option short of saying that the person has any legal right to remain in the U.S., but that simply they will be allowed to stay here for now ("now" meaning indefinitely) as essentially an act of judicial grace.  I think it was "withholding of removal" or that was the lowest one that said that their being there was OK for now and this had another name.  What's your sense of this as a possible option for people to seek?

      Unplug the Koch machine! It's swallowing people's money!

      by Seneca Doane on Thu Mar 31, 2011 at 12:47:27 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Withholding has an incredibly high standard (2+ / 0-)

        of proof and is never granted, to the best of my knowledge, absent extremely strong evidence of a risk of persecution.  So it's not available for most people in removal proceedings. But sometimes it would be a good option.  (Withholding is a quasi-status, as you say, that has lots of quirky rules, and sometimes involves long detentions where the DHS tries to find a country for removal, IIRC.)

        I haven't done asylum cases in a long time, but there have been several recent cases where immigration judges have granted asylum (which can be a basis for permanent resident status) on the ground of fear of persecution in the home country due to being GLBT.  If I had such a person as a client and who was in removal proceedings, that's what I'd raise.

        It is a calling...to do things about injustice.... It helps to have a goal. I've always tried to have one.--Ted Kennedy, True Compass

        by Timaeus on Thu Mar 31, 2011 at 12:59:00 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  I just want to know why in Australia... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    skip945, smellybeast

    ...the law allows citizens to sponsor anyone--ANYONE!--two times in their lives, regardless of the nature of the relationship and only with the guarantee that the immigrant live with the citizen for one year.  And then we have this here.  It is indeed very stupid that this is what you get in "the land of the free."

  •  Fake marriage is also used sometimes (0+ / 0-)

    although it's not without complications. I agree that the situation is insane but I'm not sure if USCIS can ignore the law, even a crappy law.

    •  I hear you. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      smellybeast, FG

      I know USCIS can't act unilaterally, but Congress has not acted and families continue to be torn apart.  Our efforts, like with Out4Immigration's petition, are aimed at trying to get the issue front and center for the director of USCIS, as well as the President and Secretary Napolitano.  We need to challenge the logic, and to some degree the actions of this past week and the announcement on February 23 show that our enforcement agencies are hiding behind DOMA while continuing to do damage to citizens--and by extension, their families and communities as well.

      And yeah, marriage...sigh.  I know some people over the years for whom this has worked very well, but it is more complicated than most realize, a major commitment of several years minimum, and I've heard some real horror stories about it too.  Plus, you come back to the reality that citizens are forced to break the law in order to have the love and intimacy any of us should be so lucky to find--because these sorts of marriages of convenience are considered fraud.  Isn't great to live in a free country?

  •  I am in a hetero marriage (0+ / 0-)

    and Uncle Sam told us my (highly educated, criminal-record-free, here legally) spouse could not remain in the country past the expiry of her long-term visa. After years of cost and litigation, things are fixed, but it took a lot of resources and put a tremendous strain on the entire early period of our married life together.

    We had everything in place to emigrate, including my residence and work rights as her spouse in her country. All it took in that direction was a marriage certificate. For the USA, though, the cost stretched into years' worth of income and actual years fighting and jumping through hoops, facing hostile interviewers, etc.

    And this for (I repeat) a highly educated, criminal-record-free, legal temporary resident that faithfully paid her taxes as a visitor and wanted to settle down and contribute to this society.

    It should not be that difficult. What makes it difficult is racism and irrational (and highly misdirected) economic fear, cooked into policy.

    -9.63, 0.00
    I am not a purity troll. I am a purity warrior.

    by nobody at all on Thu Mar 31, 2011 at 06:29:30 PM PDT

    •  Hmmm, could your spouse be (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      smellybeast

      not white?  I am so sorry to hear about what you went through, and while this post is about the discrimination LGBT couples face, it is of the same variety as what you, and many other (hetero) couples I've met over the years have gone through.  In almost all of those cases the non-citizen spouse was, sadly, not white.  I'm not saying that's the only reason and there have to be decent humans beings working for our immigration system, but far too often we hear these tales of guilty until proven innocent, at great expense and heartache.  

      Thanks for commenting, especially because you know how skewed the system is, how good people who we should want as citizens, de facto or by law for that matter, suffer under it far too often.  As frustrated as I get, I do try to remember that there are people like you, and like me, who just want a system where good and decent people get a fair shake--and that there are probably more of us than it sometimes seems.  Someone on Out4Immigration's facebook page last night made a comment about how when families get torn apart this way, there is a bit of a herd mentality where everyone runs while one gets snatched by the predator.  Sometimes the hardest part is just caring that someone is going through it.

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