In February, GLAAD worked with local and national media to shine a spotlight on the story of Brian and Anton, a loving and committed binational gay couple from Philadelphia who were facing the very real threat of Anton being deported. At the time, Anton was issued a temporary stay of deportation and was not required to return to his native Indonesia. But that stay has expired, and his fate once again rests in the hands of immigration officials who may decide to take him into custody and deport him next month. Though Anton and Brian were legally married in Washington D.C. this year, Brian cannot sponsor Anton for immigration benefits because their union is not recognized by the federal government.
Brian and Anton are but one of many married couples whose relationship and happiness is strained by immigration inequality and DOMA. Stories like theirs are the subject of the upcoming documentary film Entry Denied. Directed by Machu Latorre, herself an immigrant from Spain, Entry Denied exposes the issues encountered by lesbian and gay Americans in relationships with foreign nationals. The film follows the lives of three couples grappling with the consequences of discriminatory policies: Mel and Geert, Nicky and Jenny, and Shaun and John.
Mel and Geert, who met more than 30 years ago in Geert’s home country of Holland, have had to rely on work visas to keep them together, until Geert receives a devastating letter from the Immigration office ordering him to leave the United States. For Nicky and Jenny, the only way they can be together is to uproot their lives and move to Canada. Speaking of her fruitless effort to secure Nicky’s residency in the US, Jenny said, “I’m such a problem solver, so I thought there has got to be a way to get her a visa, but there was a shut door after a shut door.” Meanwhile, Shaun and John are in a long distance relationship, with John in the US and Shaun in the UK. Shaun visits John for the 90-day periods allowed for tourists as often as he can, but a new obstacle emerges when Immigration officials become suspicious and bar Shaun from further trips.
The stories featured in Entry Denied need to be told now more than ever. Barely a month ago, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced it would begin using “prosecutorial discretion” in deciding whether or not to pursue the deportation of undocumented immigrants on a case-by-case basis. While it is expected that this policy change will lead to the dismissal of cases concerning same-sex couples, there are no guarantees. The reality is that with DOMA still in place, binational lesbian and gay married couples must deal with extraneous legal and emotional battles. Even with adjustments to deportation policy, many of these couples are still living with the fear of a devastating separation.
Entry Denied is an important project that, after 9 years of work, is almost complete. Generous donations from individuals and organizations have greatly assisted the creation of Entry Denied, but the filmmakers still need help with post-production costs that will ensure these stories can be shared with audiences around the world. Director Machu Latorre has started a fundraising campaign on Kickstarter with a goal of raising $15,000 by October 8. You can donate to the campaign here, and help spread awareness of the 36,000 binational lesbian and gay couples whose voices need to be heard.