Immigration Inequality Resource Kit | January 2009
Reporting on the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) and the Discriminatory Policies Faced by LGBT and HIV-positive Immigrants
Following the reintroduction of the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) in Congress on May 8, GLAAD calls on journalists to explore the real life consequences of discriminatory immigration policies on LGBT- and HIV-positive people and their families. The severity of the current restrictions against LGBT immigrants prompted Human Rights Watch and Immigration Equality to issue a 2006 report describing the current immigration laws as “inhumane” to gay and lesbian couples (hrw.org/reports/2006/us0506). As immigration reform continues to be a political lightning rod, GLAAD encourages the media to look beyond the rhetoric of pundits and explore the lives of those impacted by laws that jeopardize the stability of binational families and place insurmountable immigration burdens upon HIV-positive people.
IMMIGRATION POLICY AND SAME-SEX BINATIONAL COUPLES
Currently, federal immigration policy refuses to legally recognize binational same-sex couples in which one partner is not a U.S. citizen. Consequently, the threat of hardship, separation, and possible exile can constantly hang over these couples and their families. The Uniting American Families Act intends to remove this threat and to foster stable families by extending immigration eligibility to the foreign partners of US citizens and of lawful permanent residents.
IMMIGRATION RESTRICTIONS AGAINST HIV-POSITIVE AND TRANSGENDER IMMIGRANTS
At this time, the U.S. prevents nearly all HIV-positive foreign nationals from entering the country or establishing permanent residence. As for transgender people, current immigration law allows them to obtain identity documents such as a green card that match their corrected gender, as long as they can provide medical proof of their current gender to the Immigration Service. For marriage-based immigration petitions, the Immigration Service often looks to the law of the state or country in which the marriage took place to determine its validity. Thus, if the couple was married in a state that recognizes the marriage as legal, it should be valid for immigration purposes, although in practice this continues to be a complicated area of the law.
LGBT AND HIV-POSITIVE ASYLUM SEEKERS
In many countries, LGBT and HIV-positive people endure persecution conducted or supported by their governments. U.S. immigration policy currently acknowledges that persecution for sexual orientation or perceived sexual orientation is legitimate grounds for asylum consideration. Though courts have also granted asylum for people persecuted for their transgender identity or for being HIV-positive, there exists no solid precedent ensuring that asylum will necessarily be considered for these reasons.
When discussing immigration laws, it is crucial that journalists don’t overlook the stories of those shut out and harmed by them. Here are a handful of potential story ideas:
• Examine the economic impact of losing skilled U.S. citizens who choose to relocate with their families to countries with LGBT-inclusive immigration policies
• Spotlight how LGBT couples are forced to separate or to move abroad in order to not break the law
• Tell the stories of those who have sought or are currently seeking asylum in the U.S. after fleeing persecution for being LGBT or HIV-positive
• Focus on the agonizing decision individuals in same-sex binational relationships must make between caring for elderly parents or legally living abroad with their partners
• Discuss how the HIV-ban compromises our nation’s role a global HIV/AIDS leader
Immigration Equality — www.immigrationequality.org
A national organization that works to end discrimination in U.S. immigration law for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and HIV-positive people, and to help obtain asylum for those persecuted in their home country based on their sexual orientation, transgender identity or HIV-status. Please also consult the joint report by Immigration Equality and Human Rights Watch in 2006 on the discriminatory immigration policies faced by LGBT and HIV-positive immigrants: hrw.org/reports/2006/us0506
Out4Immigration — www.out4immigration.org
Addresses the widespread discriminatory impact of U.S. immigration laws on the lives of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and HIV positive people and their families through education, outreach, advocacy and the maintenance of a resource and support network.
Queer Immigrant Rights Project — www.quir.org
Led by and comprised of LGBT and HIV+ asylees, asylum seekers and immigrants from more than 50 countries.
Love Sees No Borders — www.loveseesnoborders.org
San Francisco- based organization that focuses on the plight of binational couples.
Love Exiles Foundation — www.loveexiles.org
Offers community support to same-sex binational couples considering exile in order to live together as a couple.
International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission — www.iglhrc.org
Works to secure the full enjoyment of the human rights of all people and communities.
Through Think and Thin — www.throughthickandthin.net
A Documentary about the Immigration Struggle of Gay and Lesbian Couples in America
Adam Francoeur –New York
Program Director, Immigration Equality; (212) 714-2904; email@example.com
Marta Donayre – San Jose
Love Sees No Borders; (408) 592-7314; firstname.lastname@example.org
Andrés Duque - New York
Director, Mano a Mano; (212) 584-9306; email@example.com
RECENT NEWS COVERAGE
Same-Sex Binational Couples:
1) El Pais- March 5, 2007
Love Exiles Clamor for Equality
2) Los Angeles Times – June 10, 2006
Binational Gay Couples in Immigration Bind
1) Gay City News – May 26, 2006
Panel OKs Transgendered Marriage
Reports on the Board of Immigration Appeals approval of a visa petition filed by a transgendered woman on behalf of her male spouse from El Salvador, overturning a denial by the Department of Homeland Security’s Nebraska service center director.
1) Gay City News – August 31, 2006
Third Recent Gay Asylum Win
Tells the story of a Federal panel in San Francisco that finds a Mexican immigrant’s asylum claim unjustly refused.
2) 8th Circuit Court Finds for Ugandan Lesbian Seeking Asylum — March 30, 2007
HIV and Immigration:
1) The Advocate – August 15, 2006
Group at International AIDS Conference Calls for a Friendlier U.S.
1990 – Ban on gay and lesbian immigrants lifted after nearly 50 years of official exclusion.
1996 – Toboso-Alfonso precedent-setting asylum case, allowing persecution for sexual orientation a suitable ground for asylum in the U.S.
2000 – Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) first introduces the Permanent Partners Immigration Act (PPIA) in the House of Representatives. This bill, if passed, would have allowed U.S. citizens and documented permanent residents to file a petition on behalf of their foreign partners to immigrate to the United States. Additionally that year, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco rules that the federal government must grant asylum to a Mexican gay man who was repeatedly beaten and assaulted in his native country because of his sexual orientation. This decision is the first ruling where a federal court found sexual orientation to be an ‘immutable characteristic’ in an asylum case.
2003 – U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) presents a companion version of the PPIA to the U.S. Senate.
2005 – Lawmakers introduce the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA), formerly known as PPIA, in both the House and the Senate.
April 2006 – Immigration equality activists participate in marches in across the country after lawmakers propose sweeping anti-immigration bills.
May 2006 – Human Rights Watch and Immigration Equality issue a report the calls United States immigration laws ‘inhumane’ to gay and lesbian couples.
May 2007 – Uniting American Families Act reintroduced to Congress
Published May 2007