We Need Immigration Reform, And Also Equality
Immigration reform isn’t just about policy change—it’s about our loved ones, our lives together, and our families. My husband Henry was born in Venezuela. We married in Connecticut over two years ago, and he has lived in the US for ten years. Yet he is still in legal limbo, with no ‘green card’ or permanent residency, for no other reason than that we are a married couple of the same sex.
As a result, Henry and I, and our families, have been in limbo for years. We’re unsure whether our nation will protect us or cast us into exile. Many other families are hurting like us. We need action now on immigration reform by Congress and the President.
My husband Henry and I face the hard fact that many couples like us have had to leave the United States, the only home I have ever known, in order to be together. This threat has hung over us every day for over three years, when Henry received his first notice that the US Government—my government—was trying to deport him. But we’re committed to staying here and working towards equal treatment of our marriage (you can support our cause on Facebook at Save Our Marriage – Stop the Deportation of Henry Velandia).
My government—trying to deport the person I love most on this earth. As an American citizen, born and raised in the ranch country of southeastern Colorado, my government had always seemed a distant force, benign, even helpful at times, a source of security in a troubled world. Then I met Henry.
The moment I fell in love with a person born in another country—who happened to be of the same sex—my government took on a different face. Far from being benign, my government now revealed itself as menacing and intrusive, threatening to reach into my home and rip away my loved one, deport him, and ban his reentry into the country for a minimum of 10 years. The powers of my government were distant no longer.
It’s difficult to describe how shocked I was to go from feeling protected by my country to knowing that it could force me into exile and a fugitive existence abroad. Thankfully, through months of standing up and speaking out, and the hard work of many people who cared about us and similar couples, Henry’s deportation case was closed and we have—for now—been spared the choice between separation and exile. Tens of thousands of couples before us, and many more since, have not been so fortunate.
We need reform now. Henry and I hope you’ll join us in supporting and pushing for a comprehensive immigration reform plan that pays attention to the harms being faced by same-sex couples and other LGBT persons. Of course, from our perspective, the reason Henry and I, and couples like us, are hurting isn’t our immigration law but DOMA, the law which prevents our marriage from being recognized by the federal government. The one thing our immigration law does very well is to bring married couples together and give the foreign-born spouse a permanent and secure status—that is, unless the couple is of the same sex.
So while it’s important same-sex couples are included in a comprehensive reform proposal (as recently discussed at the Doma Project), for me the inequality facing bi-national couples like us is primarily about the rights of American citizens. As Americans, it seems to me obvious that we should be able to love and marry whom I wish and to have that love and marriage treated like every other American’s. Equally treated. That’s why I’m so passionate about seeing DOMA repealed by Congress or struck down as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.
We shouldn’t wait for the Supreme Court to act, however. While I’m optimistic the court will strike down DOMA, we all need to push our members of Congress to act now on immigration reform that will keep and bring our families together. Please reach out to your member of Congress through e-mail, a letter or a phone call and be sure they support the Uniting American Families Act, the bill which provides a framework for addressing the harms being done to bi-national LGBT families. (Click here to contact your members of Congress.)
The Obama administration can also act now. To this day, our petitions for our spouses’ green cards are being immediately denied. I’ve applied for Henry twice. Both were returned, rejected due to DOMA Section 3 (the section of the law the Supreme Court will start reviewing next month). Even though DOMA Section 3 is being challenged in the Supreme Court, the administration still isn’t taking the time to interview us and determine whether our marriages our genuine, as is done with non-gay couples, in preparation for the day DOMA might be struck down.
So while we push Congress on immigration reform, and anxiously wait for the Supreme Court to decide on DOMA this summer, it’s time for the Obama administration to start treating our green card petitions equally right up to the point that DOMA Section 3 forces the administration to deny the green card. At the very least, our petitions shouldn’t be denied but rather placed in abeyance, as Senator Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and other senators called for two weeks ago. If you feel the same, you can sign a petition to President Obama at the DOMA Project).