Jackie (US) and Gloria (Pakistan)

Posted on September 13, 2012. Filed under: Stories - from other sites | Tags: , , , , , , , |

Like many young newlyweds, Gloria and Jackie*, both 24, enjoy spending a lot of time together. They eat breakfast together every morning before Jackie goes to work at one of her three jobs. They text each other throughout the day and steal away together when Jackie is free between jobs. On days off Gloria and Jackie do the grocery shopping and the laundry together, or head to the beach in their North Shore community.

“We complete each other’s sentences; often we’re thinking the same thing at the same time. We’re just really soul mates,” says Gloria. “And it’s just hard to keep us apart.”

Despite their strong and loving bond – not to mention their marriage – there is one thing that could certainly keep them apart: the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Gloria is a Pakistani national and because DOMA prevents federal recognition of their marriage, Jackie is unable to sponsor Gloria for U.S. citizenship, as other Americans can do for their foreign-born spouses.

Gloria came to the U.S. on a student visa to attend college in Massachusetts.  She and Jackie met there and fell in love. Assigned as roommates, there was an instant connection on the day they moved into their dorm room, back in 2008.

“We stayed up all night, and we just started talking about our relationships, and our families, and all these things,” recalls Jackie, a Massachusetts native. “We’re kind of private people so for us to just start talking right away, it was crazy. We had a lot of things in common even though we were from two different countries.”

Among Gloria and Jackie’s common interests was the desire to be involved with their college community; both were members of the Student Government Association. They also share an interest in helping others, which led them as students to participate in a mission trip to Trinidad. Gloria helped refurbish a church in a poverty-stricken community and Jackie worked with people with HIV/AIDS, who are outcasts in Trinidad.

They became inseparable. When Gloria confessed to Jackie that she was leaving school after their freshman year because of financial problems, Jackie agreed to move with her to Texas, where Gloria’s parents had moved from Pakistan. Over the course of living with Gloria’s parents for a year, the couple realized they wanted to spend the rest of their lives together.

Gloria and Jackie also realized that they eventually wanted to get married – which they could not do in Texas. “We kind of packed up a car and just headed back up to Massachusetts and started our life from a car pretty much,” says Jackie. “We just keep going because we have just strong love for each other.”

Gloria and Jackie exchanged wedding vows in an intimate ceremony – just the two of them and their officiant – in a picturesque little gazebo on the North Shore on October 23, 2011.
While they try to maintain a normal life and routine, DOMA complicates their domestic life. Because they cannot afford the expensive tuition costs that foreign students must pay to attend school in the States, Gloria’s student visa has expired. She cannot work because she has no green card, hence Jackie’s three jobs—as a hotel concierge, a restaurant server and leading programs for elders at an independent assisted living facility. Despite DOMA, they have applied for Gloria to get a marriage-based green card and are hoping Jackie’s petition for her wife will at least be put on hold, enabling Gloria to stay with Jackie in the United States for the time being.

Their experience led them to become involved with Stop the Deportations, Separations and Exile – The DOMA Project, a campaign to raise awareness of, and bring an end to, DOMA’s discrimination against bi-national same-sex couples. They have been sharing their story with the news media and elsewhere with an eye toward educating people about the negative impact DOMA has on their lives.

They try not to contemplate how life would be were Gloria deported to Pakistan.

“I can’t imagine,” says Gloria. “I was nineteen when I met Jackie so all the adult life that I’ve had has been with Jackie. I don’t even know how I would function without her. I can’t imagine it, but most likely, if I end up going, I would probably face big time discrimination for being Christian and gay and a woman. So I mean, I would probably be harmed there, I feel like. I can definitely not be out there as a lesbian.”

It’s easier imagining how they’d feel if DOMA was struck down in the courts or overturned legislatively.

“It would be a huge relief,” Gloria says. “I think we would have the biggest celebration of our life. We talk about it often and Jackie always says she would cry with happiness. We’d be just really, really happy and relieved and excited for life. I think that would make us go on with our life how everyone does and how we’re supposed to. I think we can have more of a normal 24- or 25-year-old life, which we are not having now.”

*The couple asked that their last names and other identifying information be withheld out of concern for their personal situation and for the safety of Gloria’s extended family in Pakistan.

This story is located at: http://www.glad.org/doma/stories/no-normal-life-for-newlyweds-living-under-domas-threat/

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Maria (UK) and Jess (US)

Posted on September 13, 2012. Filed under: Stories | Tags: , , , , , , , |

This is a love story, but not a typical one – at least not one you read about in novels and see on the screen at the cinema. Unfortunately, our story IS typical in that it is a reality for thousands of couples whose love does not see borders or miles and their sexual orientation does not give them an option for an easy fix. This is the predicament Maria and I have found ourselves in, though compared to many others, our solution IS rather easy. I am from America and Maria is from the UK; thankfully one of us is from a country that recognizes same sex unions for the sake of immigration. However, I haven’t made the process as seamless as it could have been with my past mistakes and criminal history. Because America does not recognize same sex marriage federally, Maria is not eligible to immigrate to the States as my wife; however, the UK is far more progressive and allows immigration for same sex partners. If we want to be together that means leaving everything and everyone I have known to move to England, which is something I would gladly do, except for the bind my criminal history has put us in.

Maria and I first met on a silly internet site in October of 2009, when I was 26 and she was 33. We became instant friends, and while I had a romantic interest in her, Maria made it clear that friendship was all she was looking for. By week two of talking I insisted that Maria would become my wife (I even took to calling her My Future Wife). Maria, however, was having none of it. She did not entertain my romantic notions, and what grew in place of obsession and lust was meaningful conversation and genuine interest in the other. For a year, she was the girl I called my best friend. We emailed each other every day, and spent a lot of time on MSN messenger. We occasionally chatted on the webcam and wrote little notes to each other that we would scan to the other. She told me about her life and I told her about mine – our journeys were very different on the surface, but internally we were both going through major tectonic shifts.

She flew to Denver, CO, USA in September of 2010, and we spent three and a half wonderful weeks together. I pulled out all of the charm I could summon – I knew because of the distance I would never get another chance and it was now or never. I loved the girl, and I needed to show her why she should love me, too. Over a holiday in the mountains and a trip to the west coast our love began to develop and by the time she got back on her plane to return to London we were equally balanced. We were unsure what was to happen next, or how we would proceed, but both of us were prepared to give this a chance to grow. We did not let fear stop us or slow us down. We knew we had found love in each other, and that love was too special to the both of us to allow it to be stunted.

In December 2010 I boarded a plane to go to England. I originally thought my tourist visa would only be for three months, so when I was questioned by an entry clearance officer, I stated my length of stay to be three months. Here is where I ran into my first snag: I didn’t have the funds to support myself in London for three months and, unfamiliar with English phone numbers, I wrote down Maria’s mobile number incorrectly. I was detained by the entry clearance officer for several hours until Maria was able to contact the person handling my case. After both of us were interviewed several times, I was released into the country with a six month tourist visa!

The months that followed can only be described as the best months of my life. Both Maria and I knew we were merely in a trial period to see if we would work out. We didn’t have the luxury of merely dating and carrying on with our own lives like a typical couple – I left my own country and moved into her flat to see if we were compatible. She supported me and I became her housewife, and we found that not only was living with each other a complete joy, but that we couldn’t imagine living without the other. I decided to stay the full six months my visa allowed, and we let our relationship develop into something bigger than the both of us imagined. We realized pretty early on that we had something extraordinary, and we were both aware that the time was ticking on my visa, so we did what a lot of couples do when they feel their backs against the wall – we decided to tie the knot.

Luckily, England is not only a country that allows civil partnerships, but it allows same sex immigration. We filled out an application to the Home Office for a Certificate of Approval, which basically gave us permission to enter into our partnership, as I was technically not allowed to get married under a tourist visa. We in no way actually qualified for the Certificate of Approval according to the guidelines, and after reading that the scheme was to be abolished, we wrote to the Home Office to obtain our passports so that we could go on a holiday abroad before I had to return to the States. It took quite a few emails, phone calls, and faxed requests before our passports were sent back to us, but by April of 2011 we received them in the mail…and, along with it, our Certificate of Approval!

We set our wedding date for May 26th, 2011, at the Southwark Registry Office in London, UK. We had a wedding to plan and not a lot of time. However, typical of Maria and me, we prioritized – we went on our honeymoon before our wedding. I’m not sure why I didn’t realize I wouldn’t be allowed back in the country on my tourist visa, but it wasn’t something that we had thought through. My visa was due to expire in June of 2011, and the plan was to go on honeymoon in Portugal, fly back into London and get married, and then fly back to the US to apply for a settlement visa. It was going to be a stressful few months, but we were prepared for it. What we weren’t prepared for was the threat of not being able to get married – I was detained once more at the airport by an entry clearance officer, who was prepared to put me on the next flight back to America, this time because I did not hold the correct visa to enter into marriage in the UK. We had surrendered the actual Certificate of Approval to the registry office when we had given our notice, but we had all of the documentation from the Home Office that came with it, and after what seemed like hours of questioning and explaining, I was given a new six month tourist visa, and Maria was allowed to take me back to our home.

May 26th, 2011. It was simply the best day of my life. None of my family could make it, nor could any of my friends. Our wedding was so last minute that no one was prepared for it when I called with the news. It didn’t matter to me, though. I was setting out to do what I had said I would do two years before: I was marrying my best friend. The joining of our paths were blessed with love from my own family, and the attendance of hers. Our day couldn’t have been any sweeter.

Our lives as a married couple were wonderful, but they weren’t without more immigration drama. In July of 2011 I was served with papers informing me that I was to check in weekly in person with the Home Office, as an investigation had been launched and the process had been started to deport me. The charge on the documentation was ‘deception,’ which is something neither of us could figure out. Maria came with me to my first appointment, but she was made to sit in the front lobby while I was taken into a back room. The entry clearance officer explained to me that when I entered the country in December of 2010 I stated that I would be visiting for three months. He went on to say that I did not state that I planned on getting married. Therefore, he concluded, I had entered the country via deception. I was stunned. Those things were true. I DID state I was only going to be in the country for three months and I DIDN’T say Maria and I were going to get married because marriage wasn’t a word on either of our lips. I was in a state of shock and fear and requested Maria to be brought into the back room so that the charge could be explained to her. Her eyes were as big as mine as the entry clearance officer went through the explanation again. It was clear both of us felt like we’d been kicked in the stomach. I was made to surrender my passport and after looking through it, the officer was clearly troubled that I had another visa that he hadn’t known about. It took months for him to find my landing card and the notes that came with it – luckily the entry clearance officer at the airport wrote down absolutely every detail about my stay, why I was entering the country, our Certificate of Approval, and our intention to get married. After checking in with the Home Office every week for several months, never knowing if I was going to be deported, the charges of deception were dropped and once again, I was allowed to live out the remainder of my time in the UK with Maria peacefully…or as peaceful as you can get knowing that soon it would come to distances…

My second tourist visa expired in November 2011. I returned to the States on the 12th of November with a thick packet of prepared documents for my settlement visa application, as I was not allowed to apply for the visa to live with Maria from within the UK (this was because I entered into our civil partnership on a tourist visa). I sent my documents, along with my application, in to the British Embassy in New York. I was scared that my application would be rejected due to prior criminal convictions for offences that had occurred years before, but everything had gone our way despite the odds, so I was strangely optimistic that I would be returning home to my wife in a month. I commenced to visit family in three different states to catch up on what I had missed during the year I was away, and to say my goodbyes. Maria joined me for three and a half weeks during the Christmas holiday, and it was at this time that she finally got to meet all of my family. They instantly loved her and could see the love we had for each other, so their fears and sadness over seeing me leave the country turned into well wishes for us, and prayers for my speedy return.

The day before Maria was set to head back to London I was notified by my immigration solicitor that my application had been denied. The feeling that accompanied my rejection is indescribable – we were filled with fear and uncertainty, as well as a gut wrenching sadness. We had no idea what lay in the path ahead of us; there was no way to properly set our expectations for what would happen next, when we would be able to see each other again, and when I would be coming home. For me, there was fear over practical matters like where I was going to live – I had no housing established for myself, nor a job to supply an income. I was in an uproar over what I was going to do, and putting Maria on a plane the next day was one of the worst experiences I had ever had. Before, we had dealt with every immigration stress together, but as she went through the security gates of the airport we both knew that we were going to have to learn to rely on each other in very different ways.

It is now August 22nd, 2012. I have now been living in America without my wife, Maria, for more than nine months. That seems like a long time when I say it to myself, and it certainly feels like a long time – she and I have both grown and changed in small ways, and in big ways, too – but compared to many others, nine months is nothing. Maria and I were prepared to fight our refusal for as long and as hard as we needed to. We appealed the decision made by the embassy and my case was heard by a tribunal judge in the UK a month ago – on July 16th, to be exact. Maria was my voice – I could not attend my own hearing so not only did Maria do all of the legal work required to make a sound argument in my defense, but she argued it in front of the judge. I cannot imagine the bravery and confidence this would have taken, and my admiration of her, and my love for her fierce determination, has given me a new respect for my wife. She is always willing to fight for me, and she is always ready to do whatever is needed to bring me home. If not for her, I do not think we would have made it through this time. She is my determination and my hope when I have none for myself, she is my reminder of a life better than I can dream up on my own, she is my heart, my voice, and my smile when I feel empty.

We received our response from the tribunal judge on the 27th of July. In the response, the judge addressed my side of the argument, and the entry clearance officer’s side. I was surprised and overwhelmed to read how the judge tore the Embassy’s argument to shreds, saying that our case should never have gone to court because compassionate circumstances should have been taken into account on my behalf. Not only that, but the judge supported our argument of why I must move to the UK as opposed to Maria moving to the US (in my rejection letter the entry clearance officer stated ‘I am…aware that there is nothing in UK law or US law which prohibits your spouse from traveling to the USA and enjoying family life with you in that country.’ Our rebuttal to that statement was to quote DOMA [the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage to be between a man and a woman], and to provide proof that immigration for same sex marriages isn’t federally recognized). The judge not only ruled in our favour and has granted me my visa, she also ruled that Maria and I get a refund on the costs for our appeal. That doesn’t give us the last eight months of our lives back, but it does give us validation that we have fought the good fight.

The Home Office have 28 days to appeal the decision made by the judge, but it is highly unlikely that they will. We are still in limbo, but the uncertainty is not nearly as bad now that we know it is only a matter of time before I come home. We are now waiting for the embassy to contact me requesting my passport – once my visa is in there and it is sent back to me I’ll be on a plane home, and we can resume our lives and try to build our future together.

We’ve learned a lot about ourselves and about each other during this time of stress and strain. We’ve fought more apart more than we’ve ever argued together, but we’ve also learned how to love in different ways, and how to appreciate the other for who she is rather than who we want her to be. Our love grows stronger with the days, and though I am still stuck in America for an indefinite amount of time, and we are still unsure of when we will see each other again, we know that it is only a matter of time before I come home and our paths merge together again, this time, we hope, for forever. If there is anything worth fighting for it is a love like this – it is the kind of love one only finds once in a lifetime, and for many it never comes at all. For all of the fear, pain, and uncertainty we’ve had in our lives, we’ve had an equal amount of love, support, and hope. We do not know what the future holds for us, but one thing is for sure – together the future is incredibly brighter.

Written by Jess and Maria

This story is also located at: http://mattcarey.co.uk/maria_jess/

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Most Common Questions (FAQs) – Everyday Immigration Equality answers immigration questions.

Posted on November 30, 2011. Filed under: Resources | Tags: , , , , , |

Most Common Questions

http://www.immigrationequality.org/issues/immigration-basics/most-common-questions/

Everyday Immigration Equality answers immigration questions from the thousands of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender immigrants and their families. We also provide support for immigration attorneys throughout the United States. Below are some of the most frequently asked questions. Please read through these first, and if you don’t see the answer, then email Immigration Equality.

This site has a wealth of information for those needing information related to LGBT Immigration.

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Ashley Abraham-Hughes (U.S.) & Corinne (Britian)

Posted on July 22, 2011. Filed under: Stories - from other sites | Tags: , , , , |

Written By Miranda Leitsinger

For some gay couples, fight goes on to marry — and
stay in the US –
For binational gay couples, New
York’s same-sex marriage law doesn’t help

While many gay couples in New York tie the knot on Sunday, when same-sex marriage  becomes legal in the state, Ashley Abraham-Hughes and her wife, Corinne, will  be watching the festivities from the other side of the Atlantic.

That’s because since U.S. federal law still does not recognize same-sex marriage, and  since Corinne is British, the couple was forced to move to Britain, where their union — they wed in Connecticut in 2009 — is legal.

“While I do still love the U.S. and I always will, I am very resentful of the fact that I was effectively forced to become an expat,” said Abraham-Hughes, a 27-year-old who grew up in Pittsford in western New York and now lives in Manchester. “It’s absolutely ridiculous, and I just think the thinking on this whole issue is completely wrong.”

The couple’s plight is one likely facing many of the estimated 36,000 binational gay couples in the U.S., where the foreign partner in the relationship can face deportation and a 10-year ban from returning to America if they don’t already have or find a legal way to stay in the country.

The Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, enacted by Congress in 1996, blocks federal recognition of same-sex marriage, thereby denying various benefits given to heterosexual couples — such as the right to immigrate. Thirty-seven states have defense of marriage acts, while six states and the District of Columbia allow same-sex marriage, according to the National Conference of
State Legislatures.

(California has also ruled in favor of same-sex marriage, but the state currently does not allow them to be performed because Proposition 8, which defined marriage as being between a man and a woman, was passed six months after the initial ruling. A judge then ruled the Proposition 8 amendment as being unconstitutional, and that ruling is now under appeal.)

“There are little more than 100,000 same-sex couples who are lawfully married in the United States. As to the federal government, they are complete strangers to each other,” said Lavi Soloway, a lawyer who has worked in this area since 1993 and is a cofounder of Immigration Equality.

So for couples in which one partner is not American, state-level approvals of same-sex marriage do little to change their mmigration status. Some of those who have overstayed their visas have been deported, though in recent months a number of couples have won reprieves from judges who have indicated they are waiting to see how the law regarding these kinds of cases may evolve, Soloway said.

“It (DOMA) was a pre-emptive rollback of civil rights that is unique in our history,” he said. “In the case of immigration, it has its cruelest manifestation because it means that somebody’s husband or wife is going to be deported only because they are gay.”

Calls to the Justice Department seeking comment on the DOMA same-sex marriage cases were not immediately returned. An official of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services said the agency would continue to enforce the existing law.

But in a significant shift, President Barack Obama — who supports repealing DOMA — has given his backing to the proposed Respect for Marriage Act, White House spokesman Jay Carney said Wednesday.

“I can tell you that the president has long called for a legislative repeal of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, which continues to have a real impact on the lives of real people — our families, friends and neighbors,” Carney said. “He is proud to support the Respect for Marriage Act … which would take DOMA off the books once and for all. This legislation would uphold the principle that the federal government should not deny gay and lesbian couples the same rights and legal protections as straight couples.”

But in the current legal reality, some same-sex binational couples are going into exile, plunking down a lot of money to remain in the U.S. or fighting deportation.

This story is located at: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/43848013/ns/us_news-life/#

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Waleska (Germany) and Fabienne (US)

Posted on June 13, 2011. Filed under: Stories - from other sites | Tags: , , , , |

I want to start by saying this is probably one of the worst and best times in my life.

Last time I told you we were trying to figure out what to do to renew
Fabienne’s visa so she can stay longer. We decided to take another road-trip to
Canada. This time to Cranbrook. I asked Fabienne when was the day her visa
expired. She told me the date without looking at her passport. I asked her
again, Are you sure? and she said yes. So we plan the trip for a day before her
visa expired. We put our things in the car, and Dude’s (my dog) and left. It
was a beautiful day and we were having fun driving. For some weird reason I was
very confident that everything was going to be ok like the last time.

We were at the Canadian border. They asked us for our passports. We waited
anxiously in the car. The officer comes back and says: we can’t let you go to
Canada because her visa is one day late and we are not sure if the USA will let
her go back. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I told them we thought her
visa expired the day after. They told us to park the car and to come inside. So
we go inside and she showed us the date in the visa and yes, we were late for a
few hours. I looked at Fabienne. I proceeded to try to persuade the Canadian
border officer to let us go in Canada, I knew if we were sent to USA part there
might be trouble. But she said: I can’t let you go in Canada, you need to go
back to the USA and talk to the border officer and make sure the paperwork is
correct then you can come back. So we get in the car. I looked at Fabienne and
asked her: why you told me that we were one day early? she said she got
confused by the date since they read dates differently than in the USA. I told
her that was a big mistake and that I wish I would have looked at her visa. I
also told her, don’t worry they probably just let us go because we are late
just for hours. Inside of me I knew we were screwed but I was trying to calm
her down cause I know she gets really nervous. Her fate was in hands of the
Border Patrol officer. I was hoping we would get a good one but that was not
the case.

So we are now in the line for the US border. They asked us for our passports
and the reason why we were there. I told them that the Canadian side sent us
back to make sure she can come back to the USA. They noticed her visa was late.
The officer asked us to wait that he needed to talk to someone about it. He
came back and said: please park your car and come inside. Then the interrogation
began. I have never seen Fabienne so nervous. They asked her all kinds of
questions. Why was she trying to go to Canada? Why she was in the USA? Where
was staying at? What is her relationship with me? How is she supporting
herself? Was she trying to go to Canada to renew her US visa? Does she have a
plane ticket back to Germany? etc… They asked me a few questions as well.
There were three officers. 2 of them were not so hardcore but there was one
just trying to get any possible reason to deport Fabienne. First I thought it
was completely unfair that they did not provide her with a translator. They
were asking her all these technical questions that she had no idea what it
meant. Then they took her to a separate room and asked me to wait outside. I
knew this was bad. They asked me to search my car. I told them my dog is inside
and they said just bring your dog with you. So I did. They searched everything
and then left a huge mess for me to put back together. Fabienne was still
inside and I had no access to her. Hours passed and passed and passed. almost 5
or 6 hours later an officer came outside and told me that she could not prove
she had plane tickets to go back to Germany and that she was going to get
deported. I started crying like a little girl. I could not belive this was
happening. This was the worst that could happen…and it was happening. They
told me all kinds of lies. They said the same thing happened to another German
person a few weeks ago and he was back in the USA. They told me not to worry
but they had to do this and that she was going to be able to come back. I have
never had any kind of experience with this kind of situation. I had no idea
what to do.

Finally around 8 or 9 hours later they said I could see her before they will transfer
her to a jail. I asked why they are taking her to a jail. She is not a criminal
i said. They told me that was procedure and they did not have special place for
people getting deported. I started crying even more. They told me to wait
outside until they bring her out. He also told me that she was going to be
wearing handcuffs and leg cuffs while in the cop car as procedure but that they
knew she was not a criminal. I was in shock. I could not believe they were
doing this to her. They told me I could say goodbye to her and that I could
visit her in the jail which was going to be in Kalispell. I asked them how long
were they going to keep her in jail. They said that just a few days until they
get the plane tickets and all the procedure done. So they bring her outside and
let her smoke a cigarette with me while we say goodbye. I told her I would go
visit her and do everything I can to help her. She was very scared. We were
both crying. In fact i am crying right now just remembering this horrible time
in our life. I could not believe my country was doing this to her. I found out
how unfair and broken our immigration system is the hard way and so did she.
Please take a look for the rest of our story on my blog, Bi-cultural love and
immigration laws
on Squidoo. (photo; personal; Waleska and Fabienne;
“Fabienne and me in Germany”)

This story is
located at: http://imeq.us/our_stories/stories.html

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Susan (US) and Antien (Holland)

Posted on June 13, 2011. Filed under: Stories - from other sites | Tags: , , , , , |

I moved to Amsterdam in 1998 from New York City to be with Antien, my partner now for nine
years and the love of my life. Excuse me for gushing right off the bat, but
true love is hard to find, and sharing my life with her renews, delights and
amazes me.

I met Antien on December 31, 1989 at a New
Year’s Eve party in Brooklyn, New York. Our hosts invited the assembled guests
to express themselves on the occasion of the demise of the 1980s. Cast your
mind back – we’d just been through eight years of ketchup as a vegetable. It
was a decade when image triumphed over substance again and again, and most of
us were relieved to bid it adieu. Antien’s contribution was a modern dance
improvisation. She had recently graduated from the Rotterdam Dance Academy and
was in New York to study in the Merce Cunningham studio. She moved that evening
with a dramatic, theatrical intensity that riveted me to my seat. I couldn’t
take my eyes off her. She was so “out there” that it almost hurt to
watch. I was a complete dance novice then, and I wasn’t sure what she intended
to say about the 1980s, but whatever it was, it got my attention!

I think I loved her from the moment I laid
eyes on her, but we were friends for a period of years before I acknowledged to
myself – and to her – that I was in love. I bared my heart to her in 1993, and
we have never looked back.

By that time, of course, Antien had returned
to her native Holland. I knew I was in love, but could I actually uproot myself
to move to a new land in mid-life? Could I leave my friends, my community, my
professional life? I wasn’t sure, and so Antien and I conducted a long-distance
relationship between New York and Amsterdam for five years. [No one has ever
called me impulsive.] Fortunately, her work as a dance teacher gave her the
summers off, and my employers in a small consulting firm in New York were
sensitive to my situation. Still, for five years, we never spent more than two
consecutive months together, and probably saw each other for no more than four
months out of every year. Missing her was one of the keenest, sharpest pains I
have ever felt.

When we were together, we fantasized about
what it would be like to share a daily life, to wake up in the same bed, to
tell each other our stories at the end of the day. Just being together – what
so many couples take for granted – seemed almost unimaginable. When we parted
at Schiphol or JFK, we cried our eyes out. When we were reunited, it was
sweeter than sweet. We had a spirited, old-fashioned pen and paper
correspondence. We spent a fortune on plane tickets and phone calls.

After five years of travelling back and
forth, I decided I was ready to move to Amsterdam, a city I had grown to love.
I had lived in New York for 11 years, and I felt ready to trade in that crazy
human carnival for a city on a more human scale. I was certainly ready to be
with Antien, but being ready didn’t make it any less wrenching to leave my home
and my friends. I sorted, packed and divested. I gave up my apartment and all
of my furniture. I gave away my appliances, my television, even my desk. I gave
away hundreds of books, and put hundreds more into storage. I found homes for
my two cats. I arranged to work freelance via the Internet for my company in
New York. I borrowed a friend’s car and made a ten-day road trip to Boston and
western Massachusetts, my two other previous homes in adulthood, to say those
good-byes.

The opportunity to start “anew” in
mid-life was a gift for me. I arrived in Amsterdam when I was nearly 40, and I felt
that I was starting fresh: free, unburdened, eyes wide open. Like the first day
of school.

My life in Amsterdam is rich and growing,
and I am grateful for it. I love riding a bicycle everywhere. I love living in
a city that is just so damned cute. Getting acquainted with a new culture is
endlessly fascinating (and occasionally vexing). Making new friends reminds me
that everyday of our lives is a new act of creation. The language…now that has
been a struggle. Learning Dutch has been completely humbling, particularly for
a perfectionistic verbal person like me. I don’t know if I’ll ever achieve my
goal of speaking with effortless mastery, but I now speak with reasonable
competence. And I’m learning to let that be good enough, for now. Making a
second language my own has been, in many ways, like all good process projects,
its own reward.

But I also gave up much to be here. When
people ask me what I miss most, I joke and say half-and-half in my coffee. I do
miss half-and-half, but of course I miss people the most. Sometimes I ache for
the friends who have known me 15, 20, even 25 years. That kind of intimacy,
that kind of deep knowing, is irreplaceable. I see family in California at most
once a year, my nieces and nephews are growing half a world away, and that is
also a loss. I spend considerable time and resources every year travelling back
to the US to maintain my relationships and connections there.

I don’t know if Antien and I would choose to
live in the United States now if we could – Dubya is making this a particularly
easy time for me, personally, to be an expatriate – but the point is, we don’t
have the choice. The Netherlands recognizes our relationship and welcomes me as
her partner, and in the United States our commitment to each other has no standing.

Even my closest friends and family regard my
decision to move here as a choice, which in a way, of course, it was. I think
of it as a choice, too. No one held a gun to my head. But it was not an
entirely free choice. I think of it as a compelled choice. If I wanted to have
a daily life with Antien, it was the only choice I had. Does one option
constitute a choice? The longer I am here, the more it sinks in: I may call
Amsterdam home for the rest of my life because my own country doesn’t, can’t,
won’t see me.

– Susan

Susan posted this story at the following
URL: http://loveexiles.org/Susan_story.htm

 

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Anonymous (Britain) and Anonymous (US)

Posted on October 20, 2010. Filed under: Stories - from other sites | Tags: , , , , , , , |

 I was required to visit America under the ‘Visa Waiver Program’ for no more than 90 days at a time, under the guise that I was simply entering for a vacation. This made a stressful and expensive relationship. While I was forced to quit my job in Britain to spend time in the States, I could not work, drive, own a cell phone or even a bank account in America – all the things most people take for granted. My partner was powerless to do anything to help.

Fortunately Britain is more equality-minded and I was able to sponsor my American partner after we could prove that we’d been together two years. This was extremely difficult, as the American way of life does not facilitate gay relationships to even help with the paper work.

By the end of 2005 Britain will drop the two-year waiting-period on gay relationships, and civil partnerships will be an option for bi-national gay couples to remain together.

America is severely lagging behind the rest of the western world. While Canada, Netherlands and Spain forge ahead with gay marriages, many other countries have civil partnerships and are opening up their laws to allow for equal rights for gay partners.

Meanwhile when visiting America for a two-week vacation last week, I was refused entry in Atlanta. I was searched, detained, fingerprinted, photographed, had my passport marked, and returned on the next flight back to the United Kingdom at a personal cost to me of $5,000.00.

After all the stress and financial burden we have been through with travel expenses and only one of us working, it seems that Homeland Security simply didn’t believe that we had actually managed to stay together legally as a couple for over three years. Therefore they cancelled my vacation under suspicion I was working in America.

The experience was extremely distressing. To add to this, two US Federal Marshals visited my American partner the following day. He was taped and interviewed and forced to provide his banking and employment information. Since then his mobile phone displays “ALERT” when he places a telephone call. The next day he received a letter from the IRS advising that his tax records are being audited for the previous ten years. What a coincidence!

The American government has singled out gay couples for mistreatment. We have been careful to abide by every law and hurdle placed in front of us and we are still being treated as criminals.

We have now decided to pay off my partner’s house in America and sell it for a tidy profit. My partner has wiped out his fairly substantial retirement investments and transferred the money into Britain where he’s happy to invest it.

The American government has lost my partner’s college education knowledge, personal business and future tax dollars. It has completely missed out on all the benefits I could have provided a community.

In the meantime, Homeland Security runs a green-card lottery for the world, including Islamic countries and the Middle East – and Osama Bin Laden is on the loose four years after 9/11.

My partner and I are happily settled in the UK. Our country treats us as a real family. We hold hands in the street and we speak to government departments on each other’s behalf. My partner has free healthcare and we have merged bank accounts, bills, rent, tax, etc. Most importantly we are together safe and happy.

We are not the only American bi-national couple that is suffering at the hands of the current laws in the United States. While America likes to send out a happy message that it is a beacon of freedom, the reality is that this message is old and rusty. American law is actually full of persecution and hate. Other countries in the world truly honor freedom for their people. America needs to update and amend its laws to match its rhetoric and stop treating its own citizens like prisoners in their country.

My partner is American, and loves his country. He misses his family and friends there. It’s time that Americans stop hating each other’s lifestyles and start treating their fellow citizens with true equality. I believe this needs to start at the top, where we pray for equal governmental laws for gay and straight people alike. Maybe then love and equality will eventually filter down to ordinary people on the street.

– Anonymous UK citizen in London, England

Information posted at: http://loveexiles.org/UK_US_story.htm

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Claudia (Germany) and I (U.S.)

Posted on April 17, 2010. Filed under: Stories - from other sites | Tags: , , , |

Claudia and I met over the Internet in 1996. I was in Los Angeles and Claudia was in Bergheim, a little city outside Cologne, Germany. I never thought I would fall in love over the Internet, but it happened. After chatting for hours online, Claudia called me on the phone and invited me to visit her in Germany to go to a Melissa Etheridge concert. I was nervous at first but I accepted her gracious invitation.

The flight from Los Angeles to Frankfurt felt like an eternity! From the instant we saw each other in the airport, it was love at first sight. After meeting in person for the first time it reconfirmed all the feelings we had for each other when we were just communicating over the phone or on the Internet. So begun our love story and as well all the challenges that you face being a binational same sex couple.

After six months of being apart, Claudia got a student visa and was able to move to Los Angeles. Her student visa lasted for three years and then ran out at the beginning of 2000. At this point we were faced with the most difficult decision, whether I should move to Germany or stay in L.A.. The choice was clear to me. There was no way I wanted to end the most important relationship in my life.

Doing extensive research on gay rights in Germany, we discovered that Germany was in the process of giving legal rights to same sex partners. So we packed up all our things (including our cat and dog) and moved to Bergheim. It has been very challenging moving to another country, learning a new language and essentially starting all over again.

In August 2001 Germany passed a law giving gay and lesbians the right to enter into a civil union (or legal partnership) and receive many of the same rights as heterosexual married couples have. We got legally partnered in November of that year. The fact that Germany has legal rights for gay and lesbian couples has made it possible for us to start a life and future together.

We currently have started a massage business together and one of our dreams is to open a gay and lesbian friendly day spa in Cologne.

Claudia and I know how difficult it is to be faced with the challenges of moving to another country, assimilating to a new culture, and figuring our all the laws and regulations that pertain to same sex binational couples. We feel honored to be involved with Love Exiles and we hope that the chapter here in Cologne Germany will bring other binational same sex couples throughout Germany together.

This story is located at: http://loveexiles.org/claudia+lynnette_story.htm

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More On: Prossy Kakooza (Uganda)

Posted on April 2, 2010. Filed under: Stories - from other sites | Tags: , , , , |

More information on the journey of Prossy has been posted.
This information was originally posted at and pulled from: http://madikazemi.blogspot.com/

Prossy Kakooza.
Saturday, 18 October 2008
Prossy Can Stay!
News from Manchester that Ugandan lesbian Prossy Kakooza has won her battle for asylum in the UK as the judge ruled in her favour and the Home Office are not going to appeal against the judge’s decision.

Prossy issued the following statement: 

Dear friends: I get to stay!! Am still in shock, and am so sure it’s going to take days to sink in. But I have not stopped smiling since 12:00pm today, and won’t stop for a while.

I went with my friend Gwen and am so glad I did because when we left I was in a sort of daze! When this woman handed me the paper and said, “You have been granted leave to remain” my jaw nearly hit the floor. Always the pessimist, I thought this was where she told me “but the Home Office is appealing”. So Iasked if they were and she said no they were not. I had a bit of a hooray shout when we got out – couldn’t contain it.

You have held me together, you have held me upright when all I wanted to do was roll up in a heap and give up. You gave me the motivation to go on and fight! Going with me to places to collect signatures, encouraging people to sign online, coming to meetings, writing statements, going to court with me, and most importantly – all the prayers. And I don’t think you have any idea how the phone calls, texts and emails help. They kept me sane.

There are no appropriate words I can use to say thank you. All I can do is pray to my God to bless you all. You have changed my life and for that I will forever be grateful. THANK YOU!

Lots and lots of love, hugs and kisses,
Prossy

She had received a great deal of support including:

  • 5200 people from countries, and church congregations, from all over the world who have signed her petition to the Home Office asking that she be allowed to stay;
  • 100s of people who have written or emailed the Immigration Minister;
  • the 80 members and friends of MCC Manchester who have supported her with their love, prayers, money and concern;
  • the 19 friends who went to court with her and helped her collect signatures on her petition at Pride festivals all over the country;
  • the ten friends who gave evidence in court on her behalf;
  • Ruth Heatley from the Immigration Aid Unit and barristers Mark Schwenk and Mel Plimmer, the lawyers who drafted and prepared her case.

 

Prossy fled Uganda after being tortured and raped by police officers.

Her family had discovered Prossy and her partner in bed together and had marched them, naked, to the police station where they were detained. Prossy was subjected to horrific sexual attacks and physical torture. She escaped to the UK after her family bribed the guards to release her – as they wanted to deal with their family shame by having Prossy killed.

The Home Office denied her asylum and the original judge believed Prossy’s claim to have been raped and tortured but felt it would be safe to return her to a different part of Uganda.

Prossy won at a hearing on 3rd July. A senior Immigration Judge dismissed a previous Immigration Tribunal ruling which denied Prossy asylum, calling the judgement “a mess”. This ruling allowed Prossy to present her claim afresh.
Posted by Paul Canning

Wednesday, 17 September 2008
Prossy Kakooza news
Prossy’s petition has thus far garnered 4, 508 signatures.

Prossy won at a hearing on 3rd July. A senior Immigration Judge dismissed a previous Immigration Tribunal ruling which denied Prossy asylum, calling the judgement “a mess”.

This ruling allowed Prossy to present her claim afresh to an Asylum Tribunal. This hearing would likely look at the possibility of “internal relocation” in Uganda and examine her identity as an out and proud lesbian in the UK.

So Prossy’s case was presented Friday 5th September at the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal in Manchester.

A number of Prossy’s friends volunteered to write statements and give evidence in person in court. The case lasted all morning, included evidence from ten people and arguments by the Home Office Presenter and by Prossy’s barrister, the excellent Melanie Plimmer.

The normal practice in the Asylum Tribunals is for the judge to reserve judgement. The Judge must make her decision in the next ten days but it will take three to four weeks before the Home Office let Prossy know this decision. This means that the judgement is issued by post some weeks after the hearing. Sometimes there can be quite a long wait after the hearing to get the judgement.

Please keep Prossy, Ruth, her solicitor, and Melanie, her barrister, in your thoughts and prayers over the coming weeks.

 Thursday, 3 July 2008
Prossy Kakooza wins latest fight
By Andy Braunston

Ugandan Lesbian Prossy Kakooza today won the latest fight in her battle for asylum in the UK.

A senior immigration judge dismissed a previous Immigration Tribunal ruling, denying Prossy asylum, calling the judgement “a mess”.

Prossy fled Uganda after being tortured and raped by police officers.

Her family had discovered Prossy and her partner in bed together and had marched them, naked, to the police station where they were detained. Prossy was subjected to horrific sexual attacks and physical torture. She escaped to the UK after her family bribed the guards to release her – as they wanted to deal with their family shame by having Prossy killed.

The Home Office denied her asylum but the original judge believed Prossy’s claim to have been raped and tortured but felt it would be safe to return her to a different part of Uganda.

This ignored the facts, and case law, which suggests that someone who has been so mistreated by the state is likely to suffer similar mistreatment in the future.

Today’s ruling allows Prossy to present her claim afresh to an asylum tribunal. This hearing is likely to take place in the autumn where Prossy’s claim will be looked at, the possibility of “internal relocation” in Uganda examined and her identity as an out and proud lesbian in the UK considered.
Posted by Paul Canning

Gay men and women seeking refuge in UK still get rough deal as Rainbow Flag flies on embassies

Over the past week, the UK Government has earned itself considerable praise world-wide after flying ‘Rainbow Flags’ on two embassies in Eastern Europe during Gay Prides in Latvia and Poland.

Yet while the two flags were proudly flying on embassies in Riga and Warsaw, there are gay men and women who are seeking sanctuary in the United Kingdom, having fled their countries under threat of execution or lengthy imprisonment because of their sexuality.

And they are not being given a fair and compassionate hearing.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office, headed by David Miliband, should be commended on its work in the LGBT rights field overseas. It’s recently-publish guidelines made a refreshing change.

But while the FCO takes justifiable praise, the Home Office remains, in those immortal words uttered by a Home Secretary of a couple of years ago, “not fit for purpose” when it comes to considering applications for refuge from gay men and women.

Thanks to campaigners, and considerable publicity on his case in the Scotland on Sunday newspaper, nineteen year old gay Syrian Jojo Jako Yakobv has had his “day in court” (an immigration appeals tribunal) and has been released from a young offenders centre on orders from the tribunal.

But what was Jojo doing in a young offenders centre in the first place? What “offence” has he committed?

While it is still not certain that he will be granted refuge in the UK, things are looking far more hopeful that they were a month ago.

But for Ugandan lesbian Prossy Kakooza, things are not so good.

She arrived in the UK in July last year, having fled her country after being severely beaten and burned by police purely on the grounds of her sexuality. In addition she was repeatedly raped while in custody.

Such were her injuries that when she sought medical help on arrival in UK doctors were so shocked at the extent of her injuries that the police were called.

Prossy left behind a girlfriend who is still believed to be in detention in Uganda.

The Home Office accepts that Prossy was brutally raped and burned. Yet they want to deport her back to Uganda, saying that she can settle in another town.

But a phone call to the FCO would probably tell the Home Office that there is little freedom of movement in Uganda, as we enjoy in Europe, and that a person wishing to relocate needs what amounts to a “reference” from one’s home town or village.

Meanwhile, Prossy, a 26 year old university educated Ugandan lesbian, lives in fear of deportation, via Yarl’s Wood, to Kampala.

The Metropolitan Community Church in Manchester has started a campaign “Prossy Must Stay”, and her story.

The Home Office certainly needs to answer some questions. Do they ever consult the Foreign and Commonwealth Office about situations in “problem countries” when it comes to matters of sexuality? Do they even read the “situation reports” published by such respected human rights groups as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch?

From judgements and reasons given for deportation to gay and lesbian refugee applicants – not to mention a statement in the House of Lords by a Home Office Minister a few months ago, it would seem doubtful.

UK Gay News has actually heard an immigration appeal tribunal in Birmingham tell a gay Iranian, who fled his country when the ‘religious police’ knocked on the door of his home to arrest him, that he should be returned to Iran where he could make an “application to the British Embassy in the usual way”.

And in another case involving an Iranian, a tribunal questioned the discrepancy in dates on an application and accompanying paperwork, refusing to believe that the calendar used is not the same as used in the West. Application was refused.

There might be very good reason why some applications from refugees are turned down. And it is accepted that this can be a very emotive subject.

But from where UK Gay News stands, it looks as though the Home Office is making decisions, sometimes literally life or death, to hit deportation targets, which in turn pleases the UK tabloids.
At the end of the day, the UK is not ruled by the largely xenophobic and anti-gay tabloid press.

The government should return to the traditional “British way” of compassion based on fairness and forget the emotive and ‘anti’ language of the tabloids.

One can but hope that the lead taken by David Miliband at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is noted – and acted upon – by Jacqui Smith at the Home Office.
Posted by Paul Canning

 Sunday, 8 June 2008
Prossy Kakooza Must Stay

Prossy Kakooza is a 26-year-old woman seeking asylum in the UK. She fled Uganda after suffering vicious sexual, physical and verbal attacks due to her sexual orientation.

Prossy had been forced into an engagement when her family discovered her relationship with the girlfriend she met at university, Leah. Both women were marched two miles naked to the police station, where they were locked up.

Prossy’s inmates subjected her to gross acts of humiliation. She was violently raped by police officers who taunted her with derogatory comments like ‘’we’ll show you what you’re missing’’ and ‘’you’re only this way because you haven’t met a real man’’. She was also scalded on her thighs with hot meat skewers.

Prossy was eventually taken out of prison after her father bribed the guards. Her family had decided they would sacrifice her instead, believing this would ‘’take the curse away from the family’’.

Whilst her family were making arrangements to slaughter her, Prossy managed to flee to the United Kingdom to seek asylum.

When Prossy went for treatment to her local GP’s surgery in the UK they were so shocked by the extent of her injuries they called the police.

She was taken to the St. Mary’s Centre in Manchester, and she is still receiving counselling there for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Prossy’s asylum application has been refused by the Home Office, who acknowledge she was brutally raped and burnt because of the medical evidence, but have dismissed these appalling attacks as ‘’the random actions of individuals’’, and state she can be returned to a different town in Uganda.

This judgement ignores the clear danger to gay people throughout the country where the penalty for homosexuality is life imprisonment.

Also, in Uganda, you cannot settle in a new town without a reference from your previous village, and on the basis she is a lesbian, Prossy would be subjected to similar persecution wherever she went.

We consider that if Prossy is sent back, she faces the continuing threat of incarceration, and further sickening attacks – which next time may be fatal.

Prossy is a highly educated woman who can be a productive member of society.

She has a right to be free with her sexuality, which is causing no harm to anyone, and she has a right not to be raped, attacked, or murdered.

This story is located at: http://madikazemi.blogspot.com/

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Immigration stories from the National Center of Lesbian Rights (NCLR)

Posted on March 30, 2010. Filed under: Stories - from other sites | Tags: , , , , , , |

In re M.G.
M.G. is a gay man from Mexico who came to the United States fleeing physical abuse from gangs and extortion by the police. When his mother died when he was 17, M.G. faced more physical violence from his father and his oldest brother because of his sexual orientation. Feeling desperate, he moved out and was homeless until he was eventually taken in by a neighbor in his small town of Mixquiahuala de Juarez. This neighbor treated him like a son and gave him shelter, food, and protection. Nevertheless, her sons were unhappy about M.G. staying there and would not allow him to eat at the table with them or enter their homes. By the time he was 20, he left and headed for the capital, where he found a job in an auto shop. He also lived in the shop because he could not afford to pay rent. While living in the capital, he was attacked several times by a gang for being gay and was being extorted by the police. He decided to flee to the United States and apply for asylum with the help of NCLR. His application is pending.
To follow this case please visit the following URL at: http://www.nclrights.org/site/PageServer?pagename=issue_caseDocket_inremg

In re E.G.
E.G. is a young gay man who came to the United States in order to pursue higher education from Uganda, where being gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender is criminalized. In Uganda, he was often verbally abused by his family members for being gay, and he had to hide his feelings for fear of being arrested by the police on the basis of his sexual orientation. He eventually moved to the United States, but a family friend in the U.S. found out about his sexual orientation and told his family, who were then questioned by the Ugandan police. The police threatened his family and warned them that if E.G. returned to Uganda, he will be arrested. E.G. is currently proceeding with his asylum application, which is pending.
To follow this case please visit the following URL at: http://www.nclrights.org/site/PageServer?pagename=issue_caseDocket_inreEG

In re A.C
.A.C. is a prominent lesbian activist for LGBT rights and women’s rights in Honduras. A paramilitary gang of masked, armed men attacked A.C. in her home in Honduras and sexually assaulted her while making derogatory comments about her sexual orientation. A.C. did not report the sexual assault to the police, fearing that the police would subject her to further harassment or violence. After the attack, A.C. received a series of threatening phone calls that also used derogatory terms to describe her sexual orientation. She eventually fled to the United States and filed for asylum. The Immigration Judge granted A.C. asylum, but the Department of Homeland Security appealed that decision to the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA). In March 2009 the BIA affirmed the grant of asylum, noting that it is well established that human rights violations against LGBT people are pervasive in Honduras and that the Honduran government cannot be relied upon to protect LGBT people against such harm. NCLR assisted A.C.’s pro bono counsel, Robin Nunn, in preparing her brief for the BIA. Aslyum has been granted.
To follow this case please visit the following URL at:
http://www.nclrights.org/site/PageServer?pagename=issue_caseDocket_inreac

In re Angelica
Angelica was born in Mexico City to a family that raised her with the expectation that she would get married and have children. Her family was also extremely controlling and abusive. She was not permitted to participate in any activities outside of the home and was physically abused throughout her childhood. When a rumor spread at her school that she had been spotted kissing a girl, in addition to being terrified of her family’s reaction, Angelica began facing regular harassment and even physical assaults by classmates and men from her neighborhood. After a young gay man from the neighborhood was viciously murdered, Angelica fled to the U.S. Eventually, she found her way to a shelter where she got in touch with NCLR, the Women’s Building, and Instituto Familiar de la Raza. With NCLR’s help, she filed for asylum and it was granted in September 2008. Asylum Granted.
To follow this case please visit the following URL at:
http://www.nclrights.org/site/PageServer?pagename=issue_caseDocket_inreangelica

In re Eduardo
Eduardo is a transgender man from Mexico. When he was a child, his parents often verbally and physically abused him in an attempt to alter his gender identity. After enduring this physical and verbal abuse, Eduardo left his home town for another city in Mexico. He was able to obtain a degree in order to work as a teacher, but he was often harassed because he presented himself as a male, while his ID identified him as female. In 2003, he left Mexico after receiving death threats from his girlfriend’s family. He could not start his transition in the U.S. until recently, when he was able to find the resources that he needed. He will be applying for asylum in the summer of 2009.
To follow this case please visit the following URL at:
http://www.nclrights.org/site/PageServer?pagename=issue_caseDocket_inreEduardo

The National Center for Lesbian Rights:
http://www.nclrights.org/site/PageServer?pagename=issue_immigration  
The National Center for Lesbian Rights is committed to helping overcome the immigration hurdles faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender immigrants. U.S. immigration law unfairly discriminates against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people and people with HIV and/or AIDS. Since 1994, NCLR’s Immigration Project has provided free legal assistance to thousands of LGBT immigrants nationwide. Through our national intake service, as well as through free monthly clinics in the San Francisco Bay Area, we help LGBT immigrants understand visas, asylum claims, and the HIV exclusion. NCLR also provides direct representation to LGBT immigrants in impact cases and individual asylum claims. In addition, NCLR provides assistance to private attorneys representing LGBT immigrants in proceedings before the Immigration Court, the Board of Immigration Appeals, the Federal Courts of Appeal, and the U.S. Supreme Court.

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