Archive | Immigration Equality RSS feed for this section

Maggie’s Flip-Flop on Immigration and Baiting of the Latino Community

5 Apr

NOM's Maggie Gallagher

In case you haven’t heard or are living under a rock, a couple weeks ago the National Organization for Marriage found themselves in hot water following the release of some internal documents.

The NOM papers, which had been released as part of a court agreement in Maine revealed some rather atrocious plans to divide the LGBT, African American and Latino communities. I don’t need to rehash the story here, but if you haven’t read about it, you can check it out here, here and in the New York Times.

I want to focus for a second though on one of the divisions NOM tried to make. In the released papers, NOM states:

“The Latino vote in America is a key swing vote, and will be so even more so in the future, both because of demographic growth and inherent uncertainty: Will the process of assimilation to the dominant Anglo culture lead Hispanics to abandon traditional family values?” the document asks. “We must interrupt this process of assimilation by making support for marriage a key badge of Latino identity – a symbol of resistance to inappropriate assimilation.”

Maggie Gallagher, former President and Chairman of the the board for NOM more than likely helped craft much of this messaging. So I thought I’d do a little research into Maggie’s stance on immigration. At first I was really pleasantly surprised by a 1995 column written by Maggie. It was titled “America’s Meltdown Can’t be Blamed on Immigrants.” Of course, this is from 1995, before immigration was such a hot-button issue. In the column, she acknowledges her own status as a 2nd generation American and even goes on to mention how the post-60s immigration wave helped her “snag a husband.”

“Immigration is an easy scapegoat for our own cultural meltdown, our failure to maintain and transmit to our children a unified and vigorous vision of American history, institutions and heritage. Our system of government is under assault and our way of life threatened by ignorance, crime and social disorder. But grind immigration to a total halt, and you’ve done nothing about this real cancer eating away at the heart of American civilization.

The fault… lies not in our immigrants but in ourselves.”

Me…dumbfounded. Did Maggie just write something I agree with and goes utterly against her own party’s platform? Did she really just use our own pro-immigration argument to say that our country’s history and very founding depended on immigration? Wait…no. She didn’t “just” say it. She said it in 1995.

Upon further Googling, I find Maggie’s column from 10 years later, after George W. Bush, (her former employer) made immigration a “thing.” Maggie has clearly changed her tune and taken on the mantle of a racist, “illegals” hater.

“For me, personally, illegal Mexican immigration means that when a foot of snow falls, two nice guys show up and offer to shovel the driveway for $25.

But for my friend “Mary,” the whole issue looks different. She cleans houses and baby-sits for a living. Her son paints houses. In both cases, they are competing directly with a new flood of immigrants who don’t mind living doubled or quadrupled up (changing the character of neighborhoods) and for whom $10 bucks an hour is a premium wage.”

Happily though, Maggie’s opinions and her organization’s racist tactics don’t seem to be making much of a difference. According to a poll released yesterday from Pew Hispanic Center, Latinos support LGBT equality by a number of 59% to 30% who oppose it. Another takeaway from the study is that 3 out of 10 Latinos consider themselves “liberal,” compared to just 21% of the general population.

LGBT equality should not be a Republican or Democratic issue as all people should share in the equality offered by our Constitution. Immigration is similar in that our country is a country made up entirely of immigrants. Outside of indigenous peoples, we all came from another country…not so long ago in the grand scheme of things. It is utterly hypocritical of Americans to be anti-immigration.

GOP Triples Funding for Anti-Gay DOMA Defense

4 Oct

House Speaker John Boehner

While we don’t generally discuss how the government spends our money here at Talk About Equality, this seems a bit pertinent.

While the country continues along the road to further debt crisis, and while thousands are occupying Wall Street to demand changes to how big corporations do business, the Republicans have tripled the amount the government is spending to keep gay and lesbian couples apart.

DOMA has lost in federal court cases no fewer than 14 times, while the Department of Justice has spent millions in legal fees trying to fight to keep it. Earlier this year, after yet another blow to the constitutionality of the statute, Obama’s Department of Justice has decided to stop defending it. Within moments, John Boehner and House Republicans decided to take up the mantle of defending traditional marriage from the horrors of gays and lesbians being afforded the same rights as heterosexuals.

As there are dozens of court challenges to DOMA in the works, the cost of defending it isn’t cheap. California Republican Rep. Dan Lungren signed off on a change order to the contract with outside counsel Paul Clement, who is handling the defense of the anti-gay 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). It allows Clement’s fees to triple to $1.5 million.

John Boehner and other House Republicans decided that after Obama refused to continueHouse Republicans, if you recall, decided that since the Justice Department and President Obama refused earlier this year to defend DOMA (calling the statute unconstitutional), Republicans would hire outside counsel to do so. The proliferation of court cases ensured this outsourced defense would get expensive. DOMA is expected to arrive at the Supreme Court within a couple of years. With same-sex marriage now legal in six states and the District of Columbia, DOMA conflicts are blossoming in areas of tax law, immigration law, Social Security and the like.

House minority leader Nancy Pelosi, has urged the Department of Homeland Security to take same-sex families into consideration in deportation cases. Her constituents,Bradford Wells and Anthony John Makk are in Washington today, beginning a round of visits with congressional offices to highlight their case. They are married, gay and bi-national: Makk is a citizen of Australia who has been denied spousal immigration rights.

Pelosi today issued this statement on the GOP contract:

“It is absolutely unconscionable that Speaker Boehner is tripling the cost for his legal boondoggle to defend the indefensible Defense of Marriage Act. At a time when Americans are hurting and job creation should be the top priority, it just shows how out of touch House Republicans have become that they would spend up to $1.5 million dollars to defend discrimination in our country.”

 

Fox News’ Van Susteren Defends Married Binational Gay Couple

11 Aug

Bradford Wells and his husband Anthony John Makk (photo by Noah Berger, Special to the SF Chronicle)

We posted the other day about the tragic story of Bradford Wells and Anthony John Makk, a binational couple being split up by our federal government. Makk, an Australian citizen has been with his American husband for 19 years. This week, the Obama administration made the decision to deport Makk who was legally married to Wells in Massachusetts in 2004.

In addition to being legally married, Makk is Wells’ primary caregiver through his AIDS treatment. Their heartbreaking story is making the rounds on the internet and was featured on CNN:

http://youtu.be/tgPV8pw05nk

And in this storytelling and sharing of the couple’s life, minds and hearts are being changed. Coming from an unlikely source, Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren took to her blog defending the couple in a post titled: “THIS IS CONFUSING: PRESIDENT OBAMA SENDING MIXED SIGNALS TO GAY AMERICANS”

One other personal, not legal, observation…these two men have been together 19 years….do you have any idea how many phoney applications are made by heterosexual foreigners who come to the USA, find a spouse (sometimes money is exchanged), marrying, getting a green card and then divorcing? It is a racket. We sure don’t try and stop those fraudulent relationships/marriages with any vigor. These two men, whether you are for or against, gay marriage, have been together 19 years (and yes, paying taxes!)

Of course the blog post is just a veiled attempt to attack President Obama and vilify him to the LGBT community, but the substance of it is clearly in support of protecting our rights. Minds can change so long as we continue to talk about equality.

UPDATE: After a little research, it seems Greta is talking out both sides of her mouth (which would be an accomplishment as she usually only uses one side). Greta invited John Boehner onto her show back in March to discuss Obama’s decision to stop defending DOMA in court. In the interview, she clearly sides with Boehner and claims that Boehner (in defending DOMA) is “doing the job that the Executive branch won’t do.” So this is just another case of someone using the LGBT rights movement as a political football. Either she believes that this couple should not be separated or she believes that DOMA should be the law of the land. Talk about mixed messages…

US Gov’t Rips Man Away From AIDS-afflicted Spouse

9 Aug

Bradford Wells and his husband Anthony John Makk (photo by Noah Berger, Special to the SF Chronicle)

After some legal wins in the cases of bi-national gay and lesbian couples, this devastating story comes out of San Francisco.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports on Bradford Wells, a U.S. citizen, and Anthony John Makk, a citizen of Australia. The two were legally married in Massachusetts seven years ago and have lived together 19 years, primarily in San Fran’s Castro District.

On July 26th, the Obama administration made the decision to rip the couple apart and send Makk out of the country, citing the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act. Makk must leave the country by August 25th.

What makes this story even more heartbreaking and cruel is that Wells is suffering from AIDS and his husband is his primary caregiver. Wells told the SF Chronicle:

“I’m married just like any other married person in this country,” Wells said. “At this point, the government can come in and take my husband and deport him. It’s infuriating. It’s upsetting. I have no power, no right to keep my husband in this country. I love this country, I live here, I pay taxes and I have no right to share my home with the person I married.”

As we reported here at the end of June, the deportation case of Henry Valendia was dismissed following a series of questions asked by Attorney General Holder regarding another deportation case. Those questions were the reason Holder vacated an earlier decision to separate a family by deportation.

Unfortunately, the judge in the case of the Wells-Makk family did not see the Obama administration’s decision to no longer defend DOMA as reason enough to stop this injustice. Please read the entire heartbreaking story at the San Francisco Chronicle.

Deportation Proceedings Dismissed in Same-Sex Marriage Immigration Case

30 Jun

Josh Vandiver (photo by Jamie McGonnigal, EqualityPhotography.com)

With marriage equality now a reality in New York, our next step is securing more state victories while at the same time – overturning the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). As we discussed here recently, there have been several challenges to the constitutionality of DOMA, including now 14 federal court cases finding the law to be unconstitutional.

Another battle which is loosening the Jenga pieces under this bigoted piece of legislation is the fight for immigration rights by bi-national couples. One such case that we’ve covered is that of Henry Valendia and Josh Vandiver, a legally married couple residing in New Jersey. Under DOMA, Valendia, a Venezuelan national, was denied legal residency.

Last month, AG Holder vacated a decision made by the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA). He followed up with four questions to the board:

In the exercise of my review authority under that regulation, and upon consideration of the record in this case, I direct that the order of the Board be vacated and that this matter be remanded to the Board to make such findings as may be necessary to determine whether and how the constitutionality of DOMA is presented in this case, including, but not limited to: 1) whether respondent’s same-sex partnership or civil union qualifies him to be considered a “spouse” under New Jersey law; 2) whether, absent the requirements of DOMA, respondent’s same-sex partnership or civil union would qualify him to be considered a “spouse” under the Immigration and Nationality Act; 3) what, if any, impact the timing of respondent’s civil union should have on his request for that discretionary relief; and 4) whether, if he had a “qualifying relative,” the respondent would be able to satisfy the exceptional and unusual hardship requirement for cancellation of removal.

While there is no news as to any answers received by AG Holder, some incredible news came to the Valencia-Vandiver family yesterday in the form of a dismissal by Jane H. Minichiello, the chief counsel at the Newark office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and arm of the Homeland Security Department. The judge granted the motion to close the case on June 13th and the couple’s lawyer, Lavi Soloway received official copy of the order yesterday. While the decision was confirmed, no further information on future similar immigration cases was given.

According to the New York Times, Mr. Valendia said: “I can start breathing now after so many months of fighting. I was holding my breath for fear of any moment being sent away.” he continued by saying the decision was a “big step forward” but did not address the continued problem of whether federal recognition of marriage equality would become a reality. “The fight isn’t over.” Valendia said.

Congratulations to the Valendia-Vandiver family and thank you for the work you’ve done in advancing equality.

Evan Wolfson, Founder and President of Freedom to Marry also commented on the government’s decision to dismiss these proceedings:

“Freedom to Marry applauds the U.S. government for bringing anend to this deportation process, which threatened to cruelly separate a couple who, like so many others, fell in love, made a lifetime commitment to one another, and got married – but because they are gay, were denied the normal family immigration protections afforded other married couples.  While this exercise of sound government discretion is most welcome, Josh and Henry, along with so many other families, should not be vulnerable to the unfair treatment or uncertainty caused by federal marriage discrimination against same-sex couples.  It is time for Congress to pass the Respect for Marriage Act, which would repeal the so-called Defense of Marriage Act and end the hardship and unfairness that burden the lives of loving and committed couples.”

Moses Mworenko, Ugandan Immigrant Wins US Asylum

18 May

Kushaba Moses Mworenko (photo by Jamie McGonnigal, EqualityPhotography.com)

We are thrilled to report that our friend, Kushaba Moses Mworenko – a gay Ugandan immigrant, has won his asylum to the United States.

We met Moses last summer when he marched with us as part of the Take Back Pride campaign in Washington, D.C.. Moses has had many twists and turns over the past two years in trying to win his right to live in America.

From Alison Gardner at Venus Plus X:

After many twists and turns since early 2010 that included a 6-month stint in San Francisco that resulted in Homeland Security terminating the case and forcing the Arlington, VA, asylum office to reverse its decision in favor of Moses. This was to take only 3 weeks from the judge’s order on January 1, 2011, and took nearly 5 months, but the day finally arrived this week. Moses thanks all of you for your support over the last 18 months that helped make this all possible.

Moses continues to work valiantly on behalf of the LGBT and HIV+ community in Uganda, and surely will be able to accomplish more now that his case has been settled. Moses’ continually updated Global Sexual Freedom Annotated Bibliography remains available to anyone who needs a quick education on the challenges we face to bring about equal rights for all sexual minorities, here and abroad. Moses is also helping Get EqualVenusPlusX, and other organizations to expose members of congress aligned with groups such as “The Family” (active in 192 countries) who are fomenting hatred and erasure of LGBT and HIV+ plus people everywhere, at American taxpayers expense.

Many thanks to all those who helped expedite Moses’ case. We are very lucky to have someone like him fighting on our behalf – here and in Uganda.

Dan Massey & Allison Gardner are seeking donations of any size for Moses’ certification as a home health aid, something he can start right away so he can work while he seeks employment more appropriate to his education and experience. Please send your contribution, if you can, to Moses c/o Massey and Gardner, 1700 Kalorama Road NW #502, Washington, DC, 20009.

Congrats Moses!

UPDATE: Is DOMA Sinking? AG Holder Vacates Gay Deportation Case

5 May

While Organizations like ALL OUT and GetEQUAL are pushing to stop tomorrow’s deportation of Henry Valendia, thus tearing him away from his legal marriage with Joshua Vandiver, it seems Attorney General Eric Holder is taking further steps to discredit the ant-gay Defense of Marriage Act.

According to Chris Geidner at Metroweekly, AG Holder has vacated a decision made by a Board of Immigration Appeals decision.

Holder writes:

“Pursuant to my authority set forth in 8 C.F.R. § 1003.1(h)(1)(i), I order that the decision of the Board of Immigration Appeals (“Board”) in this case applying Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (“DOMA”), 1 U.S.C. § 7, be vacated, and that this matter be referred to me for review.”

Geidner continues:

Saying the attorney general “has taken [an] extraordinary step” with the decision, attorney Eric Berndt — the supervising attorney for the National Asylum Partnership on Sexual Minorities at the National Immigrant Justice Center — told Metro Weekly, “It adds some heft to our requests for prosecutorial discretion in individual cases in which the foreign partner” of a same-sex bi-national couple is seeking a green card because of his or her citizen same-sex partner.

Holder goes on to state four questions that he directs the BIA to consider:

In the exercise of my review authority under that regulation, and upon consideration of the record in this case, I direct that the order of the Board be vacated and that this matter be remanded to the Board to make such findings as may be necessary to determine whether and how the constitutionality of DOMA is presented in this case, including, but not limited to: 1) whether respondent’s same-sex partnership or civil union qualifies him to be considered a “spouse” under New Jersey law; 2) whether, absent the requirements of DOMA, respondent’s same-sex partnership or civil union would qualify him to be considered a “spouse” under the Immigration and Nationality Act; 3) what, if any, impact the timing of respondent’s civil union should have on his request for that discretionary relief; and 4) whether, if he had a “qualifying relative,” the respondent would be able to satisfy the exceptional and unusual hardship requirement for cancellation of removal.

This could be extraordinary news, considering Holder’s specific questions. It’s apparent from his requests to the BIA that state’s rights may be violated by DOMA, considering his mention of “New Jersey law.” Let us hope this is good news for Joshua and Henry (who is set for deportation tomorrow).

There is a rally scheduled for tomorrow in Newark from 11-12am – Department of Homeland Security/Newark Immigration Court – Peter Rodino Federal Building, 970 Broad Street, Newark, NJ. Please attend if you can and also please visit ALL OUT’s Petition to help stop this cruel punishment for a couple whose only crime was getting married.

***************UPDATE********************

According to Metroweekly’s Chris Geidner:

Attorney Lavi Soloway tells Metro Weekly that Henry Velandia’s deportation proceedings have been adjourned, in part, because of Attorney General Eric Holder’s decision to vacate the Board of Immigration Appeals decision in another case involving a same-sex couple on Thursday. Moreover, Soloway says, “The government attorney agreed to adjourn the case.”

This is excellent news and proves that when we rally and get people to join together around something, we can win. Please keep this in mind and kep working hard when we ware called to action. We CAN make a difference!

LGBT Immigrants Abused in US Custody

13 Apr

13 complaints were filed today alleging human rights abuses against LGBT immigrants in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention centers. The Heartland Alliance National Immigrant Justice Center is asking the Department of Homeland Security to investigate the treatment of LGBT people in DHS custody, craft policies to address violations and oversee implementation.

Some of the people being held are legal residents who were previously convicted of a crime – in some cases, just a misdemeanor. Some are felons who are transferred to ICE custody after longer prison sentences. Others may be undocumented aliens or people who have overstayed their visas. Regardless, all are held based on civil and not criminal offenses.

The alleged abuses against LGBT individuals include denial of medical care, discrimination and sexual assault. Steve, a gay Peruvian asylum seeker was held in solitary confinement for six weeks “on the sole basis that he is HIV-positive” according to the report. “Officers frequently prohibited Steve from leaving his cell to get his HIV medication. Steve was traumatized when he sought medical treatment and an officer refused to remove the shackles from his feet, waist, and hands despite pleas from his doctor.”

The report goes on to describe sexual assaults by fellow inmates followed by repeated denials for transfer from the victim as well as a transgender inmate being denied her hormone treatment, despite her use of hormones for ten years prior to detainment.

Heartland Alliance has set up a letter campaign to President Obama and DHS. Please take action by signing the letter and tell the President that LGBT immigrants cannot be treated like this in our country.

Gay Ugandan Man Facing US Deportation

9 Apr

Joseph Bocombe (10news.com)

The fight for amnesty from Uganda has come to the United States. Earlier this year – after the gruesome murder of Ugandan gay rights activist, David Kato, a fight to stop the deportation of Ugandan Brenda Namigadde from the UK was successful after a great deal of publicity was brought to the situation.

Uganda’s parliament, after shelving the “Kill the Gays” Bill, is bringing it back to the table. One of the bill’s authors David Bahati gathered 2 million signatures to keep the bill alive. The bill, introduced in 2009, could bring a death sentence to repeat homosexual “offenders,” as well as HIV+ gays and lesbians.

When the news of Brenda’s story reached Bahati, he said:

“Brenda is welcome in Uganda if she will abandon or repent her behaviour. Here in Uganda, homosexuality is not a human right. It is behaviour that is learned and it can be unlearned. We wouldn’t want Brenda to be painting a wrong picture of Uganda, that we are harassing homosexuals.”

Moments before her flight was to depart for Uganda, our work, led by LezGetReal’s Melanie Nathan and ALL OUT, stopped Brenda’s deportation.

Now Joseph Bokombe, an openly gay Ugandan musician who came to the US five years ago on a cultural exchange visa, is now fighting deportation. His visa has long since expired, but friends say he was afraid to go home and decided to stay. Bokombe is now in detention awaiting his deportation.

A friend of Bokombe’s and a Ugandan native, Awichu Akwanya said “Actually I don’t think even past the airport. They just get him and then put him in detention. In detention, he can get poisoned or [they will] hire some people in jail to kill him.”

This led Hector Martinez to start a petition to keep his friend here. Bokombe volunteers at a church and for several local groups, including Mental Health America of San Diego County, which is the mental health non-profit Martinez works at.

A spokeswoman for U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement released this statement to 10News:

“Over the course of the last year, Mr. Bukombe’s immigration case has undergone extensive review by judges at multiple levels of our legal system. In those proceedings, the courts have held that he has failed to establish a legal basis to remain in the United States. ICE is now in the process of seeking to carry out the deportation order handed down by the immigration court.”

I ask fellow activists, bloggers and readers to please forward this story to anyone you know, tell Joseph’s story and get people to sign this petition. This is your opportunity to save someone’s life.


Don’t Deport My Husband: An Update!

27 Mar

As many of you know, a few weeks ago, President Obama made the surprisingly exciting announcement that his Department of Justice would no longer be defending the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in the courts. This decision was made after many lower courts had found DOMA to be unconstitutional. Obama framed his change of tactics around the amount of money the administration would spend on defending a law which judges were ruling against. Obama made sure to say that he would continue enforcing the law until it was overturned, but the court battles would no longer be defended by his administration.

The religious right and the National Organization for Marriage were in an uproar. They lied and claimed that Obama had overturned the law, or that he was no longer enforcing it. And the usual rigamarole ensued.

Now, we’re happy to find that despite the fact that DOMA has not yet been overturned, in at least one instance, it is no longer being used to attack gay and lesbian families. One of the rights we are fighting so hard for, which heterosexual married people frequently take for granted, is that married bi-national couples can stay in this country and that foreign-born citizens married to US citizens will gain citizenship through that marriage.

Joshua Vandiver and Henry Valendia

A few months ago, we told you the story of Josh Vandiver, a graduate student at Princeton, and Henry Velandia, a Venezuelan dance instructor who was facing deportation despite their 2010 marriage in Connecticut.

Now, Newsweek/The Daily Beast has learned that the heads of two USCIS 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. People like Velandia might be safe from deportation while their cases are on hold.

Let’s keep our fingers crossed that Henry and Josh will be together in the US permanently.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 927 other followers