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For Gay and Lesbian Couples "Immigration" is a Dirty Word
Unlucky in Love: The USCIS Doesn't Recognize Domestic Partnerships
A Common experience for gays, lesbians
"I could feel my head start to pound and my mouth go dry when they told me there was nothing I could to do sponsor him," says Rob. "I am a citizen. I pay taxes. And it's just too late now. We're together. He's here...... I never thought I'd be harboring an illegal alien."
It's inevitable. Every morning when we go to read our e-mail, we find that some unsuspecting soul is about to revisit the school of hard knocks for gay and lesbian couples. Sometimes the e-mail is from an American citizen who has fallen for a Latin lover. Other times it's from a foreign national who has just received his H-1B working visa for the job of a lifetime and wishes to know how to go about applying for his life-long partner to accompany him. The short answer is: He can't.
Every year hundreds of thousands of people turn down jobs, suffer economic and emotional hardships, move out of the U.S., or become illegal aliens because U.S. immigration laws refuse to acknowledge same-sex relationships and the families that are increasingly based on them.
"She's their other mom," says Dawn, a woman whose live-in lover has a soon-to-expire working visa. "If she goes my kids are going to bawl for weeks. They'll never be the same. Neither will I. We can't just break up our family."
Even heterosexuals often face immigration problems
In most cases, that is true, unless the foreign spouse has a criminal record or the American citizen or permanent resident cannot provide financial support. In addition, those with serious communicable illnesses are barred and common law marriages are not recognized at all by the USCIS.
The former poses a problem for HIV-infected partners and the latter is the official USCIS (former INS) excuse for why immigration based on same-sex marriages simply doesn't exist.
"It's just not allowed, not for heterosexuals, not for homosexuals, not for anybody. It has nothing to do with sexual orientation," says immigration specialist Allan Whitte, who maintains that the U.S. will never have an immigration category for domestic partners.
Other countries offer immigration, based on domestic partnerships
So what can a binational same-sex couple do to live together in the U.S.?
Finding another way to immigrate
An alternative route is that of asylum. If the foreign partner comes from a country where homosexuals are politically or criminally persecuted, that individual just might qualify, but with growing awareness of this possible option, the number of applicants is increasing and it becomes more and more difficult to obtain.
Of course, the majority of aspiring immigrants will not fall into any of these categories--and until and unless gay marriages are legally recognized--they will continue to be faced with some pretty bleak prospects. Nevertheless, progress has been made over the past few decades.
Homosexuality: Once a basis for exclusion
That was the first round, hard won. Now for the second.
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