Sexuality, Sexual Identity and Immigration

Immigration reform legislation passed the Senate. But Right-wing culture warriors exacted a cost: the exclusion of family rights for same-sex couples, much to the anger of national and local Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgender/Intersex/Questioning[1] (LGBTIQ) rights groups. Now, following the Supreme Court's striking down the Defense of Marriage ACT (DOMA), that exclusion appears to be less problematic.

strobel_image.jpg   Peg Strobel

Those affected by this exclusion included Kelly Costello and Fabiola Morales, who married in Washington, DC, in the summer of 2011and whose dilemma was highlighted in the Washington Post. Costello, who teaches elementary school, previously would not have been able to sponsor her legal spouse Morales, who works as a registered nurse, once Morales' student visa expires. As a result, Morales would have faced deportation to her native Peru.

The Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law estimates that there are 900,000 immigrants who identify as LGBT. Of these, about 267,000 are undocumented adults, while 637,000 are legal adult immigrants. Moreover, in the U.S. there are "an estimated 32,300 same-sex binational couples in which one spouse is an American and the other a non-citizen. . . . [And] more than half have children."[2] Under the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the federal government could not recognize marriages of same-sex couples. Thus a U.S. citizen could not sponsor a same-sex noncitizen spouse under a family visa. Now, according to the Williams Institute, "The Windsor DOMA ruling has opened the door for a citizen to obtain permanent residence for a non-citizen, same-sex spouse, and expedited citizenship for a resident, same-sex spouse."[3]

Detention during deportation proceedings

Visa access is not the only issue, however. Chicago's National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) provides pro bono litigation services for immigrants, and it hosts an LGBT Immigrant Rights Initiative. As part of that work, in April 2011 NIJC filed with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) a complaint of civil rights violations on behalf of 13 LGBT immigrants, "including sexual assault, denial of medical and mental health treatment, arbitrary long-term solitary confinement, and frequent harassment by officers and facility personnel."[4]

For example, in 2012, an Advocate article reported the case of an undocumented transgender woman being held for a deportation hearing after being arrested for failing to pay cab fare. She was held for 8 months in solitary confinement in a unit reserved for male sex offenders -- for her own safety, she was told.

According to the National Center for Transgender Equality, the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003 (PREA) does not apply to many DHS institutions that house people while deportation is being decided.[5] Protection from sexual violence during detention is thus a serious matter for all immigrants, although LGBT individuals face unique threats.

Asylum

Although rights of same-sex couples were removed from the immigration reform bill in order to attract conservative supporters, some areas of U.S. law contain protection for lesbians, gays and transsexuals. For example, under some circumstances, gay, lesbian or transgender status may qualify as grounds for asylum in the U.S. An individual must "demonstrate that [they] suffered past persecution (harm directly from the government or from others that the government was unable or unwilling to control) or that [they] have a well-founded fear of future persecution."[6] In addition, one may claim asylum on the grounds of being at risk for persecution based on other people assuming one is gay or lesbian, regardless of one’s actual sexual orientation.

The experience of Romulo Castro, described by the New York Times, illuminates both the travails of LGBT asylum seekers and the possibilities for success. Castro, a drag queen living illegally in New York City, came to the U.S. in 2000 to escape sexual abuse in his native Brazil.  "I was being persecuted for being fruity, a boy-girl, a fatso, a faggot -- I felt like a monster," he reports. Castro initially did not apply for asylum, advised by advocates that his chance was slim because Brazil has a reputation for tolerance around sexuality identity. But in 2009, armed with letters from family members telling of their shame and from his psychiatrist, as well as articles documenting intolerance in Brazil, he was granted asylum.

The last several years have witnessed growing collaboration between LGBT communities and immigrant rights groups. For example, the National Network of Immigrant and Refugee Rights started its LGBTIQ Outreach and Leadership Development Project in 2009. Its goals include developing LGBTIQ leadership within the immigrant rights movement and promoting discussion and understand of these communities' issues within communities of color.

Peg Strobel is a member of Chicago DSA and co-chairs the Feminist Commission.


[1] Immigration Equality provides useful definitions, including: "Transgender is an umbrella term for people whose gender identity and/or gender expression differs from the sex they were assigned at birth or the stereotypes associated with that sex. The term may include transsexuals and others who do not conform to gender stereotypes." http://immigrationequality.org/issues/law-library/trans-manual/transgender-issues-101/. See also http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/lgbtlaw/2007/08/introduction---.html.

[2]http://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/press/meet-the-undocuqueers-gay-rights-movement-turns-to-immigration/.

[3]http://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/press/press-releases/supreme-court-rulings-26-jun-2013/.

 

 

DSA Queer Socialists Conference Call

May 25, 2017
· 30 rsvps

Join DSA's Queer Socialists Working Group to discuss possible activities for the group and its proposed structure. 9 pm ET/8 pm CT/7 pm MT/6 pm PT.

 

What Is DSA? Training Call

May 30, 2017
· 39 rsvps

If you're a new DSAer, have been on a new member call, but still have questions about DSA's core values/strategy/core work and how to express these ideas in an accessible way to the media, as well as to friends, family and others who might be interested in joining DSA, this call is for you. 

We will talk through the basics of DSA's political orientation and strategy for moving toward democratic socialism, and also have call participants practice discussing these issues with each other. By the end of the call you should feel much more comfortable thinking about and expressing what DSA does and what makes our organization/strategy unique. 8 pm ET; 7 pm CT; 6 pm MT; 5 pm PT. 70 minutes.

Film Discussion: Rosa [Luxemburg]

May 31, 2017
· 90 rsvps

Join DSA member Jason Schulman to discuss the film Rosa, directed by feminist filmmaker Margarethe von Trotta. View it here at no cost before the discussion. Marxist theorist and economist Rosa Luxemburg (1871-1919) played a key role in German socialist politics. Jason edited Rosa Luxemburg: Her Life and Legacy and has a chapter in Rosa Remix. 9 ET/8 CT/7 MT/6 PT.

Film Discussion: The Free State of Jones

June 11, 2017
· 25 rsvps

Join Victoria Bynum, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of History, Texas State University, San Marcos, to discuss The Free State of Jones. STX Entertainment bought the film rights to Bynum's book of the same title. She also served as a consultant and appears in a cameo scene. What was the Free State of Jones? During the Civil War, an armed band of deserters led by Newt Knight, a non-slaveholding white farmer, took to the swamps of southeastern Mississippi and battled against the Confederacy in an uprising popularly known as “The Free State of Jones.” Joining Newt in this rebellion was Rachel, a slave. From their relationship, there developed a controversial mixed-race community that endured long after the Civil War had ended. View the film here for $6 before the discussion. 8 ET/7 CT/6 MT/5 PT.

Introduction to Democratic Socialism

June 13, 2017
· 1 rsvp

Join Bill Barclay, Chicago DSA co-chair, and Peg Strobel, National Political Committee and Feminist Working Group co-chair, on this webinar for an overview of what we in Democratic Socialists of America mean when we talk about "socialism," "capitalism" and the goals of the socialist movement. 9:30 PM ET; 8:30 PM CT; 7:30 PM MT; 6:30 PM PT.

  1. This webinar is free for any DSA member in good standing.
  2. You need a computer with good internet access.
  3. Your computer must have headphones (preferred) or speakers; you can speak thru a mic or use chat to "speak".
  4. If you have questions, contact Bill Barclay, chocolatehouse@sbcglobal.net.
  5. If you have technical questions, contact Tony Schmitt, schmittaj@gmail.com, 608-355-6568.

Film Discussion: Pride

September 10, 2017
· 7 rsvps

Join DSA members Eric Brasure and Brendan Hamill to discuss the British film Pride (2014). It’s 1984, British coal miners are on strike, and a group of gays and lesbians in London bring the queer community together to support the miners in their fight. Based on the true story of Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners. The film is available for rent on YouTube, Amazon, and iTunes. 8 ET/7 CT/6 MT/5 PT.

Film Discussion: Union Maids

September 24, 2017
· 5 rsvps

 

Join DSA member and labor historian Susan Hirsch in discussing Union Maids (1976). Nominated for an Academy Award, this documentary follows three Chicago labor organizers (Kate Hyndman, Stella Nowicki, and Sylvia Woods) active beginning in the 1930s. The filmmakers were members of the New American Movement (a precursor of DSA), and the late Vicki Starr (aka Stella Nowicki) was a longtime member of Chicago DSA and the Chicago Women's Liberation Union. It’s available free on YouTube, though sound quality is poor. 8ET/7CT/6MT/5PT.