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/.

 

 

Film Discussion: When Abortion Was Illegal

March 26, 2017
· 11 rsvps

Directed by Dorothy Fadiman, When Abortion Was Illegal (1992, nominated for an Academy Award, Best Documentary Short Subject) reveals through first-person accounts the experiences of women seeking abortion before the Supreme Court legalized abortion in Roe v. Wade in 1973. We are one Supreme Court nominee away from a return in many states to back-alley abortions. Join Amanda Williams, Executive Director of the Lilith Fund, to discuss challenges to reproductive justice and abortion access. (Lilith Fund funds abortions for women in need in the Central and South Texas area.) Learn about how to participate in April Bowl-A-Thons to raise funds for low-income women. View the film here for free before the discussion. 8 ET/7 CT/6 MT/5 PT.

DSA New Member Orientation Call

March 30, 2017
· 26 rsvps

You've joined DSA - Great. Now register for this New Member Orientation call and find out more about our politics and our vision.  And, most importantly, how you can become involved.  9:30 PM ET; 8:30 PM CT; 7:30 PM MT; 6:30 PM PT.

LGBT Activism: A Brief History with Thoughts about the Future

April 01, 2017
· 50 rsvps

Historian John D'Emilio's presentation will do 3 things: Provide a brief explanation of how sexual and gender identities have emerged; provide an overview of the progression of LGBT activism since its origins in the 1950s, highlighting key moments of change; and, finally, suggest what issues, from a democratic socialist perspective, deserve prioritizing now. John co-authored Intimate Matters: A History of Sexuality in America, which was quoted by Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy in the 2003 Lawrence v. Texas decision that ruled state sodomy laws unconstitutional. 1 pm ET; 12 pm CT; 11 am MT; 10 am 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 Peg Strobel, peg.strobel@sbcglobal.net.
  5. If you have technical questions, contact Tony Schmitt, schmittaj@gmail.com, 608-355-6568.

Film Discussion: Documentaries of People's History in Texas

April 02, 2017
· 29 rsvps

Join DSA members Glenn Scott and Richard Croxdale to discuss videos produced by People’s History in Texas (PHIT), a project that brings to life the stories of ordinary people in significant socio-political movements in Texas. They will discuss The Rag, their newest documentary, which tells the story of an influential underground paper based in Austin, Texas, from 1966-77. Click here to view Part I (the early years as an all-volunteer paper covering the student, anti-Vietnam and Civil Rights movements), Part II (the impact of Women’s Liberation on the paper) and Part III (building community: covering local politics, nukes, co-ops, feminist institutions). But also check out the video on the Stand-Ins about a group of university students who led a movement to desegregate Austin’s movie theaters in 1961. 8 ET/7 CT/6 MT/5 PT. Here's a blog post about PHIT.

Introduction to Democratic Socialism

April 04, 2017
· 52 rsvps

Join Rahel Biru, NYC DSA co-chair, and Joseph Schwartz, DSA Vice-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 PM ET; 8 PM CT; 7 PM MT; 6 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 Joseph Schwartz, schwartzjoem@gmail.com.
  5. If you have technical questions, contact Tony Schmitt, schmittaj@gmail.com, 608-355-6568.

Feminist Working Group

April 12, 2017
· 13 rsvps

People of all genders are welcome to join this call to discuss DSA's work on women's and LGBTQ issues, especially in light of the new political reality that we face after the elections.  9 pm ET; 8 pm CT; 7 pm MT; 6 pm PT.

DSA New Member Orientation Call

April 16, 2017
· 6 rsvps

You've joined DSA - Great. Now register for this New Member Orientation call and find out more about our politics and our vision.  And, most importantly, how you can become involved.  8 pm ET; 7 pm CT; 6 pm MT; 5 pm PT.

Film Discussion: The Free State of Jones

June 11, 2017
· 9 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.