Immigration Equality (organization)

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For immigration equality issues in general, see Immigration equality
Immigration Equality
Logo of Immigration Equality
Abbreviation IE
Motto The only national organization in the country fighting for equality for LGBT and HIV positive immigrants.
Formation March 3, 1994; 20 years ago (1994-03-03)
Type NGO (non-governmental agency)
Legal status Non-profit advocacy
Purpose Advocating for equal immigration and asylum rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, (LGBT) and HIV-positive people
Headquarters New York City
Interim Executive Director Trina C. Olson
Staff 20

Immigration Equality, founded in 1994 as the Lesbian and Gay Immigration Rights Task Force, is a United States advocacy organization working for equal rights for LGBT and HIV-positive individuals with respect to policies maintained by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (formerly the Immigration and Naturalization Service).[1][2][3] It is headquartered in New York and has chapters in thirteen other U.S. cities.[4][5]

Immigration Equality is the only national LGBT immigration organization in the United States. According to Andrew Sullivan, it does "the lion's share of work in advocating for equal treatment for gay spouses and HIV-positive immigrants."[6][7][8]

Client base[edit]

According to Immigration Equality, there are roughly 36,000 bi-national same-sex couples unable to "secure green cards for their partners like heterosexual spouses can."[9][10] The census recorded 594,391 same-sex couples, six percent composed of one citizen and one non-citizen.[11] The 2000 Census figures are also likely lower as same-sex couples will only officially be counted in the 2010 Census and same-sex marriages only became legal in since the early 1990s in some European countries and legal in Massachusetts in 2004. The group also believes some couples did not report themselves because of fears about their immigration status.[12] According to an 2004 Urban Institute analysis conducted for Immigration Equality, researchers believe that figure could be under-counted by anywhere from 10% to 50%.[13] The 1996 Defense of Marriage Act prevents immigration officials from recognizing same-sex marriages, even if valid in other jurisdictions.[9]

Advocacy efforts[edit]

In May 2006, in conjunction with the Human Rights Watch, Immigration Equality released their report - "Family, Unvalued: Discrimination, Denial, and the Fate of Binational Same-Sex Couples under United States Law," which was based on research conducted from 2003-2006 to "emphasize and spotlight the plight of same-sex binational couples".[14] The report documented the cases of couples who hid the fact they were in a same-sex relationship when reporting to the 2000 U.S. Census because they feared anti-LGBT bias in the immigration process, as well as cases of couples who failed to participate in the census because their foreign partners were living in the United States illegally.[14] The report also cited couples who were affected by U.S. immigration policies that overlook same-sex bi-national couples completely and outlined facts about the U.S.'s current visa and immigration system explaining how LGBT people either fit into the system or do not.[14]

The group campaigned to lift the ban on travel and immigration into the U.S. on the part of those with HIV, which had been enacted in 1987 and strengthened in 1993. In July 2008, President George Bush signed legislation to permit the lifting of the ban. President Obama announced in October 2009 that the Department Health and Human Services was publishing rules that would end the 22-year ban by removing HIV from list of "communicable disease[s] of public health significance" that the Immigration Service relied on.[15] The ban was lifted in January 2010.[16]

In 2008 The group won over fifty political asylum cases where the potential deportees feared persecution if returned to their homeland.[17]

In 2008, in conjunction with the Transgender Law Center, Immigration Equality drafted Immigration Law and the Transgender Client, a manual published by the American Immigration Lawyers Association, the first LGBT publication that the latter organization has issued.[18]

Immigration Equality maintains a list of LGBT/HIV-friendly private immigration attorneys to provide legal representation for those who contact them. They also provide technical assistance to attorneys who are working on sexual orientation, transgender identity, or HIV status-based right of asylum applications, or other immigration applications where the client’s LGBT or HIV-positive identity is at issue in the case.[19][20]

Uniting American Families Act[edit]

Immigration Equality has been the principal advocate for the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA, H.R. 1024, S. 424).[21] They have worked to introduce the legislation, educated Congress members about the need for passage and documented Americans and their families affected by the issue.[21] Immigration Equality has been lobbying for the act since 2000 which would allow "same-sex 'permanent partners' to present documents – joint tax filings, property records, bank accounts – to prove their relationship and petition for a green card" the same as heterosexual couples are able to do.[22][23][24] The group placed a warning notice regarding same-sex marriage on the group's website as getting married might actually be more problematic for bi-national same-sex couples.[25] John Nechman, co-chair of Immigration Equality explained "|[M]any of the problems related to legal civil-unions have to do with “intent” under the law. “If they go and marry, when that person goes to apply for an adjustment of status or a new F1 visa, there is going to be a question as to whether he is married. And if he puts down no, he has just committed fraud. If he puts down yes, they’re going to want to know info about the spouse; and if he’s applying for a new F1, that means temporary intent. By putting down a U.S. spouse, that means that you’re intending to stay."[25] In July 2007 executive director Rachel B. Tiven was interviewed on Fox News' political talkshow The O'Reilly Factor about the legislation.[24]

There are currently 115 cosponsors of this legislation in the House of Representatives[26] and 20 cosponsors in the Senate.[27]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Estate planning for same-sex couples Joan M. Burda, American Bar Association. General Practice, Solo, and Small Firm Section; American Bar Association, pp. 179. 2004; ISBN 1-59031-382-8, ISBN 978-1-59031-382-4.
  2. ^ The End of Stigma? Gill Green, Taylor & Francis; pp.66, ISBN 0-203-88179-6, ISBN 978-0-203-88179-8.
  3. ^ Refusal to Totally Lift HIV Travel Ban 'Deeply Troubling' (archived copy)HIVPlus Magazine 1 October 2008.
  4. ^ Immigration Equality website
  5. ^ Immigration law divides gay couples Susan Carroll, Houston Chronicle, June 14, 2009
  6. ^ A Fundraiser In New York City Andrew Sullivan, 16 May 2008; The Atlantic.
  7. ^ "Immigration Equality" National Public Radio's "Here & Now", August 11, 2008.
  8. ^ A Washington Warrior Takes on the Battle of the Double-Edged Sword Steve Ralls, Ambiente, September 2008.
  9. ^ a b Gay couples forced to flee US over immigration law Michelle Roberts, June 10, 2009, The Guardian.
  10. ^ Gays push for partner immigration rights Matthew B. Stannard, Tyche Hendricks; June 6, 2009, San Francisco Chronicle.
  11. ^ Editing Unmarried Couples in Census Bureau Data Martin O’Connell and Gretchen Gooding, Housing and Household Economic Statistics Division. U.S. Census Bureau. July 2007.
  12. ^ Push for equality in gay immigration: House bill addresses problems of same-sex, bi-national couples Carolyn Lochhead, San Francisco Chronicle - Washington Bureau, June 22, 2005.
  13. ^ Watanabe, Teresa (2007-07-16). "Line in sand for same-sex couples". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2009-07-22. 
  14. ^ a b c Report spotlights GLBT immigration challenges: House bill seeks to allow U.S. citizens to sponsor foreign same-sex partners Anthony Baldman, May 18, 2006, Gay and Lesbian Times.
  15. ^ New York Times: Julia Preston, "Obama Lifts a Ban on Entry Into U.S. by H.I.V.-Positive People," October 30, 2009, accessed April 2, 2012. See also MSNBC: JoNel Aleccia, "HIV travel ban may be lifted for infected visitors," July 17, 2009, accessed April 2, 2012
  16. ^ New York Times: Scott James, "With Ban on H.I.V. Immigrants Now History, Relief and Revision," March 19, 2010, accessed April 2, 2012
  17. ^ Gay Filipino professor wins political asylum after revealing a 30-year secret of sexual abuse Jessie Mangaliman, San Jose Mercury News, 8 June 2009.
  18. ^ Welcome to Washington: GLBT immigration group expands efforts in D.C. Will O'Bryan, January 29, 2009, Metro Weekly.
  19. ^ Gay Refugees Seek Asylum in U.S.: Tell Me More - Behind Closed Doors National Public Radio, August 13, 2007.
  20. ^ [1]
  21. ^ a b Immigration equality picks up more Congressional support: Senate and House add co-sponsors, some couples are still skeptical Jessica Carreras, October 2, 2008 (Issue 1640), Between The Lines News.
  22. ^ Immigration not an option for all couples: Same-sex couples in which one partner is from another country seek ways to stay together. Amy Taxin, The Orange County Register, April 14, 2008.
  23. ^ First Ever Hearing on GLBT Immigration Equality June 3, 2009, Bob Roehr, Windy City Times.
  24. ^ a b Video clip of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor July 18, 2007.
  25. ^ a b Love, borders and the INS: You love someone who’s not an American citizen. You can’t get married. You can’t get a visa. You can’t change citizenship. Is there anything you can you do? Abby Schwartz, April 29, 2004, Gay and Lesbian Times.
  26. ^ U.S. House. 111th Congress, 1st Session. op. cit., see Cosponsors.
  27. ^ U.S. Senate. 111th Congress, 1st Session. op. cit., see Cosponsors.

External links[edit]