A Prayer Within Immigration Reform.

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It is commonly known that an undocumented individual can obtain permanent status in the United States by marrying a U.S. citizen or Legal Permanent Resident.

Many do not consider the sad reality that homosexuals are unfairly denied the same immigration benefits  available to heterosexuals. Two personal interests are  adversely affected: 1) the U.S. citizens’ and 2) the undocumented partners’. The U.S.C and his/her partner are deprived the right to be with the person they love. After all, that is the primary purpose behind  this  provision of our immigration law– to provide U.S.C.’s and their chosen partners in life to be able to love each other on a long term basis.

Two-pronged,  Powerful Opposition

It simply makes sense to extend marriage-related immigration benefits to homosexuals. Yet, attempting to  do this clashes with two veins of powerful, emotion-based opposition. The two are not mutually exclusive. For example, the Catholic Church–a reliable ally of the undocumented immigrant population–would strongly oppose marriage immigration benefits to homosexual couples. The strident anti-immigrant types would be against it mostly because they are against any type of increase in the amount of foreign individuals becoming legal residents of the U.S. Moreover, the anti-immigrant block could latch onto the religious ideology behind anti-homosexuality and use it as fuel to further their general message–immigrants are evil, etc.

To achieve LGBT equality, therefore, advocates must navigate a complex gauntlet of deeply embedded opposition. The sheer level of dauntingness is likely the rationale behind LGTB and CIR groups’ hesitation in advocating full throttle for imm. marriage equality.

From the CIR group perspective, La Mala, from Vivirlatino, directly observed why there is hesitation:

…Noorani(A CIR advocate) also had to admit that RI4A’s non-position position on LGBT inclusion in a CIR bill was to maintain the coalition intact, especially some of the religious organizations, the same religious organizations that are against marriage equity.

In other words, many advocates for CIR do not want to lose the valuable support of religious organizations. This tactic is logical and practical, yet it is unfortunate and a testament to the seriously limited effectiveness of advocating for substantial improvements in our country via legislation. Religious beliefs should not dictate what one(here the advocates for CIR) would otherwise believe is justified and the right choice.

LGBT groups in the U.S., on the other hand, face their own separate opposition, apart from the immigration sphere. American citizens still face expansive persecution through vast swaths of the United States solely on account of their being part of the LGBT community. A simple trip to rural Ohio proved that for me, where gay children are disowned by their families. Pervasive oppression of Homosexuals is all too clear from the recent spat of reversals in progress in their fight for regular marriage equality.(California, Virginia, and Maine come to mind–all rolled back rights and/or protections for homosexuals). In essence, to fully embrace passing CIR with full inclusion of LGBT individuals, a fight must be fought on two fronts.

There are only so many resources that can be used, and unfortunately an order of priority is what many resort to.The complexity of the confluence of homosexuality and immigration is adeptly described by Prerna Lal of change.org, where she discussed the particular dilemma of Juan and Felipe, a  gay couple, one of which is a documented and the other not:

Felipe is still undocumented because Juan is queer male and they are in a same-sex relationship — these multi-dimensional identities are so intrinsically linked that it is hard to elevate one over the other, let alone rank them

Yet, hope lives on.

Asylum Law: A Vehicle to Immigration Marriage Equality

To receive political asylum in the United States, an individual must have suffered past persecution or have a well-founded fear of future persecution on account of race, ethnicity, religion, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group. Homosexuals are eligible for asylum because they fit into the definition of “membership in a particular social group”. One definition states a particular social group as follows:

“a group of persons who share a common characteristic other than their risk of being persecuted, or who are perceived as a group by society. The characteristic will often be on which is innate, unchangeable, or which is otherwise fundamental to identity, conscience or the exercise of human rights”

U.S. federal law recognizes Homosexuals as a particular social group. In the context of asylum, our government has deemed Homosexuals worthy of protection from persecution. This recognition can and should be extended to immigration benefits obtained through marriage as well the benefit of marriage for U.S.C. homosexuals in general.

First, to the general marriage question.  The federal government is willing to protect homosexuals of other countries from persecution and therefore should do the same for its own citizens. The U.S. governments’  denial of the right to marry for LGBT individuals is tantamount to de facto persecution; opposition groups to same-sex marriage are motivated by a hostile opinion of homosexuals.(this is clear from the utter lack of rational arguments against gay marriage) Therefore, when the government fails to act in providing  official recognition of homosexuals as a legitimate, equal group in society, it implicitly stamps its approval on the anti-homosexuals’ irrational opinions of homosexuals. Out of this can spring  persecution on account of sexual orientation in the form of what is more commonly known as hate crimes. To avoid contradictory laws, and to do what it already considers morally required(via asylum law), the Federal government should legislate marriage equality for all.

Second, to immigration marriage equality. As said before, there is no rational basis, except one which will be discussed below, to denying same-sex couples the same right to marriage benefits through immigration law. The federal government bestows asylum upon homosexuals, but then will subsequently act with its own form of persecution, albeit less severe–the denial of the right to marry someone else from a foreign country and have a prosperous, enjoyable life together in the United States.

Many LGBT undocumented individuals residing in the U.S. hail from nations(think Latin America, the whole Muslim world, and Africa) with severe, pervasive persecution of homosexuals. One might argue that these individuals should just get asylum, but it is not that straightforward. Many, if not the majority, of Homosexuals that have faced persecution in their home countries are but a shadow of their former selves.  Whatever happened to them is buried deep and will never see the light of day again, or it will take years and years till any recovery is possible. As a result, these same individuals may never apply for asylum. But they may fall in love. Recovery through love seems more humane and logical than placing your fate on a platter in front of a judge or asylum officer. For the purposes of human rights, immigration marriage benefits  for homosexuals is sound policy. By approaching this issue through a human rights lens,perhaps the ire of the anti-gay/immigrant opposition can be muted to an extent sufficient to extend the law.

One Logical Drawback

A spineless bureaucrat lurking in the deep recesses of a U.S. government building somewhere is sure to have only one concern: Fraud. If LGBT individuals are allowed to petition their spouse to become permanent residents, the possibility of fraud increases on two levels. 1) U.S.C’s  men and women may be paid money(or do it as a favor to a friend) to marry gay individuals solely for immigration benefits. 2) Enterprising individuals, who are in reality heterosexual, may dupe homosexual U.S.C’s into marrying just for immigration benefits. The fraud problem, however, does not seem to be more of a problem than whatever level of fraud there is currently. To remedy any concerns, the process could be made more vigorous overall. Besides, if it is the right thing to do, and fraud is the only concern, then it should be done post haste.


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One Response to “A Prayer Within Immigration Reform.”

  1. Immigrant kid Says:

    It fits our needs perfectly the advantage of immigration reform on the country: Greater supply of unskilled workers, a younger workforce, and skilled workers in needed sectors. But there is also a disadvantage of immigration reform like Greater poverty, more educational cost, lower unskilled wage levels, and increased danger of terrorism. Thanks to the post!

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