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Holding Hands and Praying for Change

9:00 am in Uncategorized by Amos Lim

Richard and I met in February 2002 in Calgary Canada. I am Canadian and Richard is American.

Initially, Richard was going to move to Canada to be with me, Canada has same-sex marriage and gay couples have all the same rights as straight couples. But Richard wanted to keep his job in the U.S., so he was “commuting” between the U.S. and Canada. This became very stressful, especially in the winter, when flights to and from Canada are often canceled die to the weather.

In 2005, I found a job in Sacramento, California. I was under the TN visa (North America Free Trade Agreement). While I worked for this company for 7 years, the company had no intention of sponsoring me for a green card. While I was able to travel in and out of the U.S. on the TN visa, immigration officials often informed me that I should get permanent resident status because they told me that the TN visa could be “dismissed” at any time.

“I don’t think the U.S. government and its current immigration system even understand how forcing us to separate at a time like this is
damaging our lives.”

During this time we tried to live our lives as normally as possible, Richard retired from his job and we bought a house. I kept looking for employment that would lead to a green card and in 2012 I thought I had found this. I started a new job in Southern California working on a project that seemed to have a lot of potential. We put our house up for sale and planned to move to Los Angeles. But – after 5 months, the project ended – and I was without a job and the promise of a green card.


I have now been told that I must leave the US in 30 days, if not I will become undocumented.

My plan is to return to Canada, re-establish my residency and then come back to the U.S. as a visitor in order to complete the sale of our home.

Meanwhile we are living off Richard’s retirement income.

It is a very difficult time for us right now. I don’t think the U.S. government and its current immigration system even understand how forcing us to separate at a time like this is damaging our lives. We have been together for 11 years, overcoming many obstacles, but this is by far the most difficult.

We are holding hands and praying for change – the inclusion of same-sex binationals in immigration reform – which would allow Richard to sponsor me as his partner and keep us together in America.

Are you a same-sex binational couple?  Do you have families / friends affected by this issue?  Please contact us at http://bit.ly/O4ICountMeIn if you are interested in sharing your story.

An Experiment in International Living

8:44 am in Uncategorized by Amos Lim

crossposted at Out4Immigration’s Blog

July 1987, an “Experiment in International Living,” that’s what they called the homestay trip that I took as a 16-year-old girl from the United States. I stayed with my Irish host family who immediately paired me with their 16-year-old niece, Karen. We became fast friends and found it impossible to say goodbye after my three short weeks in Ireland.

Karen and Joy when they first met, as students in Ireland in 1987. Years later they met again and have endured years of complicated visa restrictions to stay together in America.

However, life moves forward and time passes. We kept in touch through snail mail for years, finally reconnecting in person in 2001 when I returned to Ireland for a brief vacation. Karen soon followed me to the U.S. for her own holiday that same year, just after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Learning through that horrible event that life can be short, I returned to Ireland for another visit in February 2002 to explore exactly what this relationship was all about. Two full weeks of inseparable bliss; by the time my flight home landed for the layover from Dublin to Shannon I had decided I couldn’t live without her. I moved to Ireland to be with Karen in July 2002.

For a year I tried unsuccessfully to get a job in Ireland, while Karen had been laid off for months. With money running short and a job offer waiting for me in the States we decided to give it a go back in my home country. In September 2003 Karen moved to the U.S. to be with me. Yay! Or so we thought.

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Successful U.S. Businesswoman Forced to Commute to Los Angeles While Family Lives in Exile

5:59 pm in Uncategorized by Amos Lim

crossposted from Out4Immigration’s Blog

American Rita Boyadjian and her German life partner, Mara, met in Cologne, Germany at a European Gay Pride celebration in 2002 while Rita was touring Europe on vacation. They fell madly in love and began a long-distance relationship. After 18-months of flying back and forth every 3 to 4 weeks while visiting on a tourist visa, Mara was able to obtain a student F-1 visa that allowed her to live legally in the U.S. for a four-year Bachelor’s degree program in Los Angeles.

From 2004 to 2008, Mara lived in the U.S. on her student visa. During that time, Rita and Mara bought a five-bedroom home to start their family and had a baby girl. Rita’s entertainment marketing business was thriving, and she created jobs for 20 Californians. The federal government and the state of California also enjoyed Rita’s business success, as Rita paid well over $1M a year in income tax; $250,000 in payroll taxes; $25,000 in City of Los Angeles taxes; and $30,000 in property tax each year.

But the American Dream was about to allude Rita and Mara. Mara’s student visa expired in August 2009, which was also the due date month for their second child. The couple was forced to interrupt the wonderful life they created in Los Angeles, and move to Germany in summer 2009 since the U.S. does not extend immigration rights to American citizens and with same-sex, non-U.S. citizen partners.

Mara (left) and Rita (right) now live in Germany. Rita's Los Angeles-based business created more than 20 jobs for Americans, yet she has been forced into exile to keep her family together.

While Mara tried to pursue another student visa and a work visa, it was simply too difficult to raise a small child and be in the middle of a second pregnancy while going back to school or working full-time.

“I guess you can describe us as a non-traditional family with very traditional family values,” says Rita. “When we decided to have children together, we were committed to raising our children ourselves and not raising them with nannies or putting them in a daycare every day. We did not want other people raising our children so Mara could go to school or work full-time in order to fulfill visa requirements to remain in the U.S. I was earning enough money so that Mara could stay home with our children.”

Rita, who was born and raised in Los Angeles, had no other choice but to sell her L.A. home at a $250K loss and leave her thriving L.A.-based entertainment marketing business, her entire family who all live in Southern California, and three decades of friendships, in order to keep her family together in Germany, because Germany provides immigration rights for same-sex couples. Rita and Mara got married in Germany, and Rita was able to obtain a resident visa to live legally in Germany.

It is now 2013. Rita and Mara live near the city of Cologne, Germany and have three children. They have lived in exile since Mara’s student visa expired.

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Kathy And Ana: Four Weddings on Two Continents, But Still No Recognition by U.S. Government

2:35 pm in Uncategorized by Amos Lim

Ana and I “met” in 2008 while we were both participating in an online book club. Although Ana is a Portuguese national, she currently resides in the United Kingdom. We quickly became friends in the book club and in November of that year, I was fortunate enough to have a business meeting scheduled in London. It was during that trip that Ana and I met face to face for the first time. Although we considered ourselves to be “just friends” for approximately a year after that first meeting, we never went more than two or three days without corresponding with each other. At first it was only by email, but we were soon spending hours on the phone together learning more and more about each other. We quickly realized that our “friendship” was taking a turn and knew we had to meet again. This time it was in New York, where I live. It was clear to both of us that we were falling in love.

In early 2010, Ana flew over and we spent four beautiful days together. It was then that we just knew we were meant to be together forever.

A romantic moment between the couple
Two years after we first met in the book club, on May 6, 2011, Ana and I celebrated our love for each other in front of more than 100 friends and family with a formal commitment ceremony on Long Island, New York. Then in July 2011, we entered into a legal civil partnership in the United Kingdom, celebrating with Ana’s family, who had flown in from Portugal to be with us on that special day.

When New York’s legislators passed the marriage equality bill in June that year we knew we wanted very much to be married so in August we exchanged wedding vows and became legally married! Finally, in November, I went to the Portuguese consulate in New York City to have our marriage officially recognized in Portugal, one of the 15 countries worldwide with equal marriage laws.

In some sense you might say we have now “married” each other four times and our MARRIAGE is now recognized on two continents. Without question, we have the love and support of our friends and family but not the U.S. government.

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Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) for Same-Sex Binationals Introduced in Congress

12:00 pm in Uncategorized by Amos Lim

Bill with Bipartisan Support Would Give Gay and Lesbian Americans with Foreign Spouses Equal Immigration Rights

Media Contact: Amos Lim, Out4Immigration, 415-742-1626, amos@out4immigration.org

SAN FRANCISCO – FEBRUARY 5, 2013 – The Uniting American Families Act (UAFA), legislation that would provide gay and lesbian Americans with foreign partners equal immigration rights, was introduced today in the 113th Congress by Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY).

This is the seventh consecutive Congress in which Nadler has introduced this legislation, which typically garners support from Democrats, but never enough for the bill to come up for a vote. This time, however, the bill has two Republican cosponsors, and comes at a critical juncture with comprehensive immigration reform (CIR) on the table.

“Thousands of committed same-sex couples are needlessly suffering because of unequal treatment under our immigration laws,” said Nadler, a long-time champion of same-sex binational couples and their families. While many of these couples are legally married or partnered, the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) bars them from receiving federal rights, such as the ability of an American citizen to sponsor a foreign spouse for a green card.

Nadler called this current state of excluding one class of people from equal treatment under the law “an outrage”. While the constitutionality of DOMA is currently in front of the Supreme Court, UAFA could neatly fit into immigration reform overhaul and solve a problem that affects about 40,000 couples – some of whom have been forced to leave the country or overstay a visa in order to avoid being forcibly separated by the U.S. government.

Inclusion in CIR, however, is not without controversy. While President Obama has said that same-sex binational couples fall under the category of family in his immigration reform proposal, current Senate framework omits same-sex binational couples. A Senate hearing on the matter is scheduled for February 13.

Some Republicans have clearly voiced opposition. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), a member of the so-called “Gang of 8” senators working on CIR legislation, called including same-sex binationals a “social issue” that should not be part of the discussion. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) stated that he would not tolerate Republicans looking for excuses like McCain’s to avoid supporting this legislation.

Reintroducing UAFA with bipartisan support bodes well for the House to support an inclusive CIR bill.

Said Nadler, “Any serious legislative proposal for comprehensive immigration reform absolutely must include gay and lesbian couples and their families.”

Out4Immigration, an all-volunteer grassroots group that works with same-sex binational couples and their families to empower those affected by immigration discrimination to speak out, applauded today’s reintroduction of UAFA, its bipartisan support and the commitment of Rep. Nadler to see this bill become law.

“We hear every day from couples whose lives are torn apart because the federal government refuses to recognize their marriage or permanent partnership,” said Amos Lim, Community Outreach Director for Out4Immigration. “Immigration reform cannot be considered ‘comprehensive’ unless all families are included. All families means just that all families – including those that are LGBT.”

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For more information:


Out4Immigration: http://www.out4immigration.org
Uniting American Families Act, LGBT Immigration Reform, Maintains Bipartisan Support in House: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/05/lgbt-immigration-reform_n_2623557.html
Reid Blasts GOP for Blaming Gays on Immigration Bill Resistance: http://www.advocate.com/politics/2013/02/03/watch-reid-blast-gop-blaming-gays-immigration-bill-resistance
Out4Immigration blog (featuring stories of same-sex binationals): http://out4immigration.blogspot.com/
United by Love, Divided by Law (visual protest by same-sex binational couples separated by U.S. immigration laws): http://unitedbylovedividedbylaw.tumblr.com
Count Me In / Same-Sex Binationals Share Their Stories: http://bit.ly/O4ICountMeIn

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Out4Immigration is a national grassroots organization dedicated to raising awareness about the discrimination same-sex binational couples face under current U.S. immigration law and the difficulties they encounter in keeping their families together legally in this country. For more information, visit www.out4immigration.org.

Texas Man Separated From Husband Over Holidays by U.S. Law

5:11 pm in Uncategorized by Amos Lim

Texas Man Separated From Husband This Holiday Season Due to U.S. Law
Binational Same-Sex Couples to Congress: “Enact LGBT-Inclusive Immigration Reform!”

SAN ANTONIO, TX — As Americans across the country prepare Thanksgiving dishes and celebrate the holiday with family, some Americans are forced to observe the holiday alone — separated from their loved ones by U.S. law. Art, an American citizen, and Stuart, a citizen of the United Kingdom, are just one example of a couple struggling to stay together despite an unfair and unjust combination of U.S. marriage and immigration laws.

For over 36,000 binational same-sex couples, holidays are times of sadness and loneliness, as lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Americans are prohibited from sponsoring their same-sex partner for immigration purposes by the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Despite the White House’s refusal to defend the law in court, Congressional Republicans have spent $1.5 million defending the law in 14 pending cases — hitting the spending limit set forth with the approval of the Committee on House Administration (link).

This holiday season, GetEQUAL and Out4Immigration are publishing the stories of just a few of the thousands of couples directly impacted by this discriminatory law, and who could be immediately helped by passing an LGBT-inclusive comprehensive immigration reform bill. Recently, Democrats and Republicans in both the House and the Senate have talked about introducing a comprehensive immigration reform bill in the new Congressional session — and tens of thousands of couples’ lives hang in the balance as those negotiations begin.

Below is the story of Art and Stuart, a couple united by love but divided by law:

Married But Separated – Art and Stuart

I am a music teacher in San Antonio, Texas, and have spent much of my life developing a mastery of the piano, the organ, and the voice.  I also love computers and online social networks, which is where I ultimately met my [now] husband, Stuart Metcalfe(-LeSieur).

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Out4Immigration Needs Couples to Speak Up Today.

7:56 pm in Uncategorized by Amos Lim

If you are in a same-sex binational relationship – or know someone who is, we ask you to take a few minutes and read this very important “Call to Action.” Now that the 2012 election is over, and the results were very favorable to us, we must actquickly – and strategically.

Out4Immigration has always advocated a multi-pronged approach to getting our issues resolved. We have pushed for passage of an Inclusive Comprehensive Immigration Reform, supported the passage of the Uniting American Families Act, the Reuniting Families Act, the repeal of DOMA (Respect for Marriage Act) and supported the removal of the one-year filing deadline for asylum seekers. And most recently, we pushed for an abeyance policy from the Obama administration with regards to green card applications and making sure that LGBT families are included in ICE’s Deportation Guidelines (the so-called Morton Memo which was released in June 2011). These recently revised guidelines will now stop the deportation of partners/spouses of same-sex binational couples where the partner/spouse is without lawful status and in removal proceedings.

Our all-volunteer group did this through education, raising awareness, meeting legislators, forming coalitions with allies in the LGBT and immigration communities and circulating petitions on change.org.

Our last petition on change.org “LGBT Binational Couples Must Be Included in ICE Deportation Guidelines”, received about 2,000 signatures. One of our volunteers, Amos Lim, had the opportunity to deliver this, together with stories from same-sex binational couples and photos from our United by Love, Divided by Law Tumblr blog to the White House last July.

The petition signatures, the stories and the photos, together with the letter sent by Democratic House members urging for LGBT inclusion in the ICE Deportation Guidelines, helped push the Obama administration to finally officially include us in DHS” deportation guidelines.

Now that the election is over and President Obama has been re-elected to a second term, the landscape for moving our issue forward seems even more positive.

We will know by the first week of December if SCOTUS (Supreme Court of the United States) will hear all or any of the DOMA cases. This means that by June 28, 2013, we will know if DOMA is finally ruled unconstitutional and legally married same-sex couples will get federal marriage rights, all 1138 of them (including, of course, the ability of U.S. citizen to sponsor their foreign spouse for a green card).

In the week since the election, we have also seen both Democrat and Republican leaders coming out vocally in support of Comprehensive Immigration Reform.

President Obama himself said during his Victory Speech and a follow-up press conference that he wants immigration reform in the United States.

It seems from all indications that a Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR) bill will be introduced in January when the new Congress convenes.

So, today, more important than ever, we need to continue the push to ensure that:

  1. We have an inclusive (LGBT-positive) comprehensive immigration reform bill introduced in Congress.
  2. The LGBT community does not “get thrown under the bus” or negotiated away when CIR comes up for a vote in Congress.
  3. We demand that the Obama administration fully adjudicate all green card cases filed by same-sex married couples including full fact-finding, conducting interviews to determine the bona fides of the marital relationships, either by USCIS (in the U.S.) or by Consular officials abroad, and then hold a final decision on abeyance until the Supreme Court has ruled on the constitutionality of DOMA.
  4. We urge the Obama administration to open up the humanitarian parole process to partners/spouses of lesbian and gay Americans, to bring our fellow binational couples back from forced exile and to end the separation of binational couples and LGBT families until DOMA has been resolved by the Supreme Court.

To do this, we will be working with other grassroots organization like GetEQUAL and various LGBT/Immigration organizations to create and raise awareness about this issue. We need to make this a moral issue that Congress needs to fix immediately through legislation. We need to make Congress understand
that they cannot push this aside.

GetEQUAL and the DREAMers have waged a very successful campaign of speaking out, telling their stories and not taking NO for an answer! We believe that we can do something similar to their campaign so that we cannot be ignored anymore!

However, to do that, we will need couples to speak up and tell their stories to the media.

Therefore, we are putting out a call to couples who have suffered under DOMA to come forward and speak up. We can work with you to fine-tune your message as you tell your story.

Please let us know by completing this form (http://bit.ly/O4ICountMeIn). Submit the form and we will get in touch with you very soon.

Our time is NOW! Stand up and speak out. Many believe we are in the final phases of ending the terrible discrimination we have faced as same-sex binational couples due to unfair immigration laws and DOMA. Join us and be a part of the change.