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Doctors with Borders – Amanda & Pallavi

9:00 am in Uncategorized by Amos Lim

Pallavi and I met in 1999 when we were students at Whittier College in Whittier, CA. Pallavi was on a student visa. She was a nerdy international student and I was a jock-ish college athlete. We may never have met at a larger school so perhaps our union was destined (cue Pallavi rolling her eyes at me). We were friends at first and kept in touch over the years.

After graduating in 2000, I pursed a naturopathic doctorate degree in Portland, OR. In 2005, I graduated from medical school and shortly thereafter took a research position in the psychology department at the University of Denver (DU), where (coincidentally) Pallavi was earning her Ph.D. in clinical psychology. We became a couple in March 2006 and were married in August 2012 in San Diego, joined by 60 of our closest friends and family.

Pallavi and Amanda are same-sex binational couple forced to make the heart-wrenching decision to live apart due to DOMA and unjust immigration laws.

We legalized our marriage in November 2012 in Vermont.

For the past six years, we have lived together in Colorado, and although Colorado does not recognize our relationship in any way, we have been lucky enough to be spared many of the trials faced by same-sex binational couples. Pallavi has stable employment as a researcher at a Denver-based non-profit institute and her employer has filed for a permanent residency application on her behalf. However, despite living in the U.S. since she was 18 years old, and earning her bachelor’s degree and Ph.D. in the U.S., Pallavi’s permanent residency application will not be processed and approved for another 7 years. Employment-based permanent residency applications are subject to per-country quotas and the backlog for India will take nearly a decade longer to be processed.

This year I was offered a post-doctoral research fellowship at NYU Langone Medical Center. Due to the fact that our marriage is not recognized by the federal government Pallavi’s status in the U.S. is solely dependent on her current employer. Thus, we are preparing to move apart from one another for an indefinite length of time so that I can pursue the very best option for my career and so that she remains “in status” in the U.S.

If we could file a permanent residency application through marriage, Pallavi would have permanent residency in the U.S. in a matter of months and could more easily switch to an employer in New York City. Yielding to the current laws of this country is threatening our marriage by forcing us to sustain a long-distance relationship living 1,700 miles apart.

I look around at our heterosexual couple friends (some of whom are binational as well) who must make difficult decisions about work and careers and none of them are forced to experience the indignity of separating from spouses because their country doesn’t deem their lives and loved ones to be valid.

I am American. My life’s work (and that of my wife’s) is devoted to improving the lives of other Americans. If being a good citizen means we take care of ourselves, each other, and our communities, then we are good citizens and we belong here together.

Please help ensure that comprehensive immigration reform includes LGBT families – like ours – as proposed by President Obama.

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.

U.S. Citizen Turning 65 Appeals to Senator Dianne Feinstein for Help

12:19 pm in Uncategorized by Amos Lim

Binational Same-Sex Couples to Congress: “Enact LGBT-Inclusive Immigration Reform!”

In 2005, Karin and I met via an online dating site. I hadn’t had much luck with online dating before, but a friend convinced me to try one more time. I gave it my best shot — a long, thoughtful profile and several photos. One day, I saw that someone had clicked on my profile, but hadn’t sent me a message. I messaged her, which freaked her out a bit. But she decided that someone who had spent so much time on their profile deserved an answer, which led to a flurry of online messages.

Messages turned into phone calls, and our ignorance about U.S. law allowed us to develop a relationship without knowledge that the U.S. government would eventually stand in the way of our being together. At the time, we didn’t know how much — the bliss of ignorance about the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was a big factor in our early days. I am embarrassed to say I didn’t know much about the issue, though I have been actively working on LGBT civil rights since the 1970′s when I came out. Karin and I have learned that many, even in the LGBT community, don’t know about the problem that binational same-sex couples face when trying to be together. In fact, most binational same-sex couples learn about the DOMA discrimination challenge the hard way — in the trenches.

Karin was visiting from France and knew nothing about DOMA. She hadn’t intended to enter into a long-term relationship — but both of our lives have changed dramatically as a result of that fortuitous click on my profile. It was only as our connection and our relationship began to deepen that we discovered the horrible truth that American citizens are forced every day to make a choice between love or country, spouse or career. I don’t think any American citizen should have to face this choice!

Because I chose Karin, I had to take early retirement and months-long forays out of California so that we could stay together.

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Daughter of U.S. Army Veteran Calls on Congress for Help

1:00 pm in Uncategorized by Amos Lim

Binational Same-Sex Couples to Congress: “Enact LGBT-Inclusive Immigration Reform!”

The United States recently celebrated Thanksgiving and, while I am giving thanks for many things, one of my greatest sorrows during this holiday season is that my loving partner, Julie, was not with me to celebrate this greatest of American family holidays. Julie is my family – my chosen family. But our laws in the U.S. dictate that, even though we could legally marry in New York State, I am unable to sponsor her for immigration as my spouse.

It may seem rather cheesy to say we “met online” but, with technology as it is today, when a mutual friend introduced us to each other via email, we found we had a lot in common and became friends. We were email friends for two years before I met Julie in person during a business trip to Australia. And in that meeting, we confirmed that daily emails and weekly Skype visits had led us to more than simply friendship. We knew it would be hard – being a bi-national couple is hard on so many fronts – but being a same-sex couple, when neither of our countries recognized us as a couple, was a harsh reality that confronted us immediately.

I lived in Hong Kong at the time we met. When I retired in 2011, we were finally able to live together full time. We share homes in both Australia and the United States, but after a grilling at the Chicago airport earlier in 2012, we realized that Julie needed to be careful.

It’s been hard over the last several months. Both of my parents have had surgery, and I have become a primary supporter. Julie was trained as a nurse but, because we fear she might be barred at immigration, we decided that only I would come back to the U.S. to help them. My parents love and trust her, and it would benefit them for her
to be able to be here. I would also benefit from her support.

I’ll be honest. I’m one of the lucky ones. Australia changed its laws in 2009 by defining a “de facto” couple as two people (opposite- or same-gender) who have a genuine, exclusive relationship, but who are not married. Australia has granted me permanent residency as a “de facto” partner. Julie and I went through a process that would be analogous to the US process for sponsoring a spouse for immigration. We proved that our relationship was genuine through a 5-inch stack of paper detailing the mingling of our finances, our daily Skype logs, our email presence, sworn support letters from her family of origin and my business colleagues, police checks (three different countries for me!), and a medical exam. I was granted a two-year temporary residency visa that allowed me to enter and leave Australia at will. Last August, that temporary visa was replaced with a Permanent Resident visa – the equivalent of a U.S. Green Card. I can live, work and pay taxes in Australia. The Australian government recognizes me as part of a couple.

Friends have asked us, “Why don’t you just live in Australia?” We could do that. But we have lives in both countries, and we have family in both countries. We have elderly parents in both countries. We have homes in both countries. If Australia recognizes us, why can’t the United States? Why must we choose one country over the other? Why should I essentially have to live in exile to be with my partner full-time?

My U.S. citizenship is very important to me. I was not born in the U.S. I am a naturalized U.S. citizen, as my father was serving in the United States Army in Germany when I was born. Even though I was born to U.S. citizens, I am not a “natural-born” US citizen. After all that my parents went through for our family and for our country, it’s very hard to be told that my relationship, my family, is not worthy to be in the United States.

The tide is turning in the United States. We celebrated with Maine, Washington and Maryland on Election Day as same-sex marriage was approved at the ballot box. We watch with fingers crossed as the Supreme Court of the United States decides whether to rule on the constitutionality of Section 3 of DOMA on November 30th. We pray for luck every May 1st when the results of the U.S. Diversity Lottery are announced.

For six years now, Julie and I have done everything we can to be together, even though U.S. laws keep us apart. We are both retired, and are watching our available funds for airline tickets dwindle. We watch the aging of our parents, and want to spend as much time with them as we can in their elder years.

We continue to hope. We continue to believe that we are human beings, with the same rights, the same dreams and the same feelings as our straight friends and family. We wish to have the pursuit of happiness in our own backyard!

We are America. We are Australia. We are a family.

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.

Peace Corps Volunteer Asks Congress to Pass Inclusive Immigration Reform

4:03 pm in Uncategorized by Amos Lim

After Giving Two Years of His Life to the Peace Corps, Former Volunteer Wants to Spend Rest of His Life with Ecuadorian Partner

Ever since I was a kid, the holidays were a blur of good food, family, and friends. Thanksgiving, Advent, and Christmas were always reminders to be thankful for what we had and share with those we love. This year, Raul and I have much for which to be grateful. For the first time since 2009, we will be sharing Christmas together. After more than a year of living in different countries, we now live under the same roof, sharing the same meals, and making friends in a new city and country—the United Kingdom, our new home.

Brad&Raul

Raul and I first met during my service as a Peace Corps volunteer in Southern Ecuador. I was working as a social worker in a rural highland community. I still remember getting that first flirtatious text message, thinking “he’s surely exaggerating his positive qualities”. Fortunately, he wasn’t! Raul really is the sweet, caring, and handsome man he said he was. After some initial hesitation on my part, we started a relationship that continues to this day, nearly three years later. For the rest of my time in the Peace Corps, Raul and I were nearly inseparable. He would often visit me and my host family in the parish where I lived. We would travel Ecuador together on vacations, visiting friends and his family on the coast.

As my service experience drew to a close in mid-2010, we started to explore our options. We both wanted Raul to meet my family over the holidays as I’d had the chance to visit his on many occasions. Sadly, Raul’s application for a visitor’s visa to the US was denied, in part because he did not have enough assets to convince the immigration officer of his return to Ecuador and in part because he was honest about our relationship during his interview. I still remember the day Raul called me with the bad news. He was devastated, and there was nothing I could do to comfort him that day. I promised I would save up and return to Ecuador if he could not see my family for the holidays.

I returned to Ecuador at the beginning of 2011 to work as a field consultant with a social enterprise initiative, earning just $200 per month. We also opened a small café/bar together in the hopes that it would improve his chances of eventually visiting my family in the US. During the next 8 months, the two of us worked hard at our day and night jobs. We were poor and tired, but at least we had each other. Acting on pro-bono advice from Lavi Soloway of the DOMA Project (www.domaproject.org) we prepared for Raul’s next visa application by securing invitations, bonds, and letters of support from family and government officials, including my Congressman at the time, Bruce Braley. We knew that chances were slim that Raul would be granted a visitor’s visa, but we had to try. My grandparents were going to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary and it was the perfect way to meet my extended family. On what I would describe as one of the happiest days of my life, Raul’s application for a visitor’s visa was granted. It was just short of a miracle.

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