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.