On the face of it, immigration would not seem to be an issue in Garden State Equality’s purview, as our organization focuses on state laws and policies. The United States government, rather than the governments of New Jersey or any other individual state, determines which non-U.S. citizens can enter and stay in the United States – including foreign-born same-sex spouses and partners of American citizens.
But Garden State Equality still gets involved. We use our power and bully pulpit to work with New Jersey’s Congressional delegation, other federal officials and national organizations to help make federal policies more friendly to the LGBT community and people with HIV/AIDS.
If you have an immigration question or would like to get involved in Garden State Equality’s Immigration Caucus, please send an email to us with your name, town and cell phone number to Immigration@GardenStateEquality.org and your identity and information will remain confidential.
In 2011, Garden State Equality worked with leading immigration attorneys and national organizations to organize actions in New Jersey on behalf of Henry Velandia and Josh Vandiver, residents of Princeton, New Jersey who got married in Connecticut. The federal government was threatening to deport Henry, a citizen of Venezuela, because Josh was unable to sponsor Henry in the way U.S. citizens are free to sponsor their opposite-sex spouses to receive a green card.
Thousands of binational same-sex couples living in the United States face that kind of painful separation. For Henry and Josh, the federal judge was wise and compassionate to adjourn their case, and keep Henry and Josh together in New Jersey. The judge cited citing changing federal law, which includes the Obama Administration’s refusal to defend the anti-LGBT so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” in court.
That said, if you are a same-sex couple living in the United States and one of you is a non-U.S. citizen, we emphatically stress that you should consult with a lawyer if you are facing any immigration situation. Current U.S. immigration law is still stacked heavily and cruelly against you. Garden State Equality can refer you to immigration lawyers in our area who work with binational same-sex couples. Again, you can email Immigration@GardenStateEquality.org and your identity and information will remain confidential.
It is imperative that we work to change federal immigration law. Garden State Equality strongly supports the Uniting American Families Act and the Reuniting Families Act that have been introduced in the U.S. Congress. These bills would allow binational same-sex couples to stay together in the United States in the same way binational straight married couples can.
There are, of course, a number of other immigration issues of concern to Garden State Equality’s members. The nation’s leading organization working on immigration issues relating to the LGBT community and people with HIV/AIDS is Immigration Equality, on whose website is information on a wide range of issues. It is the definite web resource in the field.