Monday, June 15, 2009

While I'm At It, Let's Talk Immigration

You know, it being GLBT Pride Month and all, as Obama the Backstabber declared the other day - copying Hillary Clinton, ONCE AGAIN, after she acknowledged the 40th Anniversary of Stonewall ("Cheney Two, Obama Nothing, Clinton - a Thousand," and "In Recognition of LGBT Pride Month"), the posts keep writing themselves. We already have gaping wounds in our backs from DADT, DOMA, so let's just add Immigration to it, while we're at it (and H/T to fellow NQ writer, Linda, for the heads up on this).

Now, this isn't a new issue - GLB couples having to engage in all kinds of machinations should they fall in love with someone from another country. But this story was mighty surprising given the position one of the men held,
Gay Couples Forced To Flee U.S. Over Immigration Law
: San Angelo mayor last month resigned his post and moved to Mexico to live legally with his partner.
Right? Wowie zowie:
The mayor of this West Texas sheep ranching town offered a stunning explanation when he suddenly resigned last month: He was in love with a man who was an illegal immigrant and had gone to Mexico.

They had to move, he said, because there was no legal way for them to remain together in the United States. Same-sex couples can't secure green cards for their partners like heterosexual spouses can (emphasis mine).

"It wasn't a decision that any U.S. citizen should have to make," former Mayor J.W. Lown said from Mexico. "I left a home. I left a ranch. I left a promising political career."

His local prominence and his departure on the day he was supposed to be sworn in for a fourth term caused jaws to drop, but it also became a high-profile example of the thousands of Americans who face a similar choice — separate or move abroad .

About 36,000 Americans are in this situation, said U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., citing information from the advocacy group Immigration Equality.

He is absolutely right - it ISN'T a decision any U.S. citizen should have to make.

Now is when I interject that my sister married some guy from the other side of the world whom she met in a Star Trek chat-room. I am not kidding you (and yes, we were all so proud). Oh, he is now an American citizen - BECAUSE HE CAN BE.

And like everything else dealing with the GLBT community, it is not smooth sailing ahead:
Bills have been introduced in Congress to treat same-sex partners like heterosexual spouses for the purposes of immigration, but they are likely to face a strong fight, both from opponents of gay marriage and anti-immigration groups. The 1996 Defense of Marriage Act prevents immigration officials from recognizing same-sex marriages, even from states where they are now legal.

Proponents see the issue as a basic rights question, and Steve Ralls, a spokesman for Immigration Equality, said he thinks the best chance for the legislation is as part of a larger immigration bill.

But other immigration advocates want to keep the issues separate, fearful of bogging down an already tough fight. Kevin Appleby, migration policy director for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said the push for same-sex partners in immigration is about getting recognition in federal law for gay marriage — which he opposes.

"It's an unholy marriage of the immigration debate and the same-sex marriage debate," he said. "It's very combustible."

Oh, well, when you put it like that, by all means, let's just back burner the whole thing and continue to make the GLBT community pay a higher price than anyone else in this country to BE citizens of this country.

As for the mayor, well, evidently, his decision was a bit of a surprise:
Lown's decision last month brought the issue to an unlikely place, a town of 90,000 where ranchers and roughnecks from the vast open lands come to do their banking and send their kids to the regional state college. The town's only other recent brush with national fame came last year when it housed the hundreds of children taken from a polygamist sect's ranch in nearby Eldorado.

Before his May 19 resignation, Lown was considered a political rising star. The 32-year-old Republican, first elected at age 26, won his fourth term with about 89 percent of the vote.

During his tenure, Lown transformed the $600-a-year, part-time job from a mostly ceremonial position to a hands-on office. He actively appeared at thousands of community functions and went to Washington to lobby for the West Texas town — spending his own money after a few residents complained about taxpayers footing the bill.

"That's devotion and dedication," Councilwoman Charlotte Farmer said. "He would have gone far in the political arena in the state of Texas and perhaps farther."

Lown's sexuality never really became an issue. Some people didn't know he was gay. Lown's godfather, Mario Castillo, said most who knew didn't care.

"San Angelo has a live-and-let-live attitude. As long as you don't go around waving your boxer shorts in Sunday school, people leave it alone," said Castillo, a longtime resident who is now a Washington lobbyist.

ROTFLMAO - okay, that was funny. But, what is not funny is the attitude there in the town. It is downright REFRESHING. And AMERICAN.

Back to the mayor:
But Lown, who worked as a real estate agent, said his prominence meant his 2-month-old relationship would be scrutinized and his 20-year-old partner might be subject to deportation.

"My heart was torn, and I had to make a decision," he said shortly after his resignation.

Lown has declined to identify his partner but said the man came across the Rio Grande as a teenager and attended high school and college in San Angelo. They went to Mexico — Lown won't say exactly where — so that his partner can apply for legal residency in the United States, generally a lengthy process for Mexicans without a spouse, child or parent who is a U.S. citizen.

"I did not want to consciously violate the law," Lown said. "We want to make a life together and do it in the right way and follow the law."

Lown, whose mother was Mexican, holds dual citizenship that allows him to live legally in Mexico, he said.

And on that level, he is lucky that he CAN live in the country of citizenship for his partner. "Lucky," in that regard, but a difficult word to use given what he has had to give up because of whom he loves:
San Angelo, meanwhile, will be without a mayor until the City Council decides whether to appoint someone or schedule a special election.

Lown said he hopes to eventually return here with his partner.

"I don't know how long this is going to take. It could take months. It could take years, but I'm prepared to wait as long as it takes," he said. "I hope I'll have some shred of my good name left when this is resolved."

I don't know how long this will go on, either. It has gone on far too long as it is, but so has the fight for us to have equal rights AT ALL. And now we have a president who has reneged on every promise he made to the BLT community (and you already know how I feel about that - I expected nothing less from him than this big huge dagger sticking out of my back, but frankly, I am sick of so many of us reaping what others have sown. I'm just sayin'.).

So now Mr. Lown has had to up and move, give up his position (and potential positions) to live with the man he loves. This is happening all over the country, make no mistake. And will continue to happen until we are seen as full fledged citizens of this country. Once again, though, I am NOT holding my breath for that to change under Obama. Maybe when we get a President Clinton...Until then, GLB U.S. citizens will continue having to give up their homes, their professions, and their COUNTRY because of whom they love. And that is just wrong.

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