As LGBT people, we are all too familiar with unjust laws, discriminatory law enforcement, and a hostile legal system. Our country’s immigration system remains plagued with these problems, and Arizona’s shameful new immigration law compounds them in the worst possible ways.
Undocumented LGBT immigrants are among the most invisible of the invisible. Many inhabit a double closet, afraid of disclosing their sexual orientation and/or gender identity and afraid of disclosing that they are undocumented. Many have fled countries where their sexual orientation, gender identity, or HIV status has put their lives at risk. Yet our current laws do not guarantee them fair access to asylum here. What is more, immigrants in detention often are held in remote jails with little to no access to their families or to attorneys who can help them and where they are all the more vulnerable to antigay abuse and violence. Some also have been denied needed health care, which can be particularly dangerous to detainees living with HIV and to transgender detainees dependent on hormone therapy.
There is another tragedy that uniquely affects lesbian and gay people: The families of at least 36,000 same-sex couples have been torn apart as a result of a discriminatory immigration policy. Currently, all binational same-sex couples (including those who are legally married) are denied the ability afforded heterosexual U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents to sponsor a foreign-born spouse to immigrate lawfully to our country.
In addition, without a way of obtaining legal status, LGBT and
HIV-positive immigrants who are victims of hate crimes or who experience
sexual orientation, gender identity, or HIV discrimination or other
violations of their civil rights often are deterred from seeking
justice out of fear of arrest or deportation. As a result, injustices
are left without remedy and future wrongdoing encouraged.
need comprehensive immigration reform that, at minimum, includes an end
to the unequal treatment of same-sex binational couples, repeals unfair
restrictions on asylum, guarantees the due process rights of those held
in detention, and provides a path to legalization. Arizona’s SB 1070
does not address of any of these issues. Instead, it only makes it
certain that more binational same-sex couples and their families will
be torn apart, that LGBT undocumented immigrants will be pushed further
into the closet, and that they will be subjected to even more
discrimination and abuse. Compounding this, it also will inevitably lead
to discriminatory police targeting and abuse of people of color who are
U.S. citizens or lawful residents.
As Lambda Legal pursues our
own lawsuit against the state of Arizona for its elimination of health
insurance benefits for the partners of its lesbian and gay state
employees, we condemn the state government’s further manifestation of
bias in SB 1070. We urge others to come out and join the fight for
comprehensive immigration reform. We salute the efforts of our
colleagues at the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the National Immigration Law Center to challenge Arizona’s unconstitutional law. And we call upon the
federal government to do so as well and to move swiftly to correct the
flaws riddling the present immigration system.