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Lambda Legal: Arizona Law Hurts Us All

Lambda Legal: Arizona Law Hurts Us All


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.

We 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.
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