After my traditional engagement to my high school sweetheart fell apart, I was faced with the prospect of another devastating loss: the deportation of my best friend Emir. Desperate to stay in America, Emir tried every legal recourse to obtain a green card, knowing that his return to the Middle East—where gay men are often beaten and sometimes killed—was too dangerous. In an effort to keep him safe and by my side, I proposed to Emir. After a quickie wedding in Las Vegas, we faced new adventures and obstacles in both L.A. and New York City as we tried to dodge the INS. Our relationship was further complicated by the fact that my mother works for the State Department, preventing immigration fraud. In my memoir, The Marriage Act, I delve into the changing face of marriage in America and look at the emergent generation forming bonds outside of tradition—and sometimes even outside the law.
Below is an excerpt:
I remember the citrus salads and late-afternoon Cosmopolitans in the sunny outdoor courtyard of the Abbey, our favorite West Hollywood gay bar. I remember how strange it felt to walk to his apartment rather than drive even though he lived only three blocks away from me. I can’t remember the precise instance when Emir first brought up the verging-on-problematic visa situation. It might have been at a sushi restaurant, or over lunches at the Abbey, or while in line at what the boys around the neighborhood called “the gay Starbucks” on Santa Monica. Emir wanted to stay in the United States past this year to avoid going back into the closet in Emiristan and living with his father. In order to stay, he had to find a job before his visa expired in December, a year after graduation. I told him I was sure he’d find something and I believed it; Emir was creative, intelligent, outgoing, and capable. The possibility that he might not find a way to stay did not cross my mind during those early conversations. Keep reading »
It’s worth a reminder sometimes that the term “reproductive rights” doesn’t just mean the right not not reproduce, like with abortion. Reproductive rights can also mean the right to produce, like in the case of Mei Fun Wong, a Chinese woman seeking asylum in the U.S. because she fears she’ll be persecuted for removing her IUD. Wong, 44, lives in New York City and has been fighting to stay in the U.S. for years. Back in 1991, the Chinese government forced her to get an IUD implanted as part of its one child per family population control policy. Wong said the IUD caused her physical pain, but doctors refused to remove it. She had it secretly removed by a physician she found for herself. When another doctor discovered during a routine exam that the IUD had been removed, the government held her for three days until she agreed to have it re-implanted. She tried to flee to Hong Kong, claiming she wanted to get away from being forced to wear the IUD, and was jailed for four months and fined. Finally, Wong arrived in the U.S. in 2000 — following her husband, who fled to the U.S. after his involvement in Tiananmen Square — had her IUD removed in New York, and now she wants asylum so she can escape the Chinese government’s “menacing” behavior. Keep reading »
Salma Hayek looks kind of like an alien on the cover of V Spain. Which is fitting, because inside the magazine, she reveals that she was once living in the United States as an illegal alien. (Yeah, I don’t love that phrase, either. Sorry I had to use it to make that intro work.) “I was an illegal immigrant in the United States,” says Salma. “It was for a small period of time, but I still did it.” She doesn’t specify when exactly. It could be when she was a high school student at the Academy of the Sacred Heart in Louisiana. (She headed back to Mexico for college.) Or during her early days in Hollywood. Keep reading »
Fresh off his gabfest with the girls last week on “The View,” Sarah Palin is taking a stab at the president’s masculinity. Appearing on “Fox News Sunday” yesterday, she said Arizona Governor Jan Brewer has “the cojones” — Spanish for “balls” — that President Barack Obama “does not have” to deal with illegal immigration. Arizona, as you surely remember, recently passed strict immigration laws which “would make the failure to carry immigration documents a crime and give the police broad power to detain anyone suspected of being in the country illegally,” according to The New York Times. Keep reading »
Regardless of your opinion on immigration, we can all agree it’s a disappointment when finances prevent an intelligent person from obtaining an education. And 17-year-old Gladys Castro of Fontana, California, is intelligent: the senior has a 4.09 average at Kaiser High School, where she took Advanced Placement classes, led the Advanced Biology Club and was a member of the National Honor Society.
But Gladys is an illegal immigrant whose family left Jalisco, Mexico, when she was 8 years old, after two of her relatives were kidnapped and murdered. She will graduate from high school soon and has been accepted to U.C. Berkeley, where she hopes to study political science. Due to her illegal status, however, Gladys cannot apply for government student loans. Keep reading »
If I wasn’t already slightly embarrassed to admit that I grew up in Arizona, I am now. With the announcement of the new immigration laws, I want to boycott the state altogether, but unfortunately that’s not an option since my family lives here. In fact, I am here right now with my brother for a family visit. On the flight over from NYC, there was a guy sitting a few rows behind me wearing a baseball cap that said, “Don’t shoot! I’m legal!” Yes, it was meant to be ironically disdainful, but this issue is personal for my brother. His girlfriend is a Canadian citizen, which would make it potentially dangerous for her to come visit. That’s how over-the-top the new laws are. Speaking of visiting … Arizona has a famous visitor this week who is also deeply angered by the new laws. Keep reading »
Foreign victims of domestic violence may finally be able to escape their abuse; the Obama administration has instated a new policy that may grant some of these victims asylum in the United States. The policy would reverse a Bush administration stance that did not allow foreign abuse victims entry into the U.S. Keep reading »
We knew that American Apparel had very liberal views on immigration reform, but not this liberal. The company is under fire from U.S immigration officials for allegedly hiring about 1,600 employees who are not eligible to work in the United States. An additional 200 employees are said to have “discrepancies in their work records.” Officials are threatening to deport the workers if they are unable to prove legal residence in the U.S. American Apparel’s founder and CEO, Dov Charney, who was born in Canada, said in a statement, “It is the company’s hope — and my personal hope as an immigrant myself — that these employees are able to confirm their work authorization so that they may continue to work at American Apparel.” [Stylist.com]
Keep reading »
Did you know that people with HIV who want to visit the U.S. or move to the U.S. from another country basically can’t? For about 20 years, there has been a ban making it really hard for people with the virus to enter the country, even for health conferences. They’ve been able to apply for special hard-to-get wavers for short visits, but they’ve had little chance of obtaining permanent residency. Now, Senators John Kerry and Gordon Smith are trying to repeal the ban, as well as pass legislation that would provide $50 million over the next five years to fight AIDS and other diseases in Africa and poor areas around the world. Basically, people with HIV would be treated the same as those with communicable diseases, and experts would determine eligibility for admission into the United States. [AP] Keep reading »