Growing up, my parents were able to provide a stable middle-class upbringing for me, my three sisters and my brother. I can understand now how fortunate we were not to worry about hunger, housing, or medical bills. Although my Mom made a point to show us how privileged we were — I’m from Fairfield County, Connecticut, where the “wealth gap” between rich and poor is top in the nation — I lived securely inside a wealthy suburban bubble in the booming ’90s. As I graduated from high school, went to college and began my working life, I still managed to have financial security, even when the economy tanked in 2008. Some friends, recent college graduates like myself, lost their jobs or just plain could not get hired. But me, I still got to stay inside a safe little bubble.
Then I did something that probably didn’t make sense to some people, especially those from the background that I come from: I married someone who was unemployed. Keep reading »
It has become abundantly clear to me over the past couple of months that people don’t know much about sponsoring someone for immigration. That makes sense, of course, because the majority of us will never do it. But insofar as people do know about the process, they know it involves getting a green card and having “an interview” with immigration officials. While true, but the interview and green card (hopefully) don’t come until the very end of an expensive, months-long process.
As I’ve explained before, sponsoring my husband, Kale, involved filling out a lot of paperwork. He had to do things like get a checkup and we had to gather documentation proving we like together, like bills and a bank account we both are listed on. We also submitted pics — most of them culled from my at-times cringeworthy Instagram account — of ourselves together since we started dating and from our wedding day. We also had to write affidavits about each other explaining why we wanted to be together and our best friends wrote affidavits for us, too. It wasn’t hard work, but it was a lot to get done, especially for two people who are otherwise occupied being schmoopy newlyweds. Keep reading »
There’s been one movie everyone has been telling me to see all year, recommended so many times that I’ve genuinely lost count of the suggestions. It didn’t win the Academy Award for Best Picture. It doesn’t feature actors that I particularly like. But I’ve been told that “The Proposal,” starring Sandra Bullock as a Canadian working in New York City who needs her underling, played by Ryan Reynolds, to marry her so that she can stay in the country, like, so closely resembles my life or something.
So I finally hunkered down this weekend to watch “The Proposal.” And I’m sorry to report that just about everything in it— from the green card legalese, to the immigration official who crashes the wedding, to the lightening quick timeframe — is unrealistic. I can’t blame anyone, though, for accepting Hollywood’s interpretation of a marriage between an American and a foreigner as how immigration works. Over the past year, I’ve come to realize that most people don’t understand it (precisely because of movies like “The Proposal,” probably). Keep reading »
Jorge Narvaez became an online sensation a few years ago when he sang a cover of “Home” by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros on YouTube with his daughter Alexa. Now, he’s back in the spotlight with both of his daughters — this time, to spread the word in support of family reunification. Keep reading »
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 »