Back in the Blog Saddle Again…

It’s been some time since I blogged and I have needed and enjoyed the down time. It was years fighting for our immigration rights as same-sex binational families and it wore me out physically, emotionally, mentally and fiscally. But it also made me feel good and that I had contributed, so it wasn’t all bad.

Now it’s 2014 and Karin and I have returned from a birthday trip for me (66) and I am finding my way back onto mainland time (after two weeks in Hawaii), back to normal (whatever that is for me as a retired person) and into the new world of a safely, legally, federally-recognized spouse of a green card-carrying, non-citizen, federally-recognized spouse of the same gender.

Like many, we are appreciating being married and having our marriage recognized. Like many, we are mourning the fact that so many others still need immigration solutions. So that will be my next project – helping more with CIR, comprehensive immigration reform.

I live in the world where ethnicity and nationality and culture intersects with gender and gender expression. Queers meet the undocumented; the LGBT world meshes with the non-citizen world. It has not always been a good fit or a friendly association, but I see progress, so I continue to help where I can. You can too. Share your story. Share the resources you have found. Listen. Sometimes that’s all someone needs – an ear and a heart to hear their troubles.

I will continue the stories that update the status of the folks in my book, Torn Apart: United by Love, Divided by Law, Findhorn Press, 2011. I will continue to post stories about groups that work for CIR. I will continue to post links and references that can help.

Right now I am counting the days and hours until Karin and I see Jose Antonio Vargas’ film, Documented, in Mountain View, CA on January 27 – https://www.facebook.com/events/615907591792062/?previousaction=join&source=1

I admire Jose so much and am so proud of the work he has done and is doing and will do. He has galvanized a community and used his media skills to craft important messages that tell the story that can’t be ignored – many, many folks need help to keep their families together. Undocumented folks need our help. It was a thrill to attend President Obama’s speech on immigration reform in Las Vegas in January 2013 – and who was sitting next to us in the VIP guest section but Jose! Wow!

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You can start getting information and see ways to help with this link for his organization Define American - www.DefineAmerican.com, or http://www.defineamerican.org or you can look at the Facebook page -

https://www.facebook.com/DefineAmerican/info as a start.

One group I support and have written for is American Immigration Council. Find it at this link - http://www.americanimmigrationcouncil.org/ I got to know Wendy Feliz when we spoke on a panel in 2013 at UNITY – the conference for minority media organizations. Then I was asked to write about same-sex binational families’ immigration special issues for AIC’s online newsletter. When I was named a Cesar Chavez Champion of Change for Immigration Reform for 2013, Wendy was one of my guests in the audience at the White House – what a day that was!

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The work goes on – the need has not been resolved. So we keep marching toward the goal of immigration reform for the country’s most vulnerable. Glad to be in the mix!

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Post-DOMA Decision Updates on Torn Apart Book Families – Ed in North Carolina and Tim in Egypt

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Tim, left, was happy to say YES! when Ed, right, proposed at the airport as Tim came home from Egypt for the summer.

Here’s another happy update on one of the Torn Apart: United by Love, Divided by Law families. This US/Canadian couple has dealt with lots of separation as Tim has found work outside the U.S. for the past several years. Now that he is home for the summer, they are excited and busy. Here is Ed’s update on them and a photo from his airport proposal to Tim:
“The DOMA decision came down less than a week before Tim arrived home from his third year teaching in Egypt. We were both so excited when we heard the news, and I secretly began to scheme about proposing at the airport. Accompanied by a photographer, a few friends, and an engagement ring-shaped balloon, I greeted him and dropped to one knee with a simple proposal, “Will you marry me?” He said, “Yes! Of course!”

We still have to discuss how best to proceed. I am still unemployed, and we still need Tim’s Egyptian salary; plus he gets a substantial bonus to honor his contract for this next year. But we plan for this to be our last year of separation. Ding dong, DOMA’s dead, and we’re planning to get married some time next summer.

Great to hear about Karin’s green card!”

We are glad to know that despite all the problems, these two are optimistic about their future together.

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Post-DOMA Decision Updates on Torn Apart Book Families – Inger and Philippa Still Separated But Working On Being Together in Colorado

Philippa and Inger964004_593589294005391_1697402013_o

Inger is in the grey sweatshirt in both photos. Philippa is in the brown jacket in both photos.

For those of you who have followed this family, you know that Philippa can only visit for a short time each time she comes to America. And visits to the UK have been few for Inger. This will soon change, though. Here’s an update from Philippa and two recent photos provided by Inger.
“We are overjoyed for us and so many other families that the changes to the law now mean for immigration purposes our marriage is legal.
We are now in the process of applying for a marriage visa, which we would not have been able to do financially, without the kindness and generosity of so many. We have been told by our lawyer that we still have a few months to wait as this is how the system works, but at least now we have the chance. It’s so nice to hear how my wife and kiddo are making changes to the house so there will be room for me to be comfortable. Just knowing that they can do this is such a joy for all of us. We still have a few hurdles, such as a medical for me in London and an interview with the embassy but these won’t happen for a while yet.
So for now we are preparing for a pretty lengthy separation but one with an ultimate end goal. We would like to thank all the people that have been so supportive on this long journey and continue to support us now. Hearing the excitement in my daughter’s voice when she talks about me coming home is amazing.”

It is amazing and their journey will be over soon. I know it’s not soon enough for them, but after the DOMA decision they have a path and they are on it.

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Post-DOMA Decision Updates on Torn Apart Book Families – Me, Judy Rickard

Manju time!

With Rep. Mike Honda and Karin celebrating our wish come true – Karin’s green card in hand!

The DOMA ruling on June 26, 2013 changed my life forever. It changed the lives of so many forever too. The fight to be together with my wife Karin legally and safely had ended, so Karin was ready to go visit family in the UK. I was not. Never mind that the list of repairs and things we needed to do at the house cost more than my plane fare. I could not go. I was exhausted after the years of writing and advocating and fighting. I could no more go on a trip than fly to the moon. Karin got it after I told her and she read my Huff Post Gay Voices post on my Post-DOMAtic Stress Disorder. I am two weeks into her trip now and feeling better, but I am still taking things day by day.

I am thrilled to see that others have received green cards, or their denials have been taken up for reconsideration, or they have been scheduled for weddings, biometric appointments or marriage interviews. That’s an amazing turn of events in a short period of time.

But I am still tired and pacing myself and not even anxious to blog each day. That’s a telling sign for me, who used to spend hours blogging and writing and finding information for myself and others.

So I am here without Karin until September 3. But then we will go on a honeymoon at the end of September – two weeks on Maui together at an LGBT place in time for Maui Pride! That will be an adventure for sure.

So I am happy and spending time doing things that need doing at the house and in the yard. I am reading. I am visiting friends and family. I am spending time with Bud Light, our cat. I am taking naps.

Please know that our journey together for equality and family reunification has been the most important trip of my life. I have met amazing people. I have learned so much. I have been so humbled. I have been so excited. It’s not over, but we have made a huge dent in the inequality same-sex binational families have suffered for too long.

So share the celebration and let’s continue the work together. We need the rest of DOMA gone – an easy fix would be Congress passing the Respect for Marriage Act. Talk to your federal representatives about that. We need marriage equality across the country. Talk to your state representatives about that if you are not in a marriage equality state. We need ENDA gone. Talk to your federal representatives about that. We need solutions for all who need comprehensive immigration reform to keep their families together. Talk to your federal representatives about that.

If you can, donate to the groups who work with us and on these other issues. It makes a big difference! The DOMA Project, Immigration Equality, Love Exiles Foundation, Out4Immigration and other groups can use help. American Immigration Council, Define American, FIRM (Fair Immigration Reform Movement), and other groups can use help. Marriage Equality and other groups can use help. Be part of the solutions we need! Tell others to be allies too. Thanks.

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Post-DOMA Decision Updates on Torn Apart Book Families – Karin’s First Trip to UK In Almost Three Years

all five tea heroThis is from my wife, Karin Bogliolo, now a legal resident of America since she got her green card on July 23, 2013. What was the first thing she did? She left! She boarded a plane July 30 (found the cheapest fare within a short time of receiving her card) and took off for five weeks in England and Scotland to see our kids and grandkids. We practice saying our kids and grandkids – actually I keep reminding Karin that I consider them ours, though she has known them longer…

So here’s a post from Karin, from England, with pictures to show what she’s been up to. She celebrated her 73rd birthday a week after arriving. She revealed to me that she had some ups and downs now that DOMA is gone. I am deeper into that and will share on my own update soon.

So here’s Karin’s post , and photos, about post-DOMA life, life with a green card:

“Home thoughts from abroad. (apologies to Robert Browning)


This seems to be the hardest thing to do, writing down how I feel now. My reality right now is so totally different from everything I have known for the past few years that it’s almost as though it never happened.

For the past eight years, Judy and I struggled with the challenge of trying to live together. Then there were these last three years when I lived in California and was cut off from all my family and friends in Europe.

Living in California is great. The weather is superb. I have a loving and caring wife. I have friends and activities I enjoy. I sometimes say that Judy and I live a charmed life. Yet for eight years there was always that sword of Damocles hanging over us that threatened to separate us or throw us out of our home in San Jose. Sometimes I was able to forget all that, but somewhere in my body the stress was building up and there were days and nights when fear and anxiety nearly brought me to breaking point.

And then one day it all disappeared. No, no, that’s not how it was at all. It has taken years of sacrifice and patience and expense. Our hopes were raised and dashed, as the government did nothing. I remembered many people saying ‘never in our lifetime.’

But let me leave all that behind me, and tell you how the glorious present moment feels. On July 30, clutching my sparkling new green card, I climbed onto a Virgin Atlantic plane in San Francisco and flew to London. Arriving jet lagged and tired, my beloved daughter Tamsin, whom I had not seen for nearly three years, was waiting for me. The drive to her house was filled with chattering and laughing and a sense of unbelief that this was really happening. I was able to leave the USA knowing that I could return with no problem at all.

In the following days I have spent time with my grown-up grandchildren, heard all their news, seen them in their successful lives. I have admired their cars, heard their plans for the future and basked in their love.

On August 6, I celebrated my 73rd birthday with all my family. I enjoyed a proper English afternoon tea and had dinner in an old English pub called The Silly Billy. Even the English weather has been kind to me; sunshine and blue skies reflected the way I feel.

Just in case you think that I want to come back here to Europe to live, let me reassure everyone that on September 3 I will return to San Francisco as planned. I want to return to my new home, to my darling wife, to the life I have chosen for the rest of my life. But for now I will wallow in the warmth and love of my family from whom I have been parted for too long.

For those of you still waiting for that little card to change your lives, be sure that it will come. It’s taken me years to get where I am now; I hope the process may be quicker for you.

These pictures show the family and my birthday celebration and my favourite picture, of grandson Adam and his hero, Barack Obama.

 

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Post-DOMA Decision Updates on Torn Apart Book Families – Jay and Shirley and Sons Jashley and Joriene in California

Jay and Shirley sent me this update and a photo from their summer 2013 vacation.

This is one of the families in my book that has school-aged children. The boys have had to contend with the anguish of parents dealing with immigration issues because of DOMA, while their parents have found special relief after an asylum appeal was not granted.

The great update on this West Coast family is that the sons are preparing to apply to universities and the parents are finally getting married in 2014 after almost 30 years together. Wow!

Jay said: “We are now in the planning stage of our wedding plan.  We wanted our families to be there this time to share an important event in our lives.  We are so happy for you and Karin.  Congratulations to you both.”

“The boys are going to be seniors and we’re very busy looking for colleges. Since there’s no rush for us, we are getting married July 18, 2014, our 28th anniversary.  We want to make sure we can share this very important moment with our families who we have to give way in advance notice so they can attend.  And this time we can make preparations for this event.  Also we want it on this date so that the boys will always be with us to celebrate since it’s summer time (school break).  And yes of course Jay will be petitioning Shirl for a green card for Shirl! Yey!!!”

It’s such a happy update. I follow these folks on Facebook and we see each other from time to time. It has been fun watching the boys get older and hear about their activities and interests. These two young men have learned about our government in a way that most don’t – and they have learned to testify, to lobby and to advocate.

This summer they attended American Legion’s California Boys’ State. Maybe a political future is in store for one of them?

 

 

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A “Thank You” Visit to Congressman Mike Honda

Manju Time!

Manju Time!

 

Karin and Her Green Card!

Karin and Her Green Card!

 

We Got Our Wish! He Met His Goal!

We Got Our Wish! He Met His Goal!

Congressman Mike Honda’s office asked us to come over and meet with him so he could congratulate us on Karin receiving her green card. This was years after I went to Mike and told him our plight as a same-sex binational family.

I told him about Karin’s detention at the San Francisco International Airport. I told him about ICE telling her she was visiting too often and their request that she leave for a long time (unspecified time). I told him in order for us to be together more than apart, I would be taking early retirement from my job at San Jose State University.

I told him no American should have to choose between spouse and country, spouse and career, country and family. But I had to. Thousands of others have had to as well.

Mike got it. He embedded UAFA, Uniting American Families Act, into his proposed CIR (comprehensive immigration reform) bill Reuniting Families Act. He included us in comprehensive immigration reform, though we got thrown under the bus by the Senate in 2013. Not sure what the House bill will look like, but our DOMA ruling by the Supreme Court of the United States took care of family reunification for same-sex binational families. Now we just need the rest of DOMA to go away – with the passage of the Respect for Marriage Act that can happen. We need real, honest to goodness, comprehensive immigration reform for the 11 million estimated folks who need a solution. This group includes more than a quarter million LGBT folks who are not same-sex binational families.

So we took Mike manju from Japantown – Japanese candy made with mochi rice and bean paste. We told the lady at the manju shop who it was for and she told us which kind Mike likes – “he comes here a lot,” she said with a smile.

So manju and green card in hand, we visited with Mike and caught up on what he’s doing now. We posed with the manju, we posed with the green card, and best of all, we posed with a daruma doll. This is a goal doll or a wishing doll. The legend is that you paint or color in the first eye when you set your goal – then do the same to the second eye when you get what you want. So what did we do? We got that second eye with a sharpie!

Thanks Mike for all you do! We must keep you in Congress. Thanks for your work on CIR! Thanks for all your other progressive work to keep the South Bay what it is and help it be what it can be.

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Post-DOMA Decision Updates on Torn Apart Book Families – Kathy and Viki in California

Just got this update today from these two. Here it is in Kathy’s words:

“As Viki’s H1-B work visa options came to an end in 2008, she filed for a work-based green card. Getting approval for that was not easy, as she had to prove no American could do her job, but she successfully conquered each hurdle and was approved about 4 years ago. Since then, she has sat in the U.S. immigration system backlog — and we have waited…and waited. We got married in Canada in 2011 and considered filing for a marriage-based green card like some of our friends working with the DOMA Project had done. As part of Out4Immigration, we worked closely with Lavi Soloway and referred many binational couples to him, so taking this extra step would have been simple. But even back in 2011, we thought Viki’s work-based green card would come sooner than one through DOMA repeal. We took a gamble — and in a most serendipitous way — Viki and I will be joining the same-sex binationals with green cards in a matter of weeks.

At Out4Immigration, we worked every angle to get green cards for our partners. In addition to repealing DOMA, we advocated for the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) and its inclusion in Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR). The last few months were particularly heart-wrenching as we waited for the Supreme Court’s DOMA decision and entered the heated CIR debate. During that time, Viki and I made another visit to Senator Dianne Feinstein’s San Francisco office as part of an inclusive immigration coalition. Her staffers were moved by Viki’s story — last year Viki turned 60, and she had been stuck in the immigration backlog waiting for a work visa for years! At an age when many are starting to think seriously about retirement, all Viki could think of was how many more years would she have to hold on to her current job just to stay in the U.S. with her wife.

In a nearly perfect arc to both of our efforts — Viki keeping her employment going through the worst recession in U.S. history, and my work with O4I — we saw CIR start to move. And although it left out same-sex binationals, in its harrowing plunge forward, the backlog for those waiting for green cards jumped about four years in 6 weeks! Viki’s processing date became current, and the dedicated staff at Sen. Feinstein’s office have helped expedite the process. In fact, on the very day DOMA was repealed, Viki received her biometrics appointment date. And, she will travel to Australia next month on a shiny new ‘combo card’ — which allows her to exit and enter the U.S. as a permanent resident — in the event her bright and shiny new green card hasn’t arrived yet.

We have come out the other side of this fight and the timing simply couldn’t be better. We are so happy to be able to celebrate our good fortune with that of so many of the other couples we have met along the way. Viki’s ability to live and work legally in the U.S. for nearly 12 years as part of a same-sex binational couple always made us feel like two of the ‘lucky ones’, when compared with the stories of separation, exile and heartbreak we heard nearly every day. The fact that those days are now over for all of us feels a bit like a Hollywood script. Our only concern going forward now is who will play us in the movie!”

Here are two of the “lucky ones” at the San Francisco Pride Parade in June – sharing their work and their story yet again!

Kathy and Viki interview

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Post-DOMA Decision Updates on Torn Apart Book Families – No Names, Sad Story

As I have been contacting those folks who allowed themselves to be public about their same-sex binational relationships and their desire to be together legally and safely, I have  heard various updates. This update makes me so sad.

One couple has terminated their relationship of 13 years, after the DOMA decision came down. I am not going to share any more, but wish them well and am grieving for them.

So sorry to hear this news…

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Re-Posting from American Immigration Council – USCIS Approves First Green Cards for Same-Sex Couples

A good article outlining what’s going on with same-sex binational couples since the June 26, 2013 Supreme Court decision on DOMA is worth sharing. It’s from Immigration Impact on July 15, 2013. Here it is:

USCIS Approves First Green Cards for Same Sex Couples

Courts, DOMA, Family, Supreme Court by Matthew Kolodziej

 

Untitled

On June 26, the Supreme Court issued its decision in the case of United States v. Windsor, in which it struck down section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which defined marriage as between a man and a woman for all federal laws. This law meant that the immigration agencies would not recognize lawful, same-sex marriages for any immigration purpose. Since the Court’s decision, the Obama administration has moved rapidly to allow U.S. citizens to petition for immigration benefits for their spouses, providing hope to an estimated 28,500 bi-national same-sex couples in the United States who might otherwise be separated by our immigration laws.
The demise of DOMA’s definition of marriage has enormous benefits for same-sex spouses, even beyond green cards.
Secretary Napolitano immediately issued a statement applauding the Supreme Court decision and declaring that DHS would take steps to implement the ruling and ensure that “all married couples will be treated equally and fairly.” In fact, the very day of the Supreme Court decision, a New York immigration judge stopped the deportation of a Columbian man based on his same sex marriage to a U.S. citizen.
The immigration agency also is taking steps to reverse decisions that were issued prior to the Supreme Court’s decision. The day after the decision, Alejandro Mayorkas, the Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), stated that his agency had maintained a list of marriage cases that had been denied since the Obama administration had stopped defending DOMA in 2011, and that it would reconsider the cases in accordance with the change in law. Just two days later, the first green card was issued to a same-sex spouse of an American citizen. The beneficiary, Traian Popov, is a Bulgarian immigrant who lives with his American spouse, Julian Marsh, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. A green card was awarded today, July 15, 2013, to Karin Bogliolo, in San Jose, California, making Karin the third gay immigrant to become a lawful permanent resident based on a same-sex marriage. Karin, 72, a U.K. citizen, and her U.S. citizen spouse, Judy Rickard, 65, have fought for years to stay together and will never again be separated by U.S. immigration law.
The demise of DOMA’s definition of marriage has enormous benefits for same-sex spouses, even beyond green cards. It will also give same-sex spouses access to countless other immigration benefits, like derivative visas for spouses of holders of nonimmigrant visas like H-1B or L visas, hardship waivers for people who have been deported or barred from reentry, eligibility for cancellation of removal, 212(h) hardship waivers of minor offenses, reopening of removal orders, and other considerations reserved for the spouses of U.S. citizens. These benefits will enable thousands of bi-national same-sex couples to return to the U.S. after having spent years in exile abroad or after being separated from their life partners and families.
However, the fall of DOMA does not mean all immigration problems have been solved for same-sex couples. Same-sex marriage is currently legal in only 13 states (California, Connecticut, Delaware, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington) and the District of Columbia. Although USCIS respects the legality of a marriage based on the place of celebration, if a couple cannot travel to a state or country where they can legally marry, they may be out of luck. Foreign nationals who are in immigration detention in states that do not allow same-sex marriage, who are trapped in countries that persecute homosexuals, or who cannot move to a jurisdiction that allows same sex marriage for any reason, may not be able to marry their U.S. citizen partners and obtain immigration benefits.
The Administration has sent a positive message by acting quickly to implement the Supreme Court’s decision. For many same sex couples the fear of deportation and separation from loved ones will finally be removed. Hopefully, these actions taken over the first few weeks after the Court’s decision will be followed by further progress in the struggle for marriage equality and equal immigration rights for all families.
Photo Courtesy of Judy Rickard
- See more at: http://immigrationimpact.com/2013/07/15/uscis-approves-first-green-cards-for-same-sex-couples/#more-13773

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