I never thought I’d fall in love with an American. In my home nation of Australia, I had 20 million fellow Aussies to choose from. But one day I received a clever, witty note from a woman through a popular social networking site who’d observed my profile and commented on my favorite movie. (“Uncle Buck,” if you must know.)
That woman happened to live in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Many hours on the phone and a heavenly visit later, we’re happily living in Minneapolis together and thank our lucky stars on a daily basis that we met despite the odds.
Since then we’ve also found ourselves horrified at America’s archaic, homophobic immigration laws. I’m only able to be here because I have the education, the work experience and an employer willing to sponsor me for a temporary work visa that is subject to renewal or rejection every two years. And I must continue “proving” that I don’t plan on being here long term. My heart pounds each time I come through immigration clearance at an airport with the fear that I could be denied entry if that particular immigration official decides s/he doesn’t like the look of me, despite my valid visa stamp. If we were a heterosexual couple, we’d fill out some paperwork, answer some questions to prove our living arrangements, and we’d be able to choose where we live indefinitely.
It’s heartbreaking that I’m a good and law-abiding person, working full time and contributing to the community, and yet could at any moment be given 10 days to leave the country. If I lose my job, I have that 10 days to find a new one. If our relationship were made known to the federal government, it could technically make me leave by arguing that our unrecognized relationship would make me likely to try to stay here illegally. And thank goodness I am from one of the few countries in the world that does recognize our relationship for immigration purposes. But what if I weren’t Australian, but Chinese? Or Iraqi? Or Jamaican? I shudder to think.
If we’d never met, I doubt either of us would have given much thought to this issue just because until it happens, it seems so unlikely that you’ll meet and fall in love with a foreigner. But it does happen. In fact, it’s estimated by Immigration Equality that there are more than 40,000 other “binational” gay and lesbian couples in our predicament. We are constantly amazed at how often even fellow gay and lesbian people are not aware of the interaction between state and federal law. Yes, we could get married in Iowa. No, that doesn’t mean the federal government would allow me to migrate here permanently because of that marriage.
The writer works in marketing and loves everything about Minnesota, including the winters. She’s still got her accent but makes a mean hot dish.
*Her name has been withheld at her request.
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