How 3 immigration/marriage-related laws worked in combination with each other to make me “illegal” in the U.S.
3 Immigration/Marriage-related laws: IMFA (Immigration Marriage Fraud Act of 1986,) VAWA (Violence Against Women Act of 1994**,) and DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act of 1996,) worked in combination with each other to make me “illegal.”
In 1990 the LGBTQ Travel Ban, in place since 1952 (INA 52,) was officially lifted.
* The Violence Against Women Act, a bill which passed in 1994, under the Clinton administration, in order to combat marital abuse between bi-national couples, is a very good bill, and the only fair one out of the three, but in 1994 was still very incomplete, and has since been more inclusive.
The Violence Against Women Act, or VAWA, still does not reflect the real possibilities of LGBTQ people stuck in “heterosexual”/opposite-sex marriages though, as is my case.
And neither does the Immigration Marriage Fraud Act, (enacted in 1986, under the Reagan administration, to combat marriage fraud, “fake marriages” for purposes to immigrate.)
But there are also binational same-sex couples whose marriage could get a spouse fired if found out by an employer, and so who can have difficulty proving their marriage to be real to immigration under the Immigration Marriage Fraud Act, (like lacking proof of joint bills, and joint health insurance under the working spouse’s insurance company.)
The Defense Of Marriage Act, (signed into law in 1996 by the Clinton administration,) has been defeated, federally and for immigration purposes since July 26 of 2015, and the Immigration Marriage Fraud Act should reflect that and does not.
LGBTQ people are not automatic marriage frauds, DOMA was rightly found unconstitutional, and the Violence Against Women Act only protected heterosexual/opposite-sex marriages, but not “mixed/forced” marriages between LGBTQ people (who are foreigners) and heterosexual people (US citizens.)
So an LGBTQ foreigner stuck in a forced opposite-sex marriage to a US citizen still has very limited legal options, and is particularly vulnerable to abuse if female/lesbian) with a male/hetero US citizen partner, as in my own case.
I moved to the US legally in 1992, by myself at age 19, on a 5-year student visa to study film in Los Angeles, and took all the required medical and English tests and paid for all fees, totalling around $15000, including full-time out-of-state school tuition, while still in the Netherlands.
And for the record, my marriage was not orchestrated, as voluntary or semi-voluntary on any level, but the forced outcome exactly of faulty laws, creating a loophole for someone, a heterosexual, male US citizen, to take longterm consistent advantage of.
“In the face of injustice civil disobedience is one’s moral duty.”
The Immigration Marriage Fraud Act of 1986, designed to determine “realness of marriage,” is necessarily anti-woman, besides anti-immigration, legislation, and with its’ 2-year “Conditional Status” is the perfect set-up for sexual abuse and domestic violence, “legally sanctioned marital rape” to occur.
The 2-year “Conditional Status” is two years of marriage between the US Citizen and the legal foreigner prior to the first immigration interview, towards Legal Permanent Residence in the Adjustment-of-Status process, or “the marital sponsorship.”
This 2-year period is a time frame in which the couple has to establish the realness of their marriage by opening joint accounts, accumulating mutual bills, owning joint property, and very preferable having a child or two, and on top spending this time to document their lives in pictures, with family and friends functioning as witnesseses of sorts to the relationship, to the “realness” of it that is.
Between Sham Marriage, (a fake marriage for whatever purposes,) Arranged Marriage, (oftentimes for religious purposes,) Mixed-Orientation Marriage, (sometimes orchestrated willingly between two parties, but often for reasons of having to cover up the homosexuality of one of the partners, so not entirely a voluntary deal altogether,) and Forced Marriage, (often involving a child bride,) lies a whole area of “Grey Marriage,” (like “Grey Rape,” and including specifically Marital Rape, not legally recognized in the US until 1993.)
“Grey Marriage” is sexual and physical immigrant spousal abuse.
And government-sanctioned LGBTQ discrimination, including the LGBTQ marriage ban, the Defense Of Marriage Act of 1996, is unconstitutional, including as sex and gender discrimination.
I have paid my taxes in the US for 24 years, working at the Laemmle Theatres for 9 years, producing a John Cassavetes Film Retrospective, and running a film production company for my Feature Documentary about LGBTQ Immigration Exclusion Policy: ‘The Queer Case for Individual Rights: From International Film Student to Queer and Undocumented’ but have been labeled “illegal” by the government and rendered deportable without due process, (not in deportation proceedings however.)
If I would have immigrated to the US post-DOMA (2015) I would have at least qualified for citizenship through same-sex marriage, (marriage practically being the only option in the almost non-existent pathway to US citizenship.)
I now qualify through the Violence Against Women Act and am working on legalization with an immigration lawyer but to have been undocumented for almost 20 years, “persecuted on paper,” has been unbearable in every way and is in fact retroactive punishment, also in the process destroying any chance at love with a woman before DOMA was struck down in June of 2015.
In July of 2015 I came out as “queer and undocumented” socially and online to add my voice to the ongoing immigration conversation in rational defense of fair and comprehensive immigration. I believe the right to mobility is a universal, human right and not an American privilege.
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My name is Gabriella Bregman, I am a Hollywood-based writer, filmmaker, producer, currently in post-production of a feature documentary called ‘The Queer Case for Individual Rights,’ through my film production company ‘Queer Women Filmmakers Center, Los Angeles.’
You can find me mostly on Facebook for right now, (facebook.com/gabriellabregman,) where I also maintain a Facebook Group called ‘Queer Women Filmmakers Center, Los Angeles’