The Problem and Solution to Illegal Immigration in the US (part 1.)

(NOTE: This is Part 1. of a 3-Part Article. Click Here for Part 2. And Click Here for Part 3. Or Click Here to Read the 3-Part Article in its’ Entirety.)

Passport of the Netherlands, 1992, with 5-Year Student Visa (F-1.) Ironically My Student Visa Expired and I Became “Out-Of-Status” the Exact Same Day Ellen DeGeneres Came Out On Her TV Sitcom on April 30, 1997.
School Letter of Admission into the Film Program at Los Angeles City College, 1992. Necessary for 5-Year Student Visa.

The 11 million undocumented immigrants currently residing in the US are not one solid group standing in solidarity with each other but are comprised of roughly two groups, of about 5 and a half million each.

It is the legislation known as DACA that has divided the groups in terms of prioritizing “Illegal Entries” for work permits over the “Legal Entries,” who actually paid to come and work here legally, which is highly unfair to all of those who have spent a lot of money, passed English tests and medical exams, paid for private health insurance, waited in line for their visas, entered themselves into the US database, paid for their airfare and entered the country legally.

It is DACA recipients themselves who along with immigration activist lawyers have devised this legislation, (previously known as the DREAM-Act,) not the US government, who was only pressured into accepting it, and for the most part did not, taking their cue from a very special Deferred Action case applied to John Lennon, who obviously immigrated to the US under a whole different set of circumstances and had always been eligible if it wasn’t for the Nixon administration trying to thwart his peace activism. He was the original “Dreamer.”

The DACA recipients themselves however did not come to the US legally, nor under a Extraordinary Ability clause, which applied to Lennon, and have devised this legislation along with lawyers in order to serve their “Illegal Entry” cases only, while at the same time continuously speaking of the number of undocumented immigrants being 11 million total, a conveniently big number to hide behind, in an argument along the lines of “you can’t deport us all, we are too many, and too strong in numbers.”

In reality they have forced, by drawing attention to themselves in the media, towards the US public as well as the government, to shed light on the rest of us who are “Legal Entries,” and fall within the total 11 million. Over 40% of all undocumented immigrants initially entered the country legally, and are therefore not eligible for this DACA program, providing temporary relief from deportation and a work permit and travel permission.

Downtown Los Angeles, 1992.
Hollywood, 2002. Memorial Wall on Vine Street, Off Of Sunset Blvd. (On the Exact Spot of the Former Mechanics Shop Dean Left From to Go to the Races in Salinas the Day He Died, Sept. 30, 1955.) The Memorial is No Longer There.

The “Legal Entries” have now become vulnerable for deportation, while the “Illegal Entries” have legislation in place, which they keep pushing to go through the court system for themselves only, in effect throwing some 5 and a half “Legal Entry” immigrants under the bus, who in fact have stood in line, in their home countries, as is custom, paid their fees and pay income taxes, to do everything by the rules. I am one of those “Legal Entries.”

I have tried to reason with several DACA recipients on standing in solidarity, as they so often profess themselves, but they don’t want to stand with the “Legal Entries” in a true conversation about US immigration, fearing most likely that to have a rational conversation around the subject of illegal immigration, rather than make emotional pleas to ill-informed people, would expose their actions as less valid, which is not my intention. If you’re going to quote the number 11 million, you must stand with each other in finding a solution towards legalization for all, is my reasoning. Their actions endanger the rest of us, especially the LGBTQ community amongst us, traditionally always the most vulnerable of the group and in the vast minority, as if this makes our fight for legal rights less valid, which it does not.

In fact, some liberal Americans have already been convinced by the “Illegal Entries” that their fight is more valid than those of the “Legal Entry DOMA Victims,” which they consider a fringe issue, and they’ve even claimed that “Illegal Entries” should be prioritized over “Legal Entry” LGBTQ people based on their length of stay here, which first of all has nothing to do with legal rights, morality does, and which secondly gives them the false sense that LGBTQ people are new in this country, which is truly a preposterous notion.

Obviously LGBTQ people have existed as long as heterosexual people, just oppressed by them, conversely have immigrated for just as long, and in this country since the beginning of Ellis Island, and there were most likely LGBTQ people amongst the settlers and colonialists themselves.

What they also seem to overlook is that the denial of same-sex marriage has not only affected LGBTQ immigrants but LGBTQ US Citizens, obviously. DOMA was not an exclusive immigration issue at all but an American issue of “second class citizenship” for American born LGBTQ people.

It just so happens than the only mode for legal immigration to the US is marriage, and so consequently DOMA became an immigration issue as well, for LGBTQ foreigners wanting to legally immigrate to the US, but also for LGBTQ Americans who wanted to marry foreigners and were excluded from sponsoring their foreign born partners for US Citizenship, under this Defense Of Marriage Act of 1996, (and any legislation before this in a long history of LGBTQ inequality in the US.)

Many LGBTQ bi-national couples were forced to separate or move out of the US in exile and wait for DOMA to be overturned, with obviously real consequences for LGBTQ US Citizens, who should never be forced to leave their own countries in order to be with their loved ones.

In my homecountry of the Netherlands, where same-sex marriage was legalized in 2001, 14 years before the US followed, bi-national American and Dutch LGBTQ couples marrying there were so common there was a name for them and an organization built around their struggles, the “love-exiles.”

If “Illegal Entry” foreigners do not wish to be separated from their US Citizen family, which seems a massive motivating factor in their reasons for wanting to stay and a recurrent theme in news media coverage of their problems, they should conversely keep the DOMA Victims in mind who were forced to “choose” between separation or exile, and not discriminate against us on the basis that we are LGBTQ or came here legally, unlike them.

(There are LGBTQ members amongst the “Illegal Entries” themselves even but they are technically refugees, not DOMA victims, as in order to be processed for Adjustment-Of-Status from within the US through marriage, it is required one entered to US legally on proper documents. I have sympathy for them over all heterosexual “Illegal Entries” though, since it is hard to file for asylum based on sex-discrimination, which LGBTQ issues fall under, and most of them were brought here as small children, so were not in fact forced to move based on being LGBTQ. This is a separate issue however, to be taken serious, but does not fall under the issue of “Legal Entry DOMA Victims” I am addressing here.)

Divorce Papers (Finalized in August 1994) of Forced Marriage, Almost Upon Arrival at Age 19 in 1992.
Work Permit, 1992.

“Legal Entries” and “Illegal Entries” are official US Immigration Policy terms, based on whether an individual entered the country with inspection and real and valid documentation, or without, and are as such not in any way racist slurs. “Illegal Entries” are sometimes referred to as “border crossers,” and “Legal Entries” as “Visa overstays,” but only the term “illegals” is a politically incorrect terms, and indiscriminately used by the media to refer to all 11 undocumented immigrants alike, “Legal Entries” included. That is not to say the media does not put a racist slant on all things immigration towards people of Latin American countries in particular.

I am merely clarifying terminology, and personally do not appreciate the current term “undocumented,” as I paid a lot of money for my real and existing documents, including the 5-year Student Visa, by enrolling in a Film Program at a Los Angeles college for several semesters up front and at out-of-state tuition rates, a California ID, Social Security Number, Adjustment-Of-Status and temporary work permit upon opposite-sex marriage to a US Citizen, a plane ticket from the Netherlands, where I am from and health insurance for one year. One can not simply pay for a Green Card or US Citizenship, unless qualifying as a famous person basically or through an investor Visa. All other immigrant visas are by quotas, in which Latin American immigrants are actually favored, unless one applies for a non-immigrant student Visa first, or simply overstays a Tourist Visa.

I was forced into an opposite-sex marriage at the age of 19 by an older classmate, one of the co-writers of the first “Fast and Furious” film, initials E.B., as so not to incriminate the other two writers, after he sexually assaulted me at school, where he was also a film student at the time. And I was not able to re-adjust my status after our divorce in 1994, basically through same-sex marriage, as a (trans-masculine but not entirely transgender or in need of transitioning) gender nonconforming lesbian, due to DOMA. The Violence Against Women Act of 1994 under which I am now self-petitioning did not yet exist during our marriage.

Men, the insecure ones that is, have only ever attacked me, whether just verbally or sexually or physically, based on an idea that I was “acting like a man,” and therefore somehow threatened heir own sense of masculinity and was therefore in need of some sort of correction of my behavior through abuse from them exactly. In this I have still considered myself lucky, since most women get attacked on the basis of “acting like a woman,” as being a female-bodied individual is a no-win situation when it comes to insecure, abusive men.

My opposite-sex marriage was a forced relationship from the start, and besides this I was in the US perfectly legal, long-term and with the possibility of a Visa extension and work eligibility, and so certainly not in need of permanent immigration just yet. I was also certainly not in need of a man and made that perfectly clear through my masculine behavior, and the way I dressed in male clothing, should have turned many a heterosexual man off. I never did understand why men felt the need to pick up on me, especially after often mistaking me for a young guy in the beginning, but I guess some men will stop at nothing.

If college women make good prey, and they clearly do, especially when drunk, then foreign college students make for especially good victims, as our legal rights are different under the law, eve if we are legal. Being drunk is no excuse for assault and I was certainly stone cold sober and editing my Super 8 short film in the school editing room when the first assault happened. His subsequent marriage to me and continuous stalking, including back to the Netherlands where I tried to escape him for good, forced me to drop out of my lifelong dream to go to Film School in Los Angeles.

School Letter of Admission into the Film Program at Los Angeles City College, 1992. Necessary for 5-Year Student Visa.
Venice Beach House With Friends, 1993.
At Work in the Laemmle’s Monica -Plex Box-Office, 1998. (I Worked at the Arthouse Movie Theater Chain The Laemmle Theatres from 1993–2001.)

I was also not able to re-enroll in Film School, which I found out the year DOMA was signed into office by Bill Clinton 1996 through an immigration adviser, who conveniently left out any LGBTQ discrimination when discussing my options for staying, which effectively were cut down to nothing by DOMA exactly. The reason I could not re-enroll from within the US was because I had violated the terms of my Student Visa through the marital abuse that was inflicted on me and the advisor did not inform me I could and should self-petition through the Violence Against Women Act of 1994.

I had asked for immigration advice within two years after the divorce, as required, and was legally eligible for US Citizenship. Instead I became Out-Of-Status, or “undocumented,” when my Student Visa expired in 1997, ironically in LGBTQ history on the very same day that Ellen DeGeneres “came out of the closet” on her then TV sitcom. I had already been entered in the database as an international student, so was not “under the radar” from immigration authorities and so very vulnerable to deportation, which my male roommate and assistant manager at the art house movie “The Laemmle Theatres” I worked at took full advantage of.

He became abusive of me, knowing I was openly lesbian since 1994, and I ended up marrying him against my will, made homeless in his family’s hometown of Chula Vista, 7 miles north of the US-Mexico border, in 2007, and racially profiled as bi-racial Dutch-Indonesian, mistaken for Latin, as well as gender/identity profiled by the San Diego Police and Border Patrol. He never sponsored nor divorced me, and we are now married for 10 years, him still living with me and off of me financially, back in Hollywood and in a film production office since 2010, even though I lead my own life in regards my relationships with women.

By the mid-90s the digital age had begun though and then internet came along and I was able to become a filmmaker after all. I had also become a big John Cassavetes fan, which helped out a lot. My husband, broken off from his own abusive family and turned around on LGBTQ rights, is now a co-producer on my LGBTQ exclusion policy documentary detailing my personal journey ‘The Queer Case for Individual Rights: From International Film Student to Queer and Undocumented.’

Marriage is the only way to become a US Citizen, if one is not already related to a US parent, sibling or child, which no US Embassy will lead one to believe, promising instead a pathway to Citizenship through hard work somehow.

The original Deferred Action towards US Immigration was designed around John Lennon’s immigration case by his lawyer Leon Wildes, and included his Legal Entry and Extraordinary Ability. The current DACA program scratched both those requirements. The current DACA program also routinely refers to its’ recipients as student, while they did not come enter the US on Student Visas, but illegally instead. Again, these are not racist or elitist notions but simply the facts of US Immigration Policy.

There is a separate Asylum seeking process for people fleeing their countries by necessity, and this is not an easy program to qualify for and rather cruel in its’ design. This undoubtedly has become a motivating factor for people to cross illegally, and I personally wonder if any “Illegal Entries” would have fared better by immigrating to Europe for instance, which has a Merit-Based System as opposed to the US’ Family Law System.

(NOTE: This is Part 1. of a 3-Part Article. Click Here for Part 2. And Click Here for Part 3. Or Click Here to Read the 3-Part Article in its’ Entirety.)

My John Cassavetes Film Retrospective at The Laemmle Theatres, Fall 2001.
Proof of Income Taxes.

If you enjoyed this article please push the little heart button at the bottom of the page.

You can read more of my articles here:

List of Articles

I am a Writer-Documentary Filmmaker-Producer at Queer Women Filmmakers Center, Los Angeles, currently in Post-Production of a Feature Documentary ‘The Queer Case for Individual Rights: From International Film Student to Queer and Undocumented.’