"LGBT Immigration Equality Post Obergefell"
On Thursday, February 11th, our only event for the day took place at 4:30pm in the Moot Courtroom at the CWRU School of Law where we attended a lecture by Professor Fatma Marouf; Associate Professor of Law and Co-Director of the UNLV Immigration Clinic) titled "LGBT Immigration Equality Post Obergefell?" which was hosted by Lambda Law Students Association, among several other law societies, whose mission is to "foster community and promote awareness of diverse sexuality and gender identify through social activism." We got to meet Ms. Lauren Sankray and Ms. Aliza Lopes-Baker, the co-presidents of the CWRU chapter. We also visited with Ms. Suzanne Egan, a kindly person from Bratenahl right down the street from where we live in Euclid Beach, who is not a lawyer or a law student but loves attending such lectures as this one because they are usually layman friendly and she learns a lot from them. Prof. Marouf was introduced by Professor B. Jessie Hill, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, and Adjunct Professor of Law Michael Sharon who said that an EB1-1 visa goes only to those persons of "extraordinary ability" which is how he would describe Prof. Marouf. At the beginning of her presentation, Prof. Marouf provided some interesting background information. For example, there was "nothing in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) that precluded recognition of same-sex marriages" but it was the passage of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) that "prevented federal authorities (including immigration authorities) from recognizing same-sex marriages" but this section of DOMA was struck down by U.S. vs Windsor in 2013 which "opened the door to same-sex marriage immigration petitions" and President Obama "directed this decision to be implemented swifty across all federal agencies." Accordingly, this had very positive consequences in terms of filing immigrant visa petitions for spouses, fiancee petitions, and "the re-opening of applications that were previously denied under DOMA" toname just a few. In 2013 the LGBT Immigrant population consisted of 637,000 documented adults (43% female and 57% male) and 267,000 undocumented adults (33% female and 67% male) or 2.7% of the undocumented population. In 2013 there were 113,300 foreign-born individuals who were part of same-sex couple ($58,700 naturalized citizens and 54,600 non-citizens) and 87,900 couples with a foreign-born spouse/partner. As we know, it was the Obergefell vs. Hodges decision in 2015 that ruled that same-sex marriages must be recognized throughout the United States and "all same-sex couples will have the same immigration benefits as opposite-sex couples." Prof. Marouf went on to talk about the present challenges facing the LGBT in such matters as asylum and immigration detention; subjects that she is very concerned about as are we. She talked about the terrible problems faced by the LGBT detained in centers such as risk of sexual assault, access to medical care, and appropriate housing as well as the dilemmas that they often fact in post-release particularly if they have to wear an ankle bracelet to monitor their whereabouts. Prof. Marouf, herself, is an advocate of "community-based ATD's that emphasize case management" but these still have to be developed. At this time, she is working with the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees on possible alternatives to detention. Part of the problem is that although there are excellent organization that provide assistance for the LGBT immigrants they face quite a few obstacles such as very low funding. Near the end of her presentation she shared some sobering statistics: the total annual foundation funding for LGBT organizations is $196 million out of which "organizations providing direct services to LGBT immigrants received only $122,500!" Written by: Michael Patterson Community Liaison, Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC.