Sunday, November 17, 2013

Successfully Achieving Protections for LGBT Victims

After the United States Supreme Court barred the United States Government from discriminating against lawfully married same-sex couples in its landmark decision United States v. Windsor, the United States Department of Homeland Security quickly issued guidance on how that decision affects relevant immigration-related filings including immigrant-based ("Green Card") and nonimmigrant-based visa petitions. The result has been foreign-national spouses in same-sex relationships receiving immigration benefits.

However, there is a less celebratory but equally important side to immigration law of which many are not aware and which involves assisting individuals who are victims of abusive or criminal activity. Such individuals are sometimes left without what they believe is the sole basis of resolving their immigration status: their relationship with their United-States-citizen or Green-Card-holding spouse or partner. These same individuals may even face discrimination at the local level pertaining to obtaining justice for their victimization. As a client of mine learned after he had been violently attacked by his United-States-citizen boyfriend of many years and would-be fiancé, a great deal of courage is required to overcome structural societal biases that still linger even in major metropolitan areas of the United States:

Spanish Language Only

Nevertheless, despite the obstacles my client faced in having law-enforcement authorities investigate and prosecute what many would find a clear case of domestic violence, he remained active in seeking some form of justice, including resolving his immigration status. Such resolution came when the same law-enforcement authorities that he had initially believed were being unhelpful nevertheless certified that he was a victim of a crime, e.g., domestic violence, and was helpful in the investigation of that crime. The client was wise to seek skilled immigration-related legal counsel to assist him in obtaining that certification because law-enforcement authorities may have certain procedures in place or personnel to be contacted regarding such certification requests. Not abiding by those procedures or not contacting the correct personnel may lead to a denial of a certification request, the granting of which is solely within the relevant law-enforcement authority's discretionIn my client's case and due in no small part to his courage, he was successful in obtaining lawful immigration status.

It is important to note that the ability of LGBT victims to resolve their immigration cases favorably based on their victimization does not necessarily rely on whether or not they are married or in a relationship with a United-States citizen or Green-Card holder or even on whether such victimization occurred within a domestic relationship at all. It may not even require a police report or other contemporaneous documentary evidence of the victimization. Nevertheless, although the spectrum of relevant scenarios is wide, the difficulty may relate more to overcoming structural societal biases, something which, as my client above has shown, is clearly possible.

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