So What Makes Up A Family


As I said in my earlier blog on this subject, Lawful Permanent Residents (people with a green card) and U.S. Citizens can apply for certain very close family members to come into the U.S. with immigrant visas. Permanent residents can apply for spouses, children,  and unmarried sons and daughters. A U.S citizen can apply for spouse, children, sons and daughters, parents and brothers. Now each of these relationships has a very strict definition.

For example, your spouse is someone you are legally married to. Domestic partners are not spouses under immigration law. Nor are same sex couples even if they are legally married under the laws of their home country. Even if they are married in the U.S. in a state that recognizes gay marriage. This trick was accomplished when President Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act back in the 1990s.

Of course the prejudice against homosexuals did not begin with Clinton. My students are always surprised to learn that until 1990 it was illegal for homosexuals to enter the United States. Every immigrant entering the U.S. was asked if he or she was a homosexual, if you can believe it. The U.S., like Iran, had no native born homosexuals apparently. Homosexual family relations are still not recognized today.

So if you hear someone say that gays have the same rights as straights, just remember that homosexual love still dares not speak its name in the immigration family arena.

Read other parts of this series:

Immigration 101 is a comprehensive series on American immigration law for the layperson. This series tracks my course on immigration law at Hofstra Law School and answers many of your questions about immigration policy.

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Patrick Young blogs daily for Long Island Wins. He is the Downstate Advocacy Director of the New York Immigration Coalition and Special Professor of Immigration Law at Hofstra School of Law. He served as the Director of Legal Services and Program at Central American Refugee Center (CARECEN) for three decades before retiring in 2019. Pat is also a student of immigration history and the author of The Immigrants' Civil War.