Emily & Amanda Fight for Their Future, Inclusive Immigration Reform, Abeyance for Green Card Cases
Amanda and I met in college. I was an incoming freshman and she was a senior. Almost instantly, she wanted to be my friend and invited me to parties, she invited me to church or even to her house to have coffee and study. I turned her down so many times to hang out with my fellow freshmen that I had recently befriended. I’m really not sure if I was anxious that a senior wanted to hang out with me or if I was just comfortable with the friends I had already made. Regardless, her persistence eventually prevailed and we became close friends. We would text and message each other through Facebook quite often. Even when I went home for the summer, I found some excuse to visit her or for us to meet up to go to a concert.
The next school year, I spent most of my time hanging out with her. My address was at the dorms but I practically lived at her apartment. I actually grew as a person spending so much time there. I’m a bit of a loner but for some reason I felt no pressure to hang out with her, it was just something that I wanted to do. We made meals together, watched way too many movies, and I actually did my homework. Not only did she motivate me to be a better student, she challenged me to be a more rounded individual, thinking outside my tunnel vision mind.
The college we went to has a month off for winter break. That winter, Amanda used this time to go home to Brazil to renew her student visa and her passport. There wasn’t a day that entire month that Amanda and I didn’t email, communicate by Facebook, or send instant messages to each other. I think I was on the computer the entire break. We expressed how much we missed each other and how she couldn’t get back fast enough. After what seemed like forever, she arrived at the airport. It was awesome and awkward at the same time. Our chats over break had become steadily more affectionate, more so than I had ever been with anyone else.
When we got back to her apartment we sat on opposite ends of the couch and I remember her saying, “Hey.” While she patted the space on the couch next to her she said, “come here.” I scooted over and she hugged me. It was the most amazing hug I’ve ever felt. Everything went back to normal. Later that night we were talking and she confessed that she loved me more than a friend and I couldn’t have agreed more.
Since we were each other’s first girlfriend, it took a little getting used to. I’m a people pleaser and was very close to throwing everything away because I was afraid of what other people would think. After understanding that our feelings were very much real, our fears of what misinformed people might think faded, and we decided not to turn our backs on this amazing connection we found with each other. Even still, trying to figure out our relationship, hiding out of fear, and dealing with our friends’ and families’ reactions. But we have made it four years and are still happier than ever.
She knows my irritated face when I’m at the mall and get frustrated, and I know that she has a short fuse and when it starts burning I should just let her be and she’ll come back to life when she’s ready. She loves my freckles and my slight dimple on my left cheek and I love the way she rocks and hums while she is cooking a delicious dinner. I know that this is real love and even if we bicker – we miscommunicate a lot – we get over it in about a minute and end up laughing about how ridiculous it was. We have a give and take relationship just like any functional one. Our love is no different from any other. We just happen to both be women.
On my birthday in 2011, I came out as a lesbian to my parents and told them about my relationship with Amanda. I think it helped that they already knew and loved her. Of course there was a transition time where they were a bit confused and curious, but I think it went rather well. Soon after that, Amanda told her parents through email. They were very understanding as well. We are blessed with amazing families.
In November, we decided that we should get married. It was just the two of us and it was a wonderful vacation away from real life. We are going to eventually throw a reception ceremony for our friends and family, but we want to know what is going to happen in this next big step in our lives. Where are we going to live? Amanda has been in school for the past eight years as a foreign student, which allowed her to stay in the U.S. She will graduate in May with her third degree. After that she has a very short window to find a job or leave the United States.
It is our dream to continue to build our lives together in the United States; I already have a great job and we both speak the English language. I could move to Brazil, because Brazil has for years permitted the immigration of same-sex partners of Brazilian citizens, but I don’t speak Portugues and the transition would be very difficult for our careers. Because of the Defense of Marriage Act our marriage is not recognized by the U.S. government, and I cannot sponsor Amanda for a green card. Unlike Brazil, the United States denies the existence of our relationship and provides no way for her to stay here despite the years we have been together and our marriage.
DOMA has forced me to consider leaving the United States, which is a very difficult decision when you consider that it is like my country is evicting me from my own home because I am gay. Still, we want to be together above all else. We have talked very seriously of going to Brazil. We hired a lawyer to make sure that we have everything we need for me to move to Brazil when Amanda graduates. For us to move to Brazil would mean that I lose a secure job. I would also have to become fluent in Portuguese before re-starting my career and Amanda would have to score a stellar job to keep us going while we transition. With her amazing credentials here it seems very likely that she would easily find a job in the US, which would carry us through the short term. But a job that would sponsor her for a green card? Unlikely. If it weren’t for DOMA, I could sponsor her as my wife and she could stay here.
Don’t get me wrong, Brazil looks like an amazing country and I would love to consider living there at some time in the future when doing so would truly be a choice. But why should we be forced to take that route? Why can’t we stay in the United States as we wish? I have two jobs. I pay my taxes. I’ve never done anything illegal. I have a great relationship with my family. I’m honest – too honest for this world. And above all: I am a United States citizen. However, because I want to spend the rest of my life with a woman from another country, I have to leave my own to be with her? She is the most hardworking person I’ve ever known. She has three degrees for goodness sakes! She will contribute great things to this country. But as many lesbian and gay Americans soon learn, the “land of the free” is only free for some. I recently read the status of an old friend on Facebook. She said, “Congratulations to my Colombian turned American fiance for passing his citizenship test today. Love you!” I was excited for her but also heartbroken because that could be me if it weren’t for DOMA. One day I hope to say the same thing about my dear Amanda.
We are so thankful for what The DOMA Project is doing to empower us and the thousands of other same-sex bi-national couples around the world. Now, as oral arguments at the Supreme Court draw near and Congress debates Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR), I believe that it is more important than ever to get involved by sharing our own stories and those of others. Even if I were not in a relationship with Amanda, I would support this project to the fullest. For that reason, I hope you will consider sharing our story and those of other couples, even if you’re not a same-sex binational couple. Most Americans would agree that it’s crazy that this is even an issue; but far too many are still unaware that it is an issue. We have the power to change that, and the time to do it is now. It’s urgent that Congress include protections for LGBT families in CIR and that the Obama Administration place all green card petitions from our families in abeyance until DOMA’s fate is decided either at the Supreme Court or by Congress. Ours is just one family out of thousands that cannot afford to wait any longer for change. Please join us in this fight. Help me keep Amanda in this country, and keep all of our families together. Share your story today and circulate this petition to President Obama.