By Aaron C. Morris, Esq.
Yesterday, a transgender client of mine called to tell me that she had fallen to the floor crying when she heard that her green card application had finally been approved. Although this might be cause for celebration and relief for many people, it was particularly so for her. After eleven months of battling, the Department of Homeland Security agreed to recognize the validity of her marriage to her U.S.-citizen husband.
Over the past few years, Immigration Equality has increased its representation of transgender individuals in marriage-based green card applications. Some of our clients are transgender U.S. citizens who have fallen in love with an opposite-sex foreign partner. Others are cisgender U.S. citizens who have married a transgender foreign person.
In each case, and with each new immigration officer, we have had to start from scratch to prove the ability of the U.S. citizen to sponsor his or her spouse. While many immigration officers in New York were open-minded about the possibility of transgender marriage, they were almost always uncertain or confused about whether they were able to issue a green card in our cases. Such doubts invariable lead to heightened scrutiny of our clients and lengthy processing times.
Given the difficulties we have experienced, Immigration Equality requested that DHS assign a single supervisor to be in charge of all transgender marriage cases in the New York City immigration office. I am happy to report that DHS recently agreed to do so. Hopefully, this change in policy will help to ease the way for our New York clients in the future and act as a model for DHS offices in other regions.