Fight for immigration equality extends to the customs line

In other immigration news, US Customs and Border Protection is working to eliminate the discrimination faced by LGBT couples and families who currently aren’t recognized when they go through the customs line.

When you get a customs form, it clearly states, “only ONE written declaration per family is required.” An opposite-sex couple or a family led by an opposite-sex couple only has to fill out that single form. But if a same-sex couple or LGBT-led family goes through the line, they’re stopped, separated, and forced to fill out two forms.

In June 2011, Mihail – a naturalized U.S. citizen originally from Pakistan – and Scott entered the U.S. following a European trip. They filled out one customs form, “since it states that only one form is needed for each family,” said Mihail. The customs officer asked why they had only completed one form, and when they replied they were domestic partners registered in the state of California, the officer said, “The federal government doesn’t recognize that.”

“Scott and I met the qualifications on the customs form, including a shared address, yet the federal government refused to recognize us as a family,” said Lari. “After waiting years for citizenship because federal law would not allow Scott to sponsor me, we were then faced with the reality that, even after I naturalized, we were still not family in our government’s eyes."

Such demeaning treatment is hardly an appropriate way to welcome people back to America. New regulations have just been released that, following a series of reviews, will correct this inequity and eliminate the “double” standard. A coalition including Immigration Equality and Family Equality Council was instrumental in bringing about this change.

PFAW applauds their work and CBP’s recognition that “gay families [are] ‘real families,’ too.”

Note: Generally the Policy Corner is about legislative advocacy, where I write to you as a Senior Policy Analyst in the Public Policy department at People For the American Way.

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