www.ambiente.us NOVEMBER |NOVIEMBRE 2010
Victoria Neilson | Immigration Equality
by Eddie Sierra
Ambiente recently had the opportunity to get acquainted and learn more about
immigration equality and the issues affecting GLBT communities throughout U.S.
today. We sat with Victoria Nielson, Founder and principal attorney at Immigration
Equality | Action Fund. A non-profit GLBT staffed organization fully committed in
assisting GLBT families and individuals get access to the often complex and confusing
U.S. immigration courts. With the recent controversy of the contemptible Arizona
Immigration Law, and the inaction of the Obama administration or the Congress to act
upon this difficult and oftentimes discriminatory practices by immigration authorities
and other law enforcement agencies. The battle sure is a divisive issue on both aisles
on the political spectrum. However, organizations like Immigration Equality and
individuals like Victoria are not afraid to come to combat and on to the road
of victory for the GLBT families it helps.
Victoria tell us a little about you and what immigration equality
means GLBT community as an organization?
I’ve been with Immigration Equality since 2003. In that time, we’ve grown tremendously
as an organization which I think reflects a growing understanding within the LGBT
community of the importance of immigration issues as well as a growing
understanding within the immigration community of the importance of LGBT issues.
What are the aims and goals and any current struggle Immigration
Equality is facing today?
Since Immigration Equality was founded in 1994 (then known as the Lesbian and Gay
Immigration Rights Task Force), we have had three central goals: to fight for equality
under U.S. immigration law for lesbian and gay binational couples; to fight for asylum for
LGBT people facing persecution in their home countries; and to end the HIV ban on travel
During the past year, we have finally seen an end to the discriminatory and anachronistic
HIV ban. It’s great as a lawyer to finally be able to tell people, “No, the fact that you’re HIV-
positive won’t affect your ability to come to the
We’ve also made enormous strides on behalf of LGBT asylum seekers and are currently
working with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service to provide training to asylum
officers on these issues.
The fact that there is still no recognition of lesbian and gay families under U.S.
immigration law means that every day we hear tragic
stories of couples forced to choose between their
country and the person they love. We are fighting every
day to right this injustice.
What effect does these divisive immigration
policies is affecting the GLBT community.
I think that the more people hear the real life stories of
LGBT families -- many of whom are raising children
together, many of whom have been together for years in
committed relationships – the more momentum we will gain.
Family unification is at the heart of our immigration system, and our families deserve
What you would like to see done in D.C. to end the divisive policies
and safeguard the couples and the children affected by these
Well, that’s a bigger question than I can answer. I do think that pretty much everyone is in
agreement that our current immigration system is broken and that it needs a
comprehensive fix. We’re very excited that the Comprehensive Immigration Reform bill
just announced by Senator Menendez includes a provision that would allow Americans to
sponsor their lesbian or gay partners for immigration benefits. No immigration reform
would be truly comprehensive if it continues to leave out our families.
Who can benefit from your resources and how can a member of the
GLBT community contact Immigrations Equality.
In addition to the policy work which we do to try to change the law, we also have a legal
department which represents individuals in asylum cases and which provides legal
information on any immigration topic that affects LGBT or HIV-positive individuals. Anyone
affected by these issues should visit our website