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    Far from home

    The Washington Blade has an op-ed by an American who’s living in the Netherlands with his Dutch partner:

    I’d like to come home to live in America. No, let me be clearer. I’d like to be able to live in America. But I cannot.

    Even though I am a native-born U.S. citizen who lived in America until I was 42 years old, I have been exiled by U.S. law. I am a “love exile.” Because I am gay, I am a second-class U.S. citizen, lacking the basic right to live in America together with my non-U.S. partner.

    The use of “second-class citizen” in the context of the gay marriage debate makes me curl up at the edges. I do think it’s more apt in this case.

    The problem is two-fold: (a) We who are abroad are politically invisible, and (b) a lot of Americans simply do not believe that it is difficult to bring someone to live in America. Even my well-informed friends in the U.S. will say to me, “But you can marry in Massachusetts!”

    That is irrelevant, because immigration is a federal issue. Or, “Surely Rik can get a green card!” or “There are so many foreigners here, I’m sure you can find a way for Rik.” But we can’t.

    Moreover, current U.S. policy is causing a massive brain drain. Thousands of our best-educated and experienced professional people are leaving the U.S. as love exiles, and we are taking our U.S. earned qualifications with us.

    “Massive” may be an overstatement, but the number of gays taking their credentials and productivity abroad to be with their partners is certainly considerable. (People really do seem to be blown away by how difficult it is for a highly-qualified foreigner to get a green card.) In East Asia, the issues are somewhat different from in Europe; here, what makes things easier is just that there are a lot of jobs for foreigners. It’s certainly not the presence of partnership rights. But if the pull factors are often different, the results are often the same.

    Of course, immigration is a complex issue (something you could easily forget listening to people bellow past each other over the last several weeks). If nothing else, Robert Bragar’s story (website for his advocacy group here) is a good corrective to the idea that gay unions are all “transient.” You don’t leave a comfortable life and career trajectory to spend the rest of your days in an unknown country for someone who just happens to be a good lay.

    3 Responses to “Far from home”

    1. Alice says:

      Oh dear, immigration… I had to leave my kids in England because their father couldn’t get into the US without selling both his legs (or something similar). It was either that or take myself, my husband, his ex-wife and both of *their* children to England, and don’t get me started on the double-sized cost-of-living for that lot…

      But enough of my personal hell- letting more of the right kind of foreigners *into* America just seems to be a political whatever for most people. The rules suck, but who’s going to get them changed when they apply to so few? Arg.

    2. Sean Kinsell says:

      “The rules suck, but who’s going to get them changed when they apply to so few? Arg.”

      I know, Alice. I’m lucky in the sense that Atsushi and I got together here and it’s easy for me to remain employed in Japan; we could run into problems if I decided to spirit him back to the US, but as long as I’m okay with being a lifer here, we don’t really have a problem. I do have plenty of American friends with foreign partners, though. Some come to the States and do the student visa thing as long as they can. Others go to Canada or Singapore. And the straight, married ones who go to the US have to deal with the INS (you’ve had the pleasure, I assume?).

    3. Alice says:

      Oh dear. The cattle-market treatment. Why is having anything to do with a government agency still like being instantly tranported back to 1960s Russia? I don’t get it.

      I do think if Americans care about America and, let’s face it, what America is supposed to stand for and what is supposed to have made America America (namely, enterprising immigrants), then they should pay more attention to these things. Also, attention to detail is what characterises a humane society. This isn’t just about “More Mexicans? Or fewer?”

      Arg again.

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