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Tuesday, December 06, 2005

USA - Transgender Naturalization Applicant Mistreated by Immigration

Immigration Equality
Contact: Victoria Neilson
350 West 31st Street, Ste. 505
New York, NY 10001
(212) 714-2904
vneilson@immigrationequality.org For Immediate Release
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Gloria (not her real name) has been living in the United States since she was a teenager. Born in Ecuador, her family brought her to the United States as a legal permanent resident so that she could have the opportunity to lead a better life. Recently she applied to become a citizen so that she could be a full participant in American society. When she went to her naturalization interview, however, rather than being welcomed to the U.S. as a citizen, she was abused and mistreated by a transphobic naturalization officer.

“He asked me why I am the way I am,” Gloria recalls. “When I told him that I was born this way, he told me that he didn’t believe me. Then he asked me if I had a boyfriend. When I told him that I do, he asked me why I have a boyfriend since I’m a man.”

After hearing about Gloria’s experience, Immigration Equality has taken on Gloria’s case for representation. “Neither transgender identity nor sexual orientation have any relevance to a legal permanent resident’s application to naturalize,” explains Victoria Neilson, Immigration Equality’s Legal Director. “It’s shameful that a government officer would treat an applicant so disrespectfully.”

Making matters worse, the officer determined that Gloria needed to submit a letter from her mother, and ordered Gloria to have her mother use the male pronoun for Gloria in the letter. “My mother knows me as her daughter,” Gloria explains, still visibly shaken. “How can he ask me to make my mother go back to calling me her son?”

According to Immigration Equality he can’t. “A naturalization officer has no business telling a mother how to refer to her child. It’s not relevant to her case, and it’s offensive for him to make such a demand,” says Ms. Neilson.

Although Gloria asked to speak to the officer’s supervisor, he refused, telling her that his supervisor was too busy. Again, Ms. Neilson says this was improper. “If a problem arises with an officer during an interview, the applicant should be able to speak with his or her supervisor.” Immigration Equality is bringing the officer’s behavior to the attention of the site supervisor in the hope that the officer will be reprimanded.

Immigration Equality (formerly the Lesbian and Gay Immigration Rights Task Force) was founded in 1994 and advocates for equality under U.S. immigration law for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and HIV-positive immigrants, their families, friends and loved ones. For more information on Immigration Equality, please visit www.immigrationequality.org .

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