Jose Antonio Vargas, the Pulitzer-winning journalist who came out as undocumented, has just been arrested in McAllen, Texas, going through airport security, according to the immigration group United We Dream.
McALLEN, Texas -- A prominent immigration activist and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who has lived and worked in the U.S. without legal documentation for years has been detained by U.S. Border Patrol agents at a South Texas airport.
Border Patrol spokesman Omar Zamora says Jose Antonio Vargas was in custody Tuesday morning, but he had no other details.
Vargas had been in the border city of McAllen for several days as part of a vigil drawing attention to the plight of unaccompanied immigrant children and families coming into the U.S. illegally.
On Tuesday morning, Vargas tweeted: "About to go thru security at McAllen Airport. I don't know what's going to happen."
At the McAllen airport, Border Patrol agents stand beside Transportation Security Administration agents checking documentation, even for domestic flights.
Vargas recently screened his new documentary, Documented, in Miami Shores. He’s been traveling the United States promoting the film.
Early Friday, I had the honor of speaking to 160 new American citizens at a 7:30 a.m. naturalization ceremony at the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services office in Kendall.
"The USCIS Kendall Field Office is commemorating “Pride Month” during our naturalization ceremony," read my invitation in May. "We strive to provide guest speakers from our outstanding citizens in our community. This provides an even greater meaning to that special day in our new citizens lives. We would be honored to have you as our guest speaker."
The auditorium was packed with moist-eyed, cheering new Americans from 24 nations, including 93 from Cuba, 10 from Peru, 6 from Nicaragua and others from such diverse countries as Russia, Sudan, Haiti and Philippines.
Immigration officials in Miami believe my speech about LGBT pride was the first of its kind delivered anywhere in the world to a mainstream group of new American citizens.
I was extremely moved by the invitation and the warm response I got by immigration officials and the new citizens, themselves.
Here's the text of my speech:
Thank you very much. I see so many happy and proud people here today. I, too, am happy and proud to be here, as are, I'm sure, Immigration employees who join us and LGBT people who may be part of your group.
Eighteen months ago, I wrote about a Coral Gables couple, Daniel Zavala and Yohandel Ruiz, who weren’t sure at the time whether Zavala could stay in the United States.
The two men met three years ago in a Lincoln Road nightclub. Zavala was visiting South Florida from Mexico. He commuted between both countries during their courtship and they married May 1, 2012 in Washington, D.C.
Two days later, Zavala’s tourist visa expired.
Zavala and Ruiz, along with thousands of other gay and lesbian bi-national couples, faced separation because of DOMA, the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which prohibited the federal government from recognizing legally married same-sex spouses.
“I should not have to leave the country to be with the person I love,” said Cuban-born Ruiz, an American citizen who grew up in Hialeah. “I should be able to sponsor my husband, Daniel, to stay in the country.”
On June 26, 2013, the United States Supreme Court ruled a portion of DOMA unconstitutional and ordered the federal government to recognize all legally married same-sex couples.
Now, legally married men can sponsor their husbands for green cards and legally married women can sponsor their wives, too. Just like opposite-sex married couples.
In the past year, hundreds of green cards and fiancée visa petitions have been approved for lesbian and gay Americans citizens and their foreign spouses, in more than half the states and in U.S. consular posts around the world, according to Lavi Soloway, an immigration lawyer who specializes in representing bi-national LGBT couples.
This month, gay pride is celebrated throughout the world. Celebrations are planned throughout South Florida, including Wilton Manors in Broward County this weekend.
Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people have much to celebrate but they are still lobbying for marriage equality throughout the United States, including in Florida, and a national workplace nondiscrimination law.
One couple celebrating this year: Daniel Zavala and Yohandel Ruiz.
In January, Zavala got his new green card, proving he is now a permanent resident of the United States.
Congratulations to all of you and best of luck in the next chapters of your lives.
GetEQUAL co-director Felipe Sousa-Rodriguez, featured in my front-page article June 6 about undocumented young people, is leaving that organization to become deputy managing director of United We Dream Network (UWD).
Sousa-Rodriguez, 28, was born Felipe Sousa-Matos in Brazil and grew up in Miami as a gay undocumented youth.
Here’s the joint news release from GetEQUAL and UWD:
WASHINGTON, DC -- The Board of Directors of GetEQUAL and the United We Dream Network (UWD) jointly announced today that Felipe Sousa-Rodriguez is resigning his position as Co-Director at GetEQUAL to become Deputy Managing Director at UWD. He will assume his new position at UWD on July 8th.
GetEQUAL Board Chair Tanya Domi said, "We're so proud of the work that Felipe has accomplished at GetEQUAL over the past two years, first as national field director and then as co-director. While we're extraordinarily sad to see him go, we’re thrilled that our friends at UWD will benefit from his wisdom, courage, and deep commitment to an intersectional struggle for justice."
GetEQUAL Co-Director Heather Cronk said, "Over the past four years, UWD and GetEQUAL have developed a rich relationship that has enabled both organizations to deepen our commitments to an intersectional movement for justice. During that time, we have been thrilled to organize alongside one another, take bold policy stands alongside one another, and even get arrested in acts of civil disobedience alongside one another. Today that relationship will become even richer, and we wish Felipe all the best as he transitions next month to work with the amazing team at UWD."
UWD Managing Director Cristina Jimenez said, "Though Felipe is not officially joining UWD until July 8, his vision for fierce and effective advocacy has long benefited the immigrant youth movement. Felipe was part of the groundbreaking Trail of Dreams in 2010 when he walked alongside three other immigrant youth from Miami to Washington, DC, to highlight the plight of immigrant communities and the need to stop the deportations of immigrant youth. They laid the groundwork for the most significant victory in the immigrant rights movement since 1986 -- the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA). He was a founding member of United We Dream’s National Coordinating Committee where he represented the Southeast region, and has continued to demonstrate a commitment to justice that inspires those fighting at the front lines of both immigrant rights and LGBTQ issues. United We Dream is thrilled to welcome Felipe to our team and looks forward to continuing to fight for equality and dignity alongside our friends at GetEQUAL."
The GetEQUAL board is engaged in a process to determine the best future leadership model for the organization. The Board of Directors strongly supports the exceptional work of Ms. Cronk, the GetEQUAL staff, and GetEQUAL’s community of grassroots organizers across the United States. GetEQUAL remains committed to its mission of empowering bold action to demand full legal and social equality for LGBTQ individuals, and to hold accountable those who stand in the way.
June 10, 2014 in Bisexual, Business, Current Affairs, Florida, Fort Lauderdale & Broward County, Gay, Immigration, Key West & Monroe County, Lesbian, LGBT, Media, Miami & Miami-Dade County, Miami Beach, Politics, Religion, South Florida, Transgender, Weblogs, Wilton Manors, Workplace, Youth | Permalink | Comments (0)
Update: Documented will air 9 and 11 p.m. June 29, 2014, on CNN.
BY STEVE ROTHAUS
The hardest part about being an undocumented youth is not spending the rest of your life cleaning toilets or waiting tables. It’s perhaps never hugging your mother again.
“It’s like we don’t know each other. It’s really hard,” Pulitzer-winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas tells his Filipino mom in a Skype conversation — their first talk in more than 20 years —recorded for his new film Documented, which premieres in South Florida Friday night at O Cinema Miami Shores at Miami Theater Center.
Mother and grown child both sob. “It’s like you’re not the son I used to have. The son that used to tell me, ‘Ma, I love you,’ Emelie Salinas tells him from the Philippines.
“I’m really, really sorry,” says Vargas, 33, a former Washington Post reporter who came out as undocumented in a 2011 New York Times magazine article he wrote.
“It’s OK. I understand you, son. I’m always worrying about you.”
“Yeah, I know,” Vargas tells her. “We will see each other soon. And I love you, very, very much.”
Salinas and Vargas won’t see each other soon. She can’t come to America and if he returns to Manila, he might not be allowed back in the U.S.
Vargas, who shared a Pulitzer Prize for reporting on the Virginia Tech shootings in 2007, is on a 13-city tour with his film, which airs later this year on CNN. He will be at the O Cinema screenings on Friday and Saturday to answer audience questions.
“As an undocumented person, I’m in a unique position to report on the issue, and to talk about how we’re directly impacted by this,” Vargas said this week from his home in New York.
Vargas’ grandparents smuggled him into California at age 12 in 1993. He didn’t learn his immigration status until four years later, when he sought a driver’s license.
“I went to the DMV like any 16-year-old. I didn’t tell my grandparents. I just went. I showed the woman in the booth my green card and my school ID. She flipped the green card around twice, she looks at me and she says, ‘This is fake. Don’t come back here again,’ he tells a high school class in Documented.
He raced home on his bicycle and told his grandfather. “The first thing he said was, ‘What are you doing showing that to people?’ The first thing. The second thing, ‘You’re not supposed to be here.’”
Vargas never told anyone else about his immigration status. He lied to get a job at The San Francisco Chronicle. He graduated in 2004 from San Francisco State University. Immediately after, The Washington Post hired him. In 2009, he joined Huffington Post and two years later wrote the New York Times piece.
“It’s my artistic act of civil disobedience,” Vargas said of his Define American media campaign on behalf of the nation’s estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants.
Vargas’ story is not uncommon, said immigration activist Felipe Sousa-Rodriguez, 28, who was born Felipe Sousa-Matos in Brazil and grew up as undocumented in Miami.
Both Vargas and Sousa-Rodriguez are gay and came out as teenagers.
“The cost of coming out was really high for me. I was afraid of getting kicked out and I was afraid of the police all the time,” said Sousa-Rodriguez, who moved to Tampa and is co-director of GetEQUAL, an LGBT advocacy group. “I was told all I could dream about was to become a warehouse worker, which I did. I cleaned toilets even though I was an honors student. I cleaned houses. I did everything an undocumented person does. All types of work that people can pay you under the table.”
Sousa-Rodriguez and Gaby Pacheco gained national prominence when they and others walked in 2010 from Miami to Washington to lobby for passage of the DREAM Act and other immigration reform. Both Sousa-Rodriguez and Pacheco are featured in Documented.
After graduating from Dr. Michael M. Krop Senior High in Northeast Miami-Dade County, Sousa-Rodriguez attended Miami Dade College and St. Thomas University. He graduated with a business degree in 2012.
“I always wanted to go to college to make my mother proud. I always had this very clear thing about my mom, that she had made huge sacrifices for me and I need to make her proud,” he said. “She still lives in Brazil. She never came to live in the United States. It’s hard to get visas to come to the U.S. I just grew up without her. I haven’t seen her. Thirteen years. We talk on the phone. She doesn’t know how to use the Internet.”
Diego Sánchez, 23, is luckier than Vargas and Sousa-Rodriguez. He immigrated to Fort Lauderdale at age 7 from Argentina with his immediate family, all undocumented at the time.
“When I think of Jose’s story, I think of my story,” said Sanchez, now co-director of The Bridge Project, a Washington-based immigration group.
“In my case, I’m privileged to have my mom with me and I can’t put myself in his shoes, being without his mom for so many years,” said Sanchez, who has seen Vargas’ film. “He has mixed emotions, mixed feelings about his mom. He was mad that she sent him here. I know now that he understands: That’s what a mother is willing to do for the future of her child. The fact that he hasn’t been able to hug his mother for 20 years, it got me bawling, to be honest.”
Sanchez’s mother, Alejandra Saucedo, 44, is a co-founder of DREAMers Moms, a national organization presenting Friday’s screening of Documented.
“In Argentina, it’s not easy to live,” said Saucedo, who helped put Diego through St. Thomas University by cleaning houses and baking empanadas at home. “We don’t have pay. We don’t have work. We don’t have jobs. We don’t have a future. I’m very sorry to say that, but it’s true. In this country, right now, I’m feeling very motivated. I can see many parents, especially mothers, who came out from the shadows.”
IF YOU GO
Documented will be screened 7 p.m. Friday, 6 and 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at O Cinema Miami Shores at Miami Theater Center, 9806 NE Second Ave. Filmmaker Jose Antonio Vargas will attend the Friday and Saturday screenings. General admission $11.00; student and seniors $9.50; members $7.50. www.o-cinema.org/event/documented
June 05, 2014 in Arts, Bisexual, Business, Current Affairs, Film, Florida, Fort Lauderdale & Broward County, Gay, Immigration, Key West & Monroe County, Lesbian, LGBT, Marriage, Media, Miami & Miami-Dade County, Miami Beach, Palm Beach County, Politics, Religion, South Florida, Television, Theater, Transgender, Weblogs, Wilton Manors, Workplace, Youth | Permalink | Comments (2)
BY AMY TAXIN
LOS ANGELES -- An Australian man widowed by his American husband of more than three decades made a renewed pitch Monday for a green card after the Obama administration eased policies on gay marriage.
Anthony Sullivan, 72, asked federal immigration authorities in Los Angeles to reopen a 1975 petition filed by his late husband Richard Adams so Sullivan can be awarded residency as the surviving spouse of a U.S. citizen, immigration attorney Lavi Soloway said.
The request came decades after the couple sued and lost an early effort to win immigration benefits for same-sex married couples, and less than a year after the Obama administration started issuing green cards to gay couples who marry. Adams died in 2012 in the couple's Hollywood home.
"It doesn't matter how much time has passed and it doesn't matter how long it took to figure it out," Soloway said. "He and Richard sustained a constitutional injury for 40 years, and that should be corrected."
‘The Day It Snowed In Miami,’ a chronology of the LGBT-rights movement focusing on its early days during the Anita Bryant campaign in Miami-Dade County, is a feature-length documentary by Joe Cardona in association with the Miami Herald Media Company and WPBT2.
The film will air locally at 8 p.m. Thursday, March 6, on WPBT2 and nationally on PBS throughout the rest of 2014.
A premiere screening will be Tuesday, March 4, at the Colony Theatre in Miami Beach. Tickets go on sale soon.
Click here to see the trailer and read our new 'The Day It Snowed In Miami' page.
January 31, 2014 in AIDS and Health, Arts, Bisexual, Books, Bullying, Business, Census, Crime, Current Affairs, Fashion, Film, Florida, Food and Drink, Fort Lauderdale & Broward County, Gay, Immigration, Key West & Monroe County, Lesbian, LGBT, Marriage, Media, Miami & Miami-Dade County, Miami Beach, Military, Music, Obituary, Palm Beach County, Pets, Politics, Religion, South Florida, Sports, Television, Theater, Transgender, Travel, Web/Tech, Weblogs, Wilton Manors, Workplace, Youth | Permalink | Comments (0)
BY STEVE ROTHAUS, srothaus@MiamiHerald.com
The U.S. government has awarded permanent residency to the gay Mexican husband of a Coral Gables man, nearly two years after they wed in Washington, D.C, and seven months after the U.S. Supreme Court abolished a portion of the federal Defense of Marriage Act.
“I’m very excited and very relieved,” said Daniel Zavala, 28, who applied for a green card shortly after he and Yohandel Ruiz, a Cuban-born American citizen, married May 1, 2012. “We feel like we finished the process and got what we’re looking for. We’re going on with our lives as a regular couple.”
The couple had met in South Beach while Zavala visited on a tourist visa. Seven months after their marriage, Ruiz received a letter from the U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services denying Zavala a green card. Immigration wrote that it could not recognize the marriage because of DOMA.
Zavala and Ruiz appealed the decision in January 2013, according to immigration attorney Lavi Soloway, who with law partner Noemi Masliah heads The DOMA Project: Binational Couples Winning Equality.
On June 26, the Supreme Court tossed the portion of DOMA that prohibited the federal government from recognizing legally married same-sex couples.
“After the Supreme Court ruled on DOMA, the government went through all the cases that were denied because of DOMA and put them back in the cue for scheduling and processing,” Soloway said Thursday.
Immigration reopened Zavala’s case on July 30 and he had his residency interview in December. Last week, Zavala received his green card effective on Jan. 3.
“He’s a permanent resident of the United States,” said Soloway, whose New York/Los Angeles law firm represents dozens of same-sex bi-national couples in Florida.
Miami’s immigration office has been backlogged recently and many South Florida couples are still waiting residency interviews, Soloway said.
Zavala, who has a degree in international relations from a Mexican university and now works for Miami Dade College’s Art and Culture department, plans to establish citizenship.
“This community has had a happy ending in this matter,” he said.
January 16, 2014 in Bisexual, Business, Current Affairs, Florida, Fort Lauderdale & Broward County, Gay, Immigration, Lesbian, LGBT, Marriage, Media, Miami & Miami-Dade County, Miami Beach, Politics, Religion, South Florida, Transgender, Weblogs, Wilton Manors, Workplace, Youth | Permalink | Comments (1)
It said Wednesday that three men carrying handguns and machetes raided the office of the Haitian rights organization Kouraj last week. Amnesty says the intruders said the center shouldn't be allowed to operate and aimed anti-gay remarks at the two activists who were tied and beaten.
The attackers also stole equipment, which included two laptops and files that contained sensitive information about the group's members.
Haiti's small gay and lesbian community has long remained largely underground because of a strong social stigma that sparks fears of physical violence and loss of employment.
Those negative sentiments spilled into the streets this summer when thousands joined in an anti-gay demonstration.
BY SUDHIN THANAWALA
SAN FRANCISCO -- A federal appeals court has ordered immigration officials to review their decision not to grant asylum to a gay man who said he was attacked for his sexual orientation in 2002 and 2003 in his native Russia and feared he would be persecuted if forced to return there.
The U.S. Department of Justice's Board of Immigration Appeals was wrong when it concluded that the man had failed to show that government officials in Russia were either unwilling or unable to control his attackers, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Wednesday.
The man was only identified as "John Doe" in the opinion.
"The government failed to present any evidence to rebut Doe's undisputed testimony that he suffered serious assaults at the hands of individuals on account of his homosexuality or to show that the Russian government was able and willing to control non-governmental actors who attack homosexuals," the court said.