Immigration Equality came into existence in 1993 when a group of attorneys and activists called a meeting for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) immigrants at New York City’s LGBT Community Center. More than 50 people came to that meeting, and the Lesbian and Gay Immigration Rights Task Force was born. We incorporated in December 1994, and soon had chapters around the country.
Since those humble beginnings, we have grown from an all-volunteer Task Force, to be the country’s only national organization to focus on issues faced by LGBT and HIV-positive immigrants. In 1998, we hired our first full-time staff member, and in 2001 we secured our own office space, for our national headquarters located in New York City. We now have nine full-time staff members, and a dedicated network of members, advocates and activists throughout the United States.
Since our inception, we have been instrumental in educating the public about the plight of same-sex binational couples. In February 2000, Congressman Jerrold Nadler, a New York Democrat, introduced the Permanent Partners Immigration Act (PPIA) (for more information click here) in the House of Representatives. In August 2003, Senator Patrick Leahy introduced a companion bill in the Senate, representing the first time that the PPIA has been pending in both chambers of Congress. In June of 2005, the PPIA was reintroduced under it’s new name: the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA). Immigration Equality continues to play a pivotal role in educating the public about UAFA and advocating for equality under the immigration law.
We have also helped hundreds of immigrants and their attorneys to win asylum in the United States based on their sexual orientation, transgender identity, and/or HIV-positive status. We have written a leading publication on preparing sexual orientation-based asylum claims, and have trained hundreds of attorneys, advocates, and Immigration employees on this specialized area of the law. Immigration Equality also runs a pro bono (free) asylum project, matching low-income asylum seekers with volunteer attorneys.
In 2004, we changed our name to Immigration Equality, a name that is both more inclusive of all of our constituents and succinctly summarizes our mission — advocating for immigration equality for all, without regard to sexual orientation, gender identity, or HIV status.