Many individuals in the United States face immigration challenges, but until recently, the experiences of LGBT immigrants have not been widely considered.
University of La Verne Assistant Professor of Psychology Dr. Nadine Nakamura teamed up with Dr. Mark Pope from the University of Missouri, St. Louis to address immigration hurdles faced by lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender individuals by guest editing a special issue on LGBT immigration for the “Journal of LGBT Issues in Counseling.”
Nakamura, who was recently quoted in a CNN article about LGBT immigration issues, is a member of the American Psychological Association’s (APA) Task Force on Immigration and met many same-sex couples while she was living in Canada who had emigrated from the United States so that they could remain together. The U.S. does not currently allow its citizens to sponsor same-sex partners for immigration, which does not leave them many options. Nakamura’s research on this topic is included in the special issue in an article titled “This Was My Only Option: Career Transitions of Canadian Immigrants in Same-Sex Binational Relationships” that she co-authored with Dr. Anusha Kassan of the University of British Columbia.
“I sought to join the American Psychological Association’s Task Force on Immigration because of my personal experiences as well as my professional interests in this area,” Nakamura said. “I was especially interested in including an intersectional perspective to the Task Force report and wanted to ensure that the experiences of LGBT immigrants were included.”
Nakamura found limited research in the area of LGBT immigration so she organized a symposium on this topic for the APA convention a couple of years ago. She was then invited to co-edit the special issue with Pope.
“I hope that people will read the special issue and discover an important aspect of intersectionality that has been long overlooked by both the LGBT and the immigration literature,” Nakamura said. “I hope they will read my article and understand the unique challenges that same-sex bi-national couples face as a result of the Defense of Marriage Act, which does not grant married same-sex couples any of the 1000 plus federal rights and benefits associated with marriage, including the right to sponsor one’s spouse for a green card.”
According to Nakamura’s and Pope’s article, “Borders and Margins: Giving Voice to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Immigrant Experiences” President Barack Obama has focused on comprehensive immigration reform and has specifically focused on addressing same-sex families, but there is still more that needs to be accomplished. Unfortunately, same-sex bi-national couples are not included in the Senate and House versions of Comprehensive Immigration Reform.
Nearly 12 percent of all same-sex couples in the U.S. include at least one partner who is not a citizen. There are an estimated 79,200 same-sex couples in the U.S. Those numbers do not reflect the numerous couples who have left the country in order to stay together or those who may not want to be counted for fear of discrimination.
In addition to the article, Nakamura is also currently conducting research on same-sex binational couples with the help of several students and has also begun to collect data on same-sex binational couples who have moved to other parts of the world including South Africa, Russia, the UK, Brazil, and China.