Englewood mayor is making noise on LGBT immigration policies

Last Updated on Thursday, 12 November 2009 18:46

Written by William R. Loschiavo Thursday, 12 November 2009 16:54


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Englewood Mayor Michael Wildes

A "View From the Trenches" with Englewood 's Michael Wildes
As the mayor of Englewood, New Jersey since the Fall of 2003, Michael J. Wildes has become a national figure recognized as a leading fundraiser for various Democratic figures, including Hilary Clinton, Joseph Lieberman, and the late Edward Kennedy . Kennedy said he had "high expectations" Wildes would shortly be joining them in Congress.

He was voted by the Democratic Leadership Council's "100 National Up and Coming Leaders to Watch," he is a partner in the leading immigration law firm Wildes & Weinberg, and he worked on Governor John Corzine's immigration panel - where he traveled to urban, rural, and suburban areas within New Jersey to document how law affects immigratnts.

When the New Jersey Civil Union law said that mayors could only perform weddings if they were willing to conduct civil unions , he began executing many - including one in his own home, "There is no difference in the love and the journey that they [gay immigrants] embark on than any other family - except that if they were foreign nationals they would be stopped by our federal government from having any benefits." ... And did we mention he is completely straight!?

William Loschiavo: Can you give us, from your own experience, some examples of the kind of personal trauma caused by the difficulty of gaining immigration status for same-sex partners of US citizens?

Michael J. Wildes: There are families that are long-term green-card holders who have opted not to live in the United States . It is a shame because, by default, the United States government has banished these individuals - and that is not what America is about. I feel the tears of those who are looking to come here [legally] and help develop the economy, and are shocked to find out that our country does not respect their partners or relationships. It is emotionally draining and professionally distressing.

WL:  In your "view from in the trenches" do you think asylum status for LGBT persons subject to persecution in their homelands has become significantly easier to get? What are the most important criteria for gaining asylum status?

MJW:  Since 1994, in the matter of the Toboso-Alfonso case, I find that these cases are given greater respect. You have to have a legitimate fear of persecution; there are some nations that do not protect LGBT individuals, and as a result, these individuals often face double persecution trying to leave their country and get a footing in this country simultaneously.

WL:  Have foreign governments ever tried to use extradition proceedings to retrieve LGBT persons they wish to continue persecuting, perhaps using phony criminal charges? In other words, are any foreign governments that determined to persecute particular gays?

MJW: When it comes to criminality, that is where the government seems to be color and gender blind - they treat all criminals with the same restraint and process. It is also politically convenient for them to not address the issue at that juncture.

WL:  What legal resources can a prospective LGBT immigrant avail themselves of?

MJW: The first step would be to go to a lawyer who has a heart and understands that this is a journey within a journey. I feel lawyers are in the best position to help change and network with numerous leaders. Many LGBT individuals are facing medical challenges concurrent with legal challenges, so it is important that they have resources readily available.

WL:  Typically, new immigrants gravitate to communities of their own nationality, wherein they can find cultural and linguistic support. However, LGBT persons may not be welcome in such communities. Where can a newly arrived LGBT immigrant be best advised to seek such support once in this country?

MJW: Much like Dr. King walked with his head up right believing America had promise, people have to walk and console with community and social leaders for support. There are many organizations and good souls who will give the benefits of their love and counseling without fee. When it comes to asylum, people should not hesitate to reach out to Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Catholic charities , and all the wonderful organizations that are community or religious based.

WL: If a person declares his or her self to be queer in the effort to gain asylum in the US and fails in that effort, does that mean he or she is now outed as far as the homeland is concerned? In other words, how public is the process and paperwork?

MJW:  No, asylum cases are confidential and there is nothing that allows the government, by law, to release information. If they deny an application to an asylum case, that individual has a right to file an appeal, and should file an appeal if they feel they deserve a second chance. They should not feel any adverse consequence and should always work with a lawyer to have backup plan, because it is a cumbersome process.

WL:  Any last words?

MJW:  LGBT immigrants should reach out and understand that every case they succeed in, they are setting the stage for immigration reform and genuine change. I would like to see LGBT individuals represented by the best of the best - Madison Avenue lawyers, and I personally, lower my fees under a policy consideration, so we can help move America towards the right direction.




Paid for by Friends of Michael J. Wildes For Mayor, Amy Wildes, Treasurer

250 Allison Court, Englewood, NJ 07631