Immigrants living without documentation are generally elated to receive their green cards, as it allows them permanent residency and relief from the constant fear of deportation. But few recognize just how the struggle for a green card affects the lesbian and gay population.
The Boston Globe featured a story on Jan. 5, 2015, telling the story of Tim Coco and Genesio Oliveira, who were married in 2005. The gay couple has not been activists for immigration reform in the past, but they began fighting for change to the U.S. immigration system when it began directly affecting their lives.
After being married, Coco, a resident of Haverhill, Massachusetts, was not allowed to sponsor partner Oliveira, a native of Brazil, for a green card, because the state did not recognize gay marriage. As such, Oliveira was denied asylum and was sent back to Brazil, where he lived for three years.
For years, the two would meet up in other parts of the world. For example, they would spend Christmas in the U.K. But Oliveira was barred from entering the U.S., and he wasn’t even allowed to attend the funeral of his husband’s mother.
Massachusetts Secretary of State John Kerry made it a personal concern – the former presidential nominee tried for years to help the couple, making phone calls and sending letters on their behalf. He made it possible for Oliveira to temporarily return to the country in 2010. Finally, in 2013, their petition was approved. On Jan. 2, after years battling for permanent residency, Oliveira finally received his green card.
“Sometimes all these big policy debates remind you, it’s all just about people,” Kerry told the Boston Globe. “If you do what’s right for people, the policy has a way of coming around years later. And thank God policy has finally started to catch up with what was so obviously right.”
Now, Coco and Oliveira share a home in Haverhill with five dogs. They celebrated the win with a special dinner featuring, for dessert, a cake decorated as a green card. While happy that he finally received permanent residency, Oliveira is still upset about the state of the U.S. immigration system.
“It’s a relief now, because now it is the end. Now I’m free,” Oliveira told the Boston Globe. “But it’s a mixed feeling. I get angry sometimes. It took forever. It was a huge battle to change the history of the United States.”