We’ve been in business now for many years, it’s going on seven years next month. We started our tagline of what we do, which is to bring peace to immigrant families, and for years that was what we did, bring peace to immigrant families through all the ways that we help.
Helping make the process easier, and more transparent, helping empower people to make choices to go after the life of their dreams, and we added bankruptcy as a practice area at the start of the pandemic, when we realized that there were no resources available in Spanish about bankruptcy, and so we decided to start offering that.
Now we bring peace to families but we also have core values, and one of the core values of the firm is that we stand up to bullies, so this is a very mission-oriented inclusive group of people who work together at this firm, and of course, we are allies and support the LGBTQ+ community in our work to bring peace to families.
LGBTQ+, Immigration & Visas
One of the main case types that we do is asylum, which is people who are fleeing persecution in their own country, and unfortunately, many countries around the globe still persecute the queer community.
We could go on and on but we take those cases, and for people who are not safe living out in their country, whether they be Trans, Gay, or Queer.
In some way, if they’re not safe in their country and they’re here in the United States, they can apply for protection here, and what we have to prove is that their Government is either unable or unwilling to control the persecutors.
For an asylum case, it doesn’t have to be that the Government is doing the persecution, it can be that there’s a cultural attitude against the Queer community and the Government does nothing to protect them.
We do see that a lot in Latin American countries with the Trans community, for example, we’ve had lots of those types of asylum cases and that’s one element, of course, we’re only just now entering an era where the Queer community has equal rights in terms of creating families.
Over the last several years there were some cases in which same-sex couples were able to petition each other for immigration benefits of course, now in all 50 states and hopefully forever now and forever same-sex couples will be able to continue petitioning each other for the Green Card process.
What counts in an immigration case is when we’re talking about an immigration application, is the marriage legal in the location where it did occur or where it will be occurring? What that means is that same-sex couples can petition each other in immigration cases just like traditional couples.
The other thing is the U Visa and T Visa cases, we’ve talked a lot about these Visas, they are Visas for victims of crime who assist law enforcement in the investigation of the crime.
The purpose of the U Visa is to encourage the immigrant community to cooperate with law enforcement if they’re witnesses or victims so that law enforcement can investigate and prosecute crimes, and therefore benefit public safety for everybody.
Oftentimes, hate crimes are part of the list of crimes, there’s a specific list of crimes that qualify for the U Visa, which can be aggravated assault or some crimes like that.
Normally, people who have been the victim of a hate crime, or domestic violence, can qualify for a U Visa if they made a police report and they’ve cooperated with law enforcement because the purpose of that law is for public safety.
It’s always important for victims to cooperate with law enforcement, that means filing the police report, pressing charges, follow up with the detectives, and we understand that many times crime victims are scared of pursuing charges, but that can result in the police department declining to certify a Visa case.
From our perspective, from the immigration benefit perspective, it is better to pursue it if you’ve been a crime victim.
Similarly, the T Visa is a Trafficking Visa, and we certainly can see some people in the LGBTQ+ community suffer trafficking, and the T is a lot like the U.
You have to make a report to law enforcement about having suffered trafficking, which can be sex trafficking but it can also be labor trafficking, it can be that you worked in a restaurant, you worked at a hotel, you worked as a nanny, it doesn’t mean forced prostitution necessarily.
Those are the four main areas when we at Lincoln-Goldfinch Law think of the overlap between LGBTQ+ and immigration issues.
Not a lot of immigration lawyers do Trafficking Visas within immigration law.
There are areas of specialization and then, within immigration, there are sub-areas of specialization, there are humanitarian cases like the U’s, T’s, and VAWAS, there’s deportation defense, there’s employment, there’s family, and so our firm has a real strong knowledge base about humanitarian immigration, deportation defense, crime victims, domestic violence victims, trafficking, we do a lot of that type of work.
Not every immigration lawyer even knows about that stuff, it’s one of the reasons we try and do so much video content, and getting newsletters, getting out information because a lot of people have been trafficking victims and they have no clue.
They might work for someone that took away their passport and make them pay off a debt, or made them work long hours under threats of deportation or having their rights taken away, and they didn’t have a clue, that’s human trafficking.
That is why we share this, we’re trying to spread the word that there are lots of ways that people can benefit and get immigration status, they may not even know about it, they’re undocumented and think they have no options.
The Benefits Of U Visa, T Visa & VAWA
A T Visa comes with a four-year Work Permit once you get approved but after three years you can apply for your Green Card, and then, ultimately get citizenship.
You can include family members, you can include minor children, and little kids can include their parents and their siblings under the age of 16.
There are a lot of waivers available under the humanitarian Visas.
If you have been told you have a permanent bar or criminal history, and you can’t get status because of whatever drug possession charges 10 years ago, those are things that we can typically waive in the T and the U Visa.
It’s worth exploring even if you think: Oh, I can’t ever get status because of whatever reason, the things that can be harmful and detrimental to a person’s eligibility in an employment or a family Visa context can be waived in humanitarian causes.
This is one of the reasons why it is always a value to call us if you think something that we’re saying might benefit you or someone you love because no two immigration cases are alike, they’re like fingerprints, your whole life history impacts your immigration case, it’s worth just calling and checking it out.
We also do tell people all the time: sorry there’s something we can do for you, it’s not in your best interest at this point, that is the conversation that we have daily with people.
Crossing The Border & LGBTQ+
There are anti-discrimination laws, and the constitutional protection of immigrants at the border is a hotly debated topic.
Someone who is of a marginalized group, POC, LGBTQ+, whatever it may be, and you are attacked, targeted, persecuted, singled out, pulled over, given harsher treatment by law enforcement, it is worth pursuing, and again, you can call us.
LGBTQ+, Immigrants In Detention & Health Care
This is a whole area of the law, and this is like an organization, the Texas Civil Rights Project is an organization that does a lot of prisoners’ rights work, and there are a ton of organizations that do this.
People should not be denied the care that they need, based on the protected ground but we all know that there is substandard medical care happening in detention centers and jails all over the country.
There are varying levels of protection we know of a friend who’s a lawyer, who worked on a pro bono case, he’s at a big law firm, and he worked on a pro bono case negotiating better conditions in an immigration detention center, specifically, related to Covid protocols.
They reached a settlement agreement forcing the Government to do better, we saw that in the family detention areas.
One of our first clients in the family detention centers was a little girl who had brain cancer and wasn’t receiving treatment, then, you see people all the time who are denied the medication that they’ve been taking, it could be mental health issues, it could be anything, it just happens daily, unfortunately.
It is worth talking to a lawyer, and it’s not us, we don’t do prisoners’ rights or civil law at Lincoln-Goldfinch Law but if you call us and tell us what’s going on, we can refer you to an organization or a firm that can help.
LGBTQ+ & Abuse
We have worked on really sad cases, where detainees have been sexually assaulted by guards at the detention centers, or the drivers who were driving people who had been released, or who were being transferred and would pull over on the side of the road and assault people, that kind of stuff happens.
When someone has been the victim of a sexual assault and they file a report, they are eligible for a U Visa.
We have to get certification from the investigating authority that this person reported a crime, and that they’ve been helpful.
Sometimes we need to think through if someone is detained, or they were assaulted by a police officer you’re not going to go to APD and file a report about their officer, we have to strategically think about where we’re going to be doing a report.
When something has occurred the report hasn’t always happened by the time we get a U Visa case but absolutely, if someone has been physically, or sexually assaulted while in detention, it’s worth pursuing and exploring whether you can file a report, and then perhaps get immigration status based on that.
The key thing for a U Visa (this isn’t true for a T Visa, the trafficking Visa) is that we have to get a certification from the investigating agency that the person was a victim, and that they made a police report, or they were helpful in the investigation, and all of the power is in the hands of the investigating authority, like Travis County Sheriff, the Austin Police Department, the FBI or whatever entity did the investigation.
All of these different agencies have different policies, APD for a long time wouldn’t certify cases that were outside of the window of time for them to bring charges against someone, that’s called a statute of limitations, which has recently changed thankfully, but every agency is different.
U Visa & The Police Force
This is often a conversation we have with our T Visa clients, most of them have not filed a report by the time they get to us, we start a case, and they’re always scared of the traffickers that person had them under their control for a long time.
The idea of filing a police report or whatever report, and then finding out is very scary to people, but there are protections, there are legal protections for people who have filed reports, and if there is retaliation from someone because a report has been filed against them, they could be arrested and prosecuted just for that act.
When someone has been trafficked by a powerful drug cartel and you file a police report about them, they’ve infiltrated certain police departments in other countries and their families can be targeted.
There are things to consider, and we’re not going to say: Oh, it’s safe just file any report like this.
Is a personal decision that people have to think through, and they have to think through where their vulnerabilities are but we can say that in the United States there are legal protections for witnesses who file reports, they cannot be targeted, or if they are, the person who does that will be arrested and charged and prosecuted.
Marriage-Based Green Cards
The 2015 case was such a celebration, we all have our own experience of the time leading up to that, when the states one by one were granting same-sex couples the right to marry.
For Lincoln-Goldfinch Law every single one felt simultaneously a celebration and also sort of disappointing that it wasn’t going faster, which is similar to how we feel right now about women’s rights issues, this shouldn’t even be a question.
And when there was no more messing around with the supreme court case and it was legal in all 50 states, that was a relief, but all of us have felt over the last five years nothing feels certain in terms of equality and protection, and that’s a pretty unsettling reality of our world right now.
How Was The First Day Like
It was a total blast, we love to make happy client pictures, and it was doing same-sex happy client pictures back then.
It was such a great experience, one by one being able to help people who are positively impacted.
Then, for a long time our clients who couldn’t get married legally in Texas, they’d go to Massachusetts, they’d come back and we’d do their immigration case, and that was fun too but we wanted to see Texas get it together with the other states.
Is Texas A Welcoming State For The LGBTQ+ Community?
Not, it’s not a welcoming state. We look at what the legislature is doing, and parents who are supportive and affirming of their Trans kids’ decisions to be gender creative, can be prosecuted in Texas, and it is not a safe state.
We live in Austin, Austin is not Texas but this state is just a big old giant failure when it comes to protecting people’s rights, and we could go on and on but the simple answer is no, Texas is not a safe place for the Queer community.
Local Policies That Protect LGBTQ+ Rights
There are all sorts of city council resolutions and policies in the police department. We don’t know the specifics of it because it’s not our area of practice, but we feel confident that there are lots of resolutions within the city.
What typically tends to happen is Austin City Council will pass certain resolutions, or the sheriff will have certain pro-immigrant policies, Austin will do its thing, and then, the state legislature will get together every session and hammer us down.
They hate our progressive politics, so we are sure that Austin has stuff and probably the legislature has responded directly to the things that we’ve done as a city to protect the Queer community
The U.S & The LGBTQ+ Community
For our Lincoln-Goldfinch Law administrator, Fidel Campuzano, it’s hard being somebody living in the United States as an immigrant and also gay, it’s tough having both of those challenges.
Being an immigrant is already a challenge in our lives, we shouldn’t have that other layer or that other challenge just because we’re part of the Queer community, that’s unfair.
Currently, everything is so shaky, you don’t know what they’re gonna turn back on as a whole, same-sex marriage became legal in 2015 but, is it going to stay legal?