Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Immigration Equality, Again

Previously, I have written about how, for immigration purposes, US citizens may not claim their same-sex partners as a "spouse" for purposes of obtaining a green card. Because of the Defense of Marriage Act, which prohibits the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages for any purpose, this exclusion applies even if the same-sex couple holds a legal marriage license issued by a state.

Reporting on how this injustice impacts families in real ways, the Pacifica Tribune has relayed the circumstances of a woman named Shirley Tan and her family. Initially entering the US in 1986 on a tourist visa, Tan is an immigrant from the Phillipines who sought (and was denied) political asylum. Tan and her partner Jay Mercado have been together for 23 years and have two 12-year-old boys. In January, she was removed from her home on a deportation order and placed in jail:

"If Tan were in a heterosexual marriage, instead of her 2004 California same-sex marriage, Mercado, a U.S. citizen, could have claimed Tan as a spouse and secured her green card....Over the last few months, as Tan and Mercado appeared before an immigration judge and exhausted all their available appeals and extensions, Tan was scheduled to be deported on Mothers' Day, May 10. During those long months, they said they felt completely helpless and could not see any light at the end of the tunnel."

Fortunately, Senator Dianne Feinstein came to the rescue and introduced a bill that stayed the deportation order. While Tan and her family's story has a happy ending, Feinstein's order will not apply to other cases, which highlights an important injustice with respect to DOMA and equal rights. Even when same-sex couples hold legal marriage licenses, they are denied full civil equality for all federal purposes because DOMA prohibits the federal government from recognizing anything other than a marriage between a man and a woman.

However one feels about marriage, I think that most reasonable people can agree that it's unjust, cruel, and inhumane to separate families and disrupt their lives by prohibiting US citizens from declaring their same-sex partners as their spouses for immigration purposes. While repealing DOMA would be the most ideal outcome, as then same-sex couples would be able to utilize the myriad other federal rights, benefits, and protections of civil marriage, I think that supporting the United American Families Act (UAFA) is a solid compromise. This law would allow US citizens to sponsor their foreign-born same-sex partner for immigration benefits to the US, something that opposite-sex couples can already do.

Showing his usual lack of compassion, according to OneNewsNow Peter LaBarbera of Americans for Truth [sic] About Homosexuality has said this legislation is "ridiculous" and really about "bring[ing] more homosexual activists into the country, which is what this case embodies." In the reality-based world, this case embodies a basketball coach, a housewife, and two children who just want to keep their family together. I guess that's why I find it ironic that OneNewsNow refers to LaBarbera, who opposes the UAFA, as a "pro-family activist." Unless one is working from the self-evident truth that only some families are real families, opposing legislation that hurts families is sort of actually anti-family.

If you haven't already signed the petition or written to Congress regarding the UAFA, I hope you would consider doing so now.

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