Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Lesbian Mother Faces Deportation on April 3

by Kathy Drasky

Out4Immigration, along with Marriage Equality USA (MEUSA), Love Exiles, NCLR, Immigration Equality and numerous other organizations, attorneys, journalists and bloggers have taken up the case of Shirley Tan and Jay Mercado, a same-sex binational couple living in the Bay Area with twin 12-year-old sons.

Shirley, who experienced horrific violence in her native country many years ago, fled to the United States, seeking asylum. While she thought her asylum case was on track, she met and fell in love with an American woman. They had twins together and in 2004, when marriage was legal in San Francisco, they solidified their relationship. Unfortunately, Shirley's attorney never communicated to her that her asylum case was rejected and that she was to leave the country several years earlier. Because she overstayed her legal time in the US, a deportation order was filed. Now, this Friday, April 3, Shirley must report to immigration authorities and she will be forcibly separated from her partner and two children -- all American citizens.

Both the Advocate and the San Jose Mercury News have picked up this story. Numerous appeals are being made to the couples' Congressperson Jackie Speier and Senator Dianne Feinstein.

While the couple would have benefited from the Uniting American Families Act if that law were in place, only an emergency bill to Congress or the Senate filed on or before April 3 can keep this family together in the United States.

Shirley and Jay and their sons are an extreme example of what happens when proper laws are not in place to protect all Americans. However, they are not the first couple to face such a horrific situation, and sadly, they may not be the last.

Just last week, Senator John Kerry [D-MA] appealed on behalf of an American man in Massachusetts who legally married a Brazilian man. Although the state of Massachusetts recognizes their relationship, the US federal government does not. As a result, the Brazilian man was deported due to the fact that his American spouse could not sponsor him for a green card after visa options ran out.

Please -- call or write your Congressperson and Senators today to urge them to support the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA). [Click here, or see the post below, for how to do this.]

The UAFA is simple legislation that will add three words to existing immigration law -- "or permanent partner" wherever the word "spouse" appears. And, it will end the nightmare and fear some 36,000 American citizens face knowing that their government could forcibly separate them from the person they love.

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