by Chris Waddling
San Francisco, California “This is a good day for this family, but their fight is not over,” said Chris Waddling, Binational Couples Outreach Director for Marriage Equality USA. Shirley Tan, the California mother of two who was to be deported April 3rd has been given a stay of deportation until April 22nd pending the possibility of further action. Thanks to the heroic efforts of her counsel, Melanie Nathan, lawyer Phyllis Beech, Rep. Jackie Speier [CA-12], Senator Dianne Feinstein, and Immigration Equality’s Julie Kruse, Ms Tan, her wife of 23 years, U.S. citizen Jay Mercado, and their two sons will not be saying goodbye to one another just yet.
The right to sponsor Ms Tan has been cruelly denied Ms. Mercado throughout their long relationship. Like some 36,000 binational couples in the U.S. and around the world, had they been in a heterosexual marriage, Ms. Mercado would have sponsored her spouse for permanent residency long ago. However, because all Federal law is written in a way that explicitly excludes same-sex couples from enjoying 1,138 benefits of marriage, Ms. Mercado and Ms. Tan have not been able to enjoy one of these benefits, and have had unfair and unequal treatment under the law as a result. Should Ms. Tan ultimately find herself deported, her family will have to make the difficult decision of whether to stay in the U.S., the children no longer able to be with their own mother, or to leave behind the only life they have known.
Had a law like the Uniting American Families Act (H.R. 1024; S.424), currently in committee in the house and senate, been on the books, this family would be happily living their lives like any other family. Instead, they fear being torn apart because the heads of their household are two people of the same gender. “Passage of the Uniting American Families Act by Congress has got to happen sooner, not later,” said Waddling, “so that good, hardworking American families like the Tan-Mercados are not criminalized simply because their household is headed by two people of the same gender.” The family’s representative, Melanie Nathan, said, “The fight is still on and we should not let our guard down, but right now, we owe a very special thanks to Rep Jackie Speier and her extraordinary staff.”
Marriage Equality USA, Out4Immigration, and Love Exiles whole-heartedly support all efforts to save Ms. Tan from deportation, alleviating her and her family of the egregious errors perpetrated by her previous lawyer, the grave, personal danger she faces in returning to the Philippines, and the hardship that her deportation would place on her, her American partner Jay Mercado, and their two sons. We also urge voters to contact their representatives in Washington to urge them to not only support the Uniting American Families Act, but to push for hearings on it this calendar year, to ensure that no more Americans have to choose between their country and their partners.