Wednesday, June 13, 2012

An Open Letter to President Obama


   


While so many of us, including those of us at Out4Immigration, were heartened by President Obama's long awaited endorsement of same-sex marriage last month, and applaud him for at last taking that courageous step, we were also disheartened that he positioned the issue as one to be decided at the state level.  An Out4Immigration volunteer penned the following letter to the President, eloquently drawing attention to the error in that aspect of the President's statement, which sidesteps issues of equal protection that any American should expect, and enjoy.  If you are as moved by what she writes as we are, we encourage you to share your own story, or write your own letter to the President, using the comment section following at the end of this post.  Following is Heather R.'s letter:


Update:  Following President Obama's executive order on June 15, 2012, related to implementing aspects of the DREAM Act, Heather R. amended her letter to submit, as follows here:


Dear Mr. President:

I'd like to begin this letter by thanking you for your recent
statement of personal support in the matter of same sex marriage. Your
leadership on this issue is much appreciated and will go far in
changing minds around the country.  Unfortunately I must also take
issue with your position that this important civil right is a matter
to be decided by the states.

You are correct in your assertion that the states have always had
jurisdiction in the matter of marriage. However, the Constitution of
the United States is the final word on equal protection under the law.
 For you to leave a civil rights matter in the hands of the states is
irresponsible, heartbreaking and seemingly at odds with your personal
history.  Even today, if a vote were taken in the South, many states
would not allow interracial couples to marry.

I write this as a person who is suffering greatly due to the lack of
federal (and state) recognition for same sex relationships.  As a
resident of California, I am currently unable to marry my partner in
the state where my family lives.  We are able to travel to another
state to marry but my family would not be able to attend.  However,
even if we were to marry in California, the lack of federal
recognition still presents a significant barrier because my partner is
a foreign citizen.  Her visa expires in January of next year and I am
not able to sponsor her for residency.  We are likely to leave the
United States by the end of this year in order to stay together.

I have written to you about this issue before, but in light of your
new position regarding same sex marriage, I am writing again to ask
you to please consider an Executive Order to halt the deportation of
immigrant spouses and partners of United States citizens in same sex
relationships.

As of this morning, June 15, 2012, you reiterated your support for
immigrants brought to the United States as children by implementing
many facets of the Dream Act in an executive order. Similarly to
persons affected by your executive order of this morning, immigrants
in same sex relationships have deep roots in the United States.  They
have developed family ties, participated in their communities, and
contributed to the local and national economy.  I would like to draw
your attention to Immigration Equality’s response to your statement:

"Some DREAM-eligible young people – including many of the bravest
leaders of the movement – are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender.
Many, gay and straight, are building their lives with Americans whom
they love.  This new policy will ensure these young people, many of
whom have never known any home other than the United States, do not
live in fear of separation from their family.  Indeed, no person
should face forcible separation from their families, regardless of
their age. That is why the White House should follow today’s
announcement with a proposal to extend that same relief to immigrants
with U.S.-citizen partners and spouses across the board. Keeping
families together is good policy, and all families, including those
that are LGBT, should have the support of the President in the form of
a similar policy."

Some relief currently exists for same sex couples on a case-by-case
basis under prosecutorial discretion.  DHS has stated verbally that
same sex relationships will be considered under the definition of a
family relationship in the prosecutorial discretion guidelines.
However, this policy has been applied unevenly and carries with it the
significant risk that discretion will be denied and the individual
will be deported regardless of their relationship to a U.S. citizen.
The policy regarding LGBT family relationships must be put in writing
and enacted across the board whenever there clearly exists a permanent
relationship between an immigrant and a U.S. citizen.  And it must be
done in such a manner that the immigrant is not required to stay here
past their visa terms and jeopardize their legal status in order to
seek relief.

I ask again for blanket relief in the form of an executive order to be
applied to immigrants in a permanent same sex relationship with a
United States citizen.  In this important election year, this would
cement your support for LGBT families and provide relief to many who
face heartache and economic hardship as result of the unresolved
policies of the United States.  We know change is coming, we see it
right on the horizon, but without your intervention it will likely
come too late for many of us who cannot wait out the next few years
for the Supreme Court or Congress to make the necessary changes to the
law.

Thank you,
Heather R.


4 comments:

Carrie Tucker-Pollard said...

My wife and I married nearly 6 years ago, yet we've never been afforded the opportunity to live together, thanks to the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

My wife is British and, although legally married in California, DOMA prevents me from sponsoring my wife for immigration. I can't move to her for a variety of reasons, including family and my health challenges.

Everyday is a struggle, being separated from the one person I need most in the world. As a bi-national couple, we are even an invisible minority within the LGBT community.

It is my goal to educate and encourage change that will finally bring my family together, be it though the passage of the Respect For Marriage Act/repeal of DOMA or through the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA)/immigration reform.

We are Love. We pose no threat to anyone.

Nixen Paul said...

TN Visa to Adjustment of Status (I-485) is the quickest route to obtaining your Green Card Marriage. If your situation enables you to file for the Adjustment of Status to obtain your Green card, this will be most ideal based on time, no employment interruption and not having to leave the U.S.

JJPanz said...

Dear Mr. President:

My partner of 10 + years and I were legally married in the state of Connecticut last June. We just celebrated out first wedding anniversary. My partner has been in the U.S. for the past 13 years. He is a foreign student, and, as such, must attend school on a full-time basis in order to remain in the U.S. legally. He is not eligible to apply for a work permit or green card. If I were a woman, upon our marriage, his immigration status would have immediately changed, he would have been permitted to apply for a work permit, and would now be on the path to citizenship. Unfortunately, since we are denied all Federal rights, this is not the case. Due to financial limitations and the cost of tuition (which is higher for foreign students), my spouse cannot continue to attend school indefinitely. As a result, within the next year, we will be forced apart, or I will have to choose to leave my own country in order for us to stay together. This type of blatant discrimination is an outrage! As an upstanding, law-abiding, tax-paying citizen, I'm tired of being treated like a second-class citizen in my own country. While I appreciate your endorsement of same-sex marriage, and thank you for it, it is not enough. It's time for DOMA to be repealed and for an Executive Order to be issued halting the deportation of spouses and partners of U.S. citizens in same-sex relationships. Enough is enough. You're either for full equality and equal rights for all, or you're not. You're either a part of the solution or a part of the problem. You are the President of the United States of America. You are in a position to lead. It's time you took some decisive action on this issue. Words alone are not enough.

Respectively yours,
John P.

RCANelson said...

As one who has been affected by DOMA, particularly these last 18 years around family reunification, i.e. the right to sponsor a foreign spouse as an LGBT citizen, I applaud this letter.

It is time to reject the long-held notion by too many who have not had to walk in our shoes, that somehow we must be counted differently when and where it comes to equal protection under the law. The fact is: we have families, we love, and we commit ourselves to our most dear. I have been saying for years that this is a community issue, because never is it just about the couple. Like any married couple, there are those who hold them dear, and count them as family and essential community members. It is time for the law to respect community, and to end citizens being deprived of community because of the discrimination espoused and promoted under DOMA.