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Lesbian Mom Wins Reprieve from Deportation As Congress Considers Legislation to Modify Immigration Policy on Binational Couples

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For Immediate Release

Rachel Tiven
(212) 714-2904
rtiven(at)immigrationequality(dot)org

As Congress Considers Legislation to Modify Immigration Policy on Binational Couples
Immigration Equality Calls Bill “Extraordinary” But “Not a Complete Remedy”

APRIL 28, 2009 / WASHINGTON, DC — Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) has introduced a private bill for Shirley Tan, a Filipina mother of two who has been with her partner in the United States for more than two decades, which will allow her to remain in the country through March 2011 as Congress considers Tan’s case. Tan, who faced deportation on May 10 after belatedly learning that a 2005 asylum request she filed had been denied, cannot receive residency under current law because her partner, Jaylynn “Jay” Mercado, is also female.

“Senator Feinstein’s extraordinary action on behalf of Shirley Tan and her family is welcome news for now, but not a complete remedy for the situation that Shirley, Jay and an estimated 36,000 other bi-national couples find themselves in,” said Rachel Tiven, executive director of Immigration Equality. “Congress’s delay in passing legislation to treat Americans, and their loved ones, equally, is resulting in shattered families, broken dreams and unnecessary heartache for couples like Shirley and Jay. Their stories show that our immigration system is broken, and must be fixed for everyone. By passing the Uniting American Families Act as part of a comprehensive reform of the immigration system, Congress can ensure that parents do not face the prospect of losing their children and that American citizens can build strong families with their partners, too.”

In introducing her bill for Tan on Wednesday, Senator Feinstein said that, “I have decided to introduce a private bill on Ms. Tan’s behalf because I believe her removal from the U.S. would cause undue hardship for her and her family.” Noting that, “A January 2009 report … found that, over the last 10 years, 108,434 immigrants who were the parents of U.S. citizen children were removed from this country,” Feinstein added that, “I do not believe that it is in our Nation’s best interest to force this family — including two U.S. citizen minor children – to make the choice between being separated and [relocated] to a country where they may face serious hardships.”

Tiven noted that private bills are an uphill battle, and introduction of Tan’s bill likely only delays her deportation for two years, and impacts only her specific case. “We applaud Senator Feinstein’s efforts on behalf of the Tan family,” Tiven said, “but we also urge Congress to respect every binational family by passing the legislation that is so critically important in keeping them together. As Senator Feinstein noted, our country’s immigration laws impact not only those who seek to make a home in our country, but also their partners, children, families and communities. We do them all a great disservice by continuing to discriminate under the law.”

The Uniting American Families Act is sponsored by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Representative Jerrold Nadler (D-NY). For more information on the bill, Shirley Tan’s case and U.S. immigration policy for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, visit www.immigrationequality.org

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