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Immigration Equality Praises Obama Administration for New, Written Guidance Providing Discretionary Relief to LGBT Immigrant Families

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For Immediate Release
September 28, 2012

Contact:  Steve Ralls
(202) 347-7007 / sralls@immigrationequality.org

Immigration Equality Praises Obama Administration for New, Written Guidance Providing Discretionary Relief to Lesbian & Gay Immigrant Families

Extension of Prosecutorial Discretion Follows Calls for Relief from Congressional Leaders

Washington, DCImmigration Equality today praised the Obama Administration, and specifically the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), for new, written guidance that will extend discretionary relief to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) immigrants with U.S. citizen spouses and partners. The new written directive, which was announced in response to a Congressional letter spearheaded by Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), marks one of the very first times LGBT families have been recognized within federal immigration policies. The guidelines, which are expected to be distributed soon to field offices across the country, will instruct officers and field agents to recognize LGBT families for purposes of relief as defined by a June 2011 memo from Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director John Morton.

“This is a huge step forward,” said Rachel B. Tiven, executive director of Immigration Equality. “Until now, LGBT families and their lawyers had nothing to rely on but an oral promise that prosecutorial discretion would include all families. Today, DHS has responded to Congress and made that promise real. The Administration’s written guidance will help families facing separation and the field officers who are reviewing their cases.”

In the June 2011 memo from Director Morton, the Department of Homeland Security spelled out factors ICE officers should consider when deciding which immigration cases are classified as “low priority” for removal. Those guidelines included family ties to a U.S. citizen. DHS stated verbally in August of last year that it intended for the “family” guidelines to be LGBT-inclusive, but it had not previously distributed written guidance codifying that intent to field offices.  In a letter yesterday to the 84 Members of Congress who demanded written guidelines, the Administration said it intends to do so.

“In an effort to make clear the definition of the phrase ‘family relationships,’ I have directed ICE to disseminate written guidance to the field that the interpretation of the phrase ‘family relationships’ includes long-term, same-sex partners,” Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano wrote.

“The new guidelines will put in writing a commitment the Administration has expressed over the past year,” said Tiven. “Now, the courts and Congress should act to make relief permanent, and provide access to green cards for all LGBT families.”

# # #

Immigration Equality is a national organization fighting for equality under U.S. immigration law for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and HIV-positive individuals.

55 Responses to Immigration Equality Praises Obama Administration for New, Written Guidance Providing Discretionary Relief to LGBT Immigrant Families

  1. Caroline Hart says:

    This is such great news for us!!!!!! Thank you OBAMA!!!!!

  2. leslie says:

    Hi, Great news awsome! thanks to pres. obama. now can i file fiance petition for my filipino girlfriend in philippines??? thank you

  3. Laurie Hart says:

    This is wonderful news!

  4. Dwight says:

    Wonderful news! Thank you Mr. President, Secretary Napolitano, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Congressman Jerrold Nadler and everyone at Immigration Equality.

  5. Pingback: Immigration Equality Praises Obama Administration for New, Written … « Cool Immigration

  6. Sergio Suhett says:

    Thank you Mr. President Obama! Now we need to strike DOMA down, so we can actually access the same immigration rights and benefits as any other opposite sex married couple in this country, This is a major advancement for us, to be able to remain together with our loved ones in the US, but please do not lets stay in legal limbo for too long.

  7. Shelly & Simie says:

    Hi, Rachel,

    We are extactic!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Joyous!!!!!!!!!!!! So now my situation is a little different. My wife now has her student visa here in the U.S. and now she also holds her work visa to work here for learning purposes for her apprenticeship program. However, the person at the college that she attends messed up big time he is all new at this she is in the 2 yr program to work at the resort for learning purposes but her work card is only good for one yr. How does this effect us will she still have to go and pay again for another yr for her work card? Her student visa ends in 2015. Please let me know when you think all of this will be resolved so we know how to proceed.

    Best Wishes,

  8. Gaile says:

    This is great news for everyone!!! But does 20months of being together as a binational couple can be included in the list of long term relationship?

  9. Jay says:

    Wow! Now I can apply to sponsor my husband. This is so wonderful. Thank you Mr. President!

  10. Tim in Cleveland says:

    This is a step in the right direction to be sure but, as I understand it, this “discretion” is to be applied in cases where the non-American partner is facing deportation, correct? So, for couples with partners that have not gone out of status, there are still few options for them, would you agree IE? Additionally, in most of the cases where this discretion might be applied, it is my understanding that the couples benefit greatly from being “legally” married, not just a couple without some legal document saying they are a “couple.” Listen, I am totally STOKED that we even have a sitting President that recognizes and attempts to address our issue but, unless I am wrong with the facts above, this is still only one step towards helping ALL same-sex, bintaional couples. IE? I am SO THANKFUL for all you do but this is just another piece in the HUGE puzzle of LGBT immigration reform, am I right? For couples who are not out of status, I’m not sure this can/will help them. Sorry, everyone, I hate to be a party pooper but I just really want/need to understand the total reality of this action. IE? Can you offer more detailed clarification, please? Thanks…

  11. Roman says:

    It is a good news! We’ve been supporting you guys for years. Thank you for your work!

    What does this news mean for people like me? My partner and I are bi-national same sex partners for 7 years, we got Civil Union (Illinois) in July 2011. I am a RN (Registered Nurse), WCC (Wound Care Specialist) with BSN and MSN (Bachelors and Masters degrees). I found and employer (nursing home) they are willing to hire me as bi-lingual (English- Russian) nurse. I can’t work because I’m waiting for priority date of my Green Card (in 4 years from now)! All this time I have to go to school to maintain my legal status as a student (F-1 visa).

    How can I apply this good news to my situation?

    Thank you.


  12. Aaron says:

    I sense interest among these comments for an explanation of what this means to different couples in different situations. I know that I would appreciate this. Hopefull someone at IE will take this on.

  13. Diana says:

    This is amazing news!!! Cried for joy when I read about this wonderful news. my wife and I were contemplating last summer if she has to go home or wait until they give full recognition to binational same-sex couples.. Sadly, we decided for her to go back to the Philippines & it’s been really depressing & challenging for both of us & to our children. We hope this is the start of what every binational same- sex couples been wanting from this great country, a full recognition & equality. Thank you Immigration Equality for representing us all, thank you for all the senators & representatives who stand with us & fight for us, and most of all thank you to the best president in the world, President Barrack Obama who believes that everyone in this country has the right to equality, life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness.

  14. Ralph says:

    Wonderful News! Still in need of passing Uniting American Families Act! Long term same sex partners forced out because of DOMA continue to need immigration relief. The news serves couples in the U.S. not foreigners with U.S citizen partners outside of the U.S. DHS could take it as step further and revise the I -130 form and related forms to include same sex partners.

  15. Ralph says:

    The policy does not mean Americans who are married to same-sex foreigners will be able to sponsor their spouses’ green card applications.

  16. Aaron says:

    “In an effort to make clear the definition of the phrase “family relationships,” I have directed ICE to disseminate written guidance to the field that the interpretation of the phrase “family relationships” includes long-term, same-sex partners.”

    Ok…Probably eading too much into this with too much wishful thinking. I am struck in Napolitan’s letter how this sentence exists on it’s own. Are there other situations in immigration law apart from discretionary relief from deportation where “family relationships” would be relevant?

  17. Victoria Neilson says:

    Hi all,

    I’m ImEq’s legal director. Today’s announcement is great news because it’s the first time DHS has said it will issue written guidance that takes lesbian and gay binational relationships into account as a favorable factor when using prosecutorial discretion. http://www.immigrationequality.org/issues/couples-and-families/prosecutorial-discretion/ It’s important that DHS is acknowledging that our families are indeed families and the new guidance will make it less likely that the foreign partners or spouses of Americans will actually be deported from the U.S.

    Unfortunately, this announcement does not mean that we’ve won immigration equality. The administration has not agreed to grant green cards or even to hold green card applications in abeyance, instead DHS has said that in making discretionary decisions about when to commence removal proceedings or actually deport someone, it will take long-term, same-sex partnerships into account. So, this will help some couples who are in the U.S. and in truly dire circumstances, but not couples who are currently in exile, separated, or juggling visas to stay in the U.S.

    Nonetheless, for some couples the policy will keep them together and this policy change shows that our advocacy and the advocacy of our congressional allies is paying off.

    Meanwhile, if you have a specific legal question, please go to our contact us page rather than posting it publicly. http://www.immigrationequality.org/contact-us/

  18. Pingback: More Progress! DHS Guidelines to be Issued Making Same-Sex Binationals Low Priority for Deportation | Torn Apart

  19. Lenora Brandoli says:

    This is wonderful news. Immigration Equality is helping to make history. Thanks to all.

  20. Rod says:

    Thank you, Victoria for putting it so clear. Now, we know where we are standing and how to proceed.

  21. Dennis Velco says:

    Thank you President Obama, Secretary Clinton and the Immigration Department !!! Thanks for this article and your reporting. What you do is appreciated.

    I posted it to my LGBT Group on LinkedIn to spur members to read your article and to make comment. I also scooped it at Scoop.It on my LGBT Times news mashup.

    Link to group >> http://www.linkedin.com/groups/LGBT-Gay-GLBT-Professional-Network-63687/about

    All LGBT+ and community allies…. please come join me and 15,500+ of your soon to be great connections on LinkedIn. The member base represents 80% of the world’s countries.

    It’s core value is – Visibility can lead to awareness which can lead to equality. Come stand with us and increase our visibility on the globe’s largest professional networking site. Be a professional who just happens to be LGBT – or a welcomed community ally.

  22. Pingback: Same-Sex Couples Granted Protection in Deportations | News from around the world

  23. JCF says:

    Four More Years!!!

  24. IVFDad says:

    It is great to have a one small step for LGBTI immigration equality but we have long ways to go. In vitro Fertilization (IVF) children of LGBTI couples do not have the same equal immigration rights as natural born children. Why? Equality in marriage will lead to more LGBTI marriages which will lead to children and their rights are tightly coupled with equal LGBTI rights. How and when will we get equal immigration rights for IVF children of LGBTI?

    Raise the awareness, raise the voice.

    We are trying to unite IVF siblings who have never met because of US Immigration laws or lack thereof. The innocence of these IVF children speaks for itself we have a long way to go for equal rights of LGBTI children. Everyone tells us that children FIRST, children are INNOCENT, but where is the action behind them? The fact is the innocent siblings are separated because of INACTION. Words fall short when action falls short. We want equal rights for IVF children of LGBTI.

  25. Pingback: Same-Sex Couples Granted Protection in Deportations – New York Times | Latest News and Headlines

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  27. Ana says:


    ANA MARIA :)

  28. Pingback: Same-Sex Couples Granted Protection in Deportations | My Gay Online

  29. Dias Brito says:

    One battle, but the war is not over. Our objectives will be reached when anyone from any sex will be able to sponsor a greencard to their partner.

  30. Carlos says:

    This sounds great but to be honest being the other national in a bi-national couple I/we don’t really know what it means in everyday real life practice for someone caught up in this painful situation? Will you or wont you be deported? Will you or wont you be eligible for a green card or some other type of documentation that allows you to remain in the country without having to worry about a knock on the door? Should couples be filing/re-filling further documentation under this new guidance? I’m still a little fuzzy on what the “discretionary relief” meaning exactly entails and how that plays out in reality? I feel a little silly asking this but perhaps someone could explain this a little more please? This process can be a little stressful and technical at times.

    By the way, thank you so much for the fantastic work you folks are doing…

  31. Pingback: Your Same-Sex Partner Could Help Stop You from Being Deported | News 47News 47

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  33. Pingback: Homeland Security Directive Will Help Binational Gay Couples Stay Together « MasterAdrian's Weblog

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  35. Michael Courchaine says:

    Like Ana, I’m a US Citizen but forced to live my with Iranian parnter of 6 years in Ecuador. Will this help our situation? It is such an awful situation being forced to live aboard in order to be with my partner.

  36. Aaron says:

    Thank you so much to everyone at IE for all that you do every day on behalf of binational couples.

    I am hoping that someone from IE can help to clarify this for me. There is now a comment (as of this morning) on the website of Senator Patric Leahy titled:

    Comment of Senator Patrick Leahy On DHS Deferred Action Policy For Same Sex Partners October 1, 2012. The Link is here:


    The comment goes on to state: “I praised President Obama and Secretary Napolitano in June for rightly embracing a temporary relief policy for qualified young people, brought here through no fault of their own, and I again commend them for extending the same opportunities for relief to qualifying same-sex couples.”

    Deferred action for undocumented partners in binational relationships would be quite different from mere prosecutorial discretion in deportation matters. Is Senator Leahy on to something or is his office confused? Thanks!!

    • Immigration Equality says:


      Secretary Napolitano’s guidance is related to prosecutorial discretion, not deferred action. Deferred action is a form of discretion, but Friday’s announcement is related to the discretionary guidelines included in ICE’s June 2011 memo.

      - Immigration Equality

  37. Pingback: Same-Sex Couples Granted Protection in Deportations | Immigration 2012

  38. Pingback: Will DOMA Fall—A Chink in the Wall for Same-sex Binational Couples « Wolfsdorf Connect

  39. Daniela says:

    What is the estimated number of bi-national couples in which one partner is undocumented? In other words, how many couples could this potentially help?

    Also, how often do cases involving prosecutorial discretion actually result in deferred action? Isn’t this still a matter of your case fortunately landing on the desk of a sympathetic prosecutor? When the prosecutor’s discretion is to deport, would the couple have any recourse?

  40. Tamara Anez says:

    Does this mean we can come home now?

  41. Felipe Serna says:

    These are great news, I’m a U.S citizen and I have been with my boyfriend 15 yrs. and we just got married June 1, 2011. He’s immigration got him and he has court next yrs. This is good new for us. God Bless America.

  42. Pingback: Slinking Toward Retirement | Homeland Security Puts It in Writing on Immigration Policy and Gay Couples – NYTimes.com | News, Travel, Opinion and Just Odd and Funny Things...

  43. Pingback: Commentary: Discretion Policy on Deportations of Gay Immigrant Spouses Doesn’t Go Far Enough | Feet in 2 Worlds

  44. Roy Parker says:

    I was really thrill to learn that Obama and Janet accept to respectfully who love with long term partnership. I had very patience with immigration because my partner is from Russia and we are together for 10 years but still seperate he is still live in Russia and his visa always turn down because the US embassy know him as gay so keep turn down his visa for 8 times for 5 years. do you know know how do I feel??? awful hurtful still today. i am looking forward to get success for him go USA someday. hopeful so much. Remember we are both deaf mutes. Thank you for help us make happy president Obama and Janet too….

  45. Pingback: Discretion Policy on Deportations of Gay Immigrant Spouses Doesn’t Go Far Enough « OP-e

  46. devon scott says:

    can someone tell me what i have to do. how can i make my partner safe here in the u.s.

  47. William Schmidt says:

    Thank you President Obama!! I would like to add. My partner is a mtf transgender from the Philippines. We have been a couple for almost two years. I have been to visit twice in that time sending 6 weeks in the country. We even had a church wedding performed which of course is recognized by no one but us and our families. A year ago I sent a letter to the US embassy in Manila inquiring about filing for a fiancee visa and what their position was. We received an email back stating same sex fiance visas would be denied. Two weeks ago I again sent a letter to the US embassy in Manila inquiring about a fiancee visa for same sex couples. I received a response today that referenced me to a link on their website. I could not find anything that stated marriage was between a man and a woman. Furthermore there was no reference to denying a fiancee visa to a same sex couple. I do not know how to read the response. But last years response was a very definite no. I really need help in interpreting their response.

  48. Pingback: DOMA and Immigrant Status « The Blog – Law Office of Philip R. Yabut, PLLC

  49. Bryn Garcia says:

    Good Day, I would like to ask, I am a Filipino and I wish to migrate to US and live with my Boyfriend in Arkansas. But we are having a hard time in processing my US VISA. It would be easy if they can categorize me as a Fiance. But they said that its not possible for me to be categorized as a fiance. Please help me, We are very desperate and we don’t know what to do anymore. We wish that you could help us. We both love each other and its only the distance that hinders us. I will hope for an urgent response from you. Thank you and God Bless

  50. John O'coin says:

    So your still in Equador.. Hope you can come back some day with your partner.

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