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By BTL staff
WASHINGOTN, D.C. – Immigration Equality is optimistic that legislators will act on behalf of a Northern California family that may soon be torn apart. Due to immigration laws that discriminate against lesbian and gay couples, Shirley Tan will likely be deported this Friday, April 3. Tan will be separated from her life partner Jaylynn “Jay” Mercado, their twelve-year-old twin sons, and Jay’s 76-year-old mother, for whom Shirley is the primary caretaker. The deportation will send Shirley back to the Philippines, where she was a victim of extreme violence.
“From the moment my sons were born we have never been apart. It’s tearing me apart to have to leave without them,” said Tan.
Unlike straight Americans, Mercado cannot sponsor her partner of 23 years for immigration. The Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) would remedy this discrimination against gay and lesbian Americans and allow them to sponsor their partners for immigration. The bill, introduced by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) in the House, has 110 additional cosponsors in Congress.
“Until the UAFA passes, families like Jay and Shirley’s are at terrible risk,” said Immigration Equality Executive Director Rachel B. Tiven. “We are hopeful their members of Congress will introduce a private bill that would spare their twin boys and the boys’ grandmother from having the country they love tear their family apart.”
Senators Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif-12) represent Tan and Mercado in Congress. Sen. Boxer and Rep. Speier have cosponsored the Uniting American Families Act.
“Shirley Tan’s unacceptable situation is just one example of why Congress must pass immigration equality legislation. The Uniting American Families Act, which I co-sponsored, will allow lesbian and gay Americans to sponsor their permanent partners for residency in the United States,” said Speier. “In the near term, I am confident that any official who examines the facts in Shirley Tan’s case will come to the conclusion that this hard-working mother of two should not be sent to a country where she has no support network and was the victim of a horrific act of violence.”
Across the country, 37,000 couples face similar circumstances.
Last week, the White House issued a statement about the Uniting American Families Act, saying “[President Obama] thinks Americans with partners from other countries should not be faced with a painful choice between staying with their partner or staying in their country.”
Victoria Neilson, Immigration Equality’s legal director said, “There may be no options for Jay and Shirley under existing law. How can they explain to their children that the U.S. Government does not consider them a family?”