On Thursday afternoon, Congressman Jerrold Nadler of New York will reintroduce the Uniting American Families Act in the House of Representatives.
The bill, which would finally allow lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans to sponsor their foreign-born partners for residency in the United States, finished the last Congress with a record number of co-sponsors - and for good reason. Every year, more and more LGBT Americans are being forced apart from their families, or forced abroad, as their options for remaining together in the U.S. come to an end. The discrimination LGBT families face under our country's immigration laws is severe, and all too real. Immigration Equality hears, almost every day, from another family that is facing this untenable and unconscionable choice.
On Tuesday, one of those families issued a call to our community to meet them on Capitol Hill.
When Congressman Nadler reintroduces UAFA on Thursday, he'll be joined by Shirley Tan, Jay Mercado (her partner of more than 20 years), and their twin sons, Joriene and Jashley. The Tan-Mercado family is traveling to Washington from their home in northern California because they know, first-hand, just how devastating our immigration laws can be.
Shirley and her family became the public face of UAFA after immigration officers took her into custody and threatened to remove her from the United States, and tear her apart from her family. Despite the fact that her partner, Jay, and her twins are all American citizens, they had no ability to keep her in the United States. Had Senator Dianne Feinstein not stepped in with a private bill on her behalf, Shirley would have been forced from her family, and sent back to the Philippines, where she had been brutally shot by a family member years earlier. (To learn more about the family's story, watch this recent documentary from Immigration Equality.)
Though the entire family is grateful for Senator Feinstein's advocacy on their behalf, they also know that Shirley's reprieve from deportation is not permanent . . . and that, for thousands of families like them, even a temporary reprieve is often not possible. They have testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee... told their story at the White House and tirelessly worked for UAFA's passage.
Now, as more families than ever face separation - and the Obama Administration refuses to hold green card applications for LGBT spouses as the Defense of Marriage Act is challenged in court - Shirley, Jay, and their twin sons are returning to Washington and inviting the community to rally with them on Thursday.
The Tan-Mercado family will be joined by other families from around the area as they press lawmakers to support - and pass - UAFA. A rally in support of Congressman Nadler's reintroduction will take place at 1pm on the House Triangle, and the family, along with Immigration Equality, are calling on the public to come stand with them and send an unmistakable message to Congress and the Administration: it is time to stop tearing LGBT families apart.
Bilerico readers in and around Washington, D.C., are invited to join Shirley and her family on Thursday afternoon. You can RSVP, via Facebook, online here. And, you can ask your lawmakers to support UAFA's reintroduction by visiting the Immigration Equality Action Fund, here.
There are tens of thousands of families who are facing the very real prospect of being torn apart from their loved ones. Shirley, Jay, Joriene and Jashley are waging a heroic campaign to make sure no other family faces the same situation they have endured. But, they cannot do it alone.
If you're in Washington, join them on Thursday. Ask your lawmaker to support UAFA as a co-sponsor. And tell the Administration: The LGBT community - and our friends and allies - will not stand quietly by as our families are ripped apart.
This is our moment to stand together - with Shirley & Jay and our champions in Congress - and demand change. Let's make it count.
This Thursday, come stand with Shirley and Jay.