Steve Ralls

Tearing Families Apart, When We Should Be Uniting Them

Filed By Steve Ralls | April 15, 2009 4:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Marriage Equality, Politics, Politics
Tags: Barbara Boxer, binational same-sex couples, California, Congress, Dianne Feinstein, Immigration, Immigration Equallity, People Magazine, Shirley Tan, Uniting American Families Act

Shirley Tan and Jay Mercado are, by all accounts, a picture-perfect family. The two have been together - happily - for more than two decades. They have adorable 12-year-old twins. They married in 2004. And they are hard-working, productive members of their community in Pacifica, California, where they have built a loving home that also includes Jay's mother, Renee.

So why is the United States government spending so much time - and so much taxpayer money - tearing this family apart?

Simply put, because Shirley and Jay are a lesbian couple.

As a result, on April 22nd, Shirley is scheduled to be deported - and torn away from her partner, children and mother-in-law - unless Congress takes action to keep their family together. And if you think that's outrageous, consider this: Shirley and Jay's story isn't exactly unique. According to Immigration Equality, an organization that does heroic work on behalf of same-sex, bi-national couples, an estimated 36,000 such couples face similar situations simply because, to date, the United States has refused to level the playing field for lesbian and gay Americans who have long-term partners from abroad.

In fact, keeping Shirley at home with her partner and two sons could be as simple as making a slight change in the language of U.S. immigration policy, and treating all couples equally, regardless of who they love. But Congress, in delaying action on the issue, has made life very, very complicated for these families and their loved ones.

These couples, like Shirley and Jay, are hard-working, law-abiding people who only want to be able to be with the person they love. And many, like Shirley, have spent years caring for their families, working in their communities and, yes, making our country a better place for all of us to live in. "They are exactly the kind of people you want living in this country," Immigration Equality's executive director, Rachel Tiven, told People Magazine in their recent profile of Tan and Mercado and their family.

Yet, on January 28th, at 6 a.m. in the morning, ICE agents rang Shirley's doorbell, placed her under arrest and took her to jail, where she spent a day away from her family, unaware of why she was even there.

After returning home, with an electronic tracking device attached to her ankle, Tan learned that her request for asylum - originally filed when she first emigrated to the U.S., following an attack in which a family member shot her in the head and killed her sister and mother - had been denied. Tan's attorney had failed to inform her of the denial, and the couple had no indication that anything was wrong. They even visited the White House, and successfully passed a guest screening, a few years ago.

Nevertheless, nearly 7 years after her asylum request was rejected, ICE found Shirley Tan.

If Shirley and Jay were a married heterosexual couple, none of the events of the past few months would have ever taken place. Under U.S. law, an American citizen (like Jay) can legally sponsor their married spouse for citizenship. But even though their 2004 marriage in California is (for the moment) still legally recognized there, it has no validity at the federal level, where both the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and official U.S. policy refuse to recognize lesbian and gay partners as equal in the eyes of the law.

Lesbian and gay couples - regardless of how long they have been together or how many children they may have - are forced to make an unacceptable choice between family and country.

Yet, even as families like Shirley and Jay's continue to be torn apart, Congress has yet to pass the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA), now pending in both the House and the Senate. UAFA would, at last, treat all couples equally under the law, and eliminate the heart-wrenching scenario now playing out in Pacifica, California. But, despite calls from The Washington Post, The San Francisco Chronicle and a long (and growing) list of civil liberties and immigration organizations, the bill has yet to move forward. And all the while, mothers and fathers are being torn away from their children, and families are brutally discriminated against by our own government.

While People reports that Congresswoman Jackie Speier and Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer are considering a life-saving private bill to keep Tan with her children, Tiven told the magazine it was a "long shot." And Shirley's children, the magazine reported, are so upset that they "can barely talk about the case."

It is simply unacceptable that Tan and Mercado's children are being put through such agony at the expense of the U.S. taxpayer, and simply unimaginable that our country would rather tear apart a 20-year relationship rather than fix a simple sentence in our immigration laws.

As our elected leaders continue to talk about "comprehensive" immigration reform, it is of paramount importance that they understand it can never be "comprehensive" until it includes Shirley Tan and her family, too. Any effort to do right by those who have given so much to our country will fall short until UAFA is passed - whether as part of a stand-alone bill or a package of immigration reform - and Shirley's two boys have their mother, safe and sound, in their home.

Crossposted at

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Shirley Tan's case is an example of what happens when the system of asylum fails to protect people who apply.
But... while this is in fact a sad story, and I hope that Tan's asylum case will be resolved, hers is hardly the case for UAFA. Steven, your post is filled with wild inaccuracies.

Even if it had been passed, UAFA would have done nothing for Shirley Tan, correct? UAFA is very, very specific about whom it will benefit. Shirley Tan entered the country as a tourist, and her visa expired, yes? Otherwise, she'd be able to stay here as a legal permanent resident. If she applied for asylum and lawyers botched up, that's another issue - I don't believe that the UAFA would actually benefit anyone who's applied for asylum. Again, please look at the exact provisions and tell me if I'm incorrect.

Under the UAFA, the partner being sponsored by the U.S. citizen/permanent resident MUST not be an undocumented person (which is what you become once you fall out of status). In fact, several provisions exist in UAFA as it's written to ensure that people like Shirley Tan will not gain redress under UAFA. At this point, her best option is to gain asylum, and that would be the case even if she were in a heterosexual marriage, correct? Your post is unethical in that it uses the case of Shirley Tan to draw attention to a piece of legislation that would not even help her. Please prove otherwise and I will stand corrected.

At a recent Chicago conference sponsored by the National Immigrant Justice Center, I asked both Julie Kruse of IE and a rep from HRC about whether or not UAFAA would do anything for undocumented people; they admitted it would not. And before someone gets on my case for my choice of words, let me make this clear: I advocate for the rights of undocumented people. In fact, I believe that legislation like UAFA needs to be clearer about the fact that it will do nothing for the same. Which is why I object to the UAFA - when scores of people like Shirley Tan are suffering because of the inefficient application of asylum laws, and when many more are suffering because of the ridiculous HIV bar which disallows PWAs/HIV-positive people from entering the country, UAFA prioritises people in coupled relationships.

Your statement that "If Shirley and Jay were a married heterosexual couple, none of the events of the past few months would have ever taken place." is just wrong. In fact, even heterosexual couples have trouble being united under U.S. immigration law. The process is long and cumbersome and, in many instances, the non-citizen partner is subject to the 10-year bar (if undocumented for a certain period of time), which means that he/she is disallowed from entering the U.S. for that long. You're also erasing the issue of class -- applying for citizenship as a spouse is not easy, and often requires expensive lawyers. Many couples find themselves in limbo for years as they struggle to pay bills and lawyers.

Furthermore, there's the fact that spousal sponsorship is rife with abuse. You can read more of my reporting and analysis on that matter here:

Why would you use the case of Shirley Tan knowing fully well that she would not gain redress from UAFA? Her case does not prove the need for UAFA; it only proves how broken down the system of immigration is in its current state.

And I can't even begin to get into the ghastly politics of these lines:

"These couples, like Shirley and Jay, are hard-working, law-abiding people who only want to be able to be with the person they love. And many, like Shirley, have spent years caring for their families, working in their communities and, yes, making our country a better place for all of us to live in. "They are exactly the kind of people you want living in this country," Immigration Equality's executive director, Rachel Tiven, told People Magazine in their recent profile of Tan and Mercado and their family."

Really? In other words, the other immigrants -- the ones who don't own houses because they're too exploited to even make ends meet, or the ones who can't claim communities because they're too busy moving from place to place performing cheap labour so that we can have cheap orange juice - can just stuff it?

As our editor Alex Blaze knows, I've been promising a piece on UAFA for a while now. So I'll save my breath for that.

Steve Ralls Steve Ralls | April 15, 2009 10:38 PM

Actually, Yasmin, you're completely incorrect. UAFA would, in fact, resolve this case in full. As Immigration Equality points out on its blog today, passage of UAFA would allow Shirley's partner to sponsor her for a green card . . . which is an impossibility under current law because their relationship is same-sex. A judge has ruled that Shirley has not, technically speaking, violated the law because of the outcome of her asylum petition. But she has been ordered to return home by May 10th. Under UAFA, she would have a very real chance of staying in the U.S.; without UAFA, her only option is a private bill in Congress, which is a nearly unprecedented move for a lawmaker to take.

In fact, Immigration Equality, Tan's private lawyers and Members of Congress have all acknowledged that, yes, UAFA would be a resolution for Tan . . . if only it were already law.

There is no evidence available which indicates, as you suggest, that "spousal abuse" would be any more rife in same-sex relationships than in opposite-sex ones. That's just plain wrong. And in the case of Shirley and Jay, it's outrageous to suggest such a thing could be at work. They've been together 20 years, have twin sons and are exceptionally committed to one another.

I am happy - always - to debate the law, and to clarify the points I make here. But I do not appreciate being targeted for something I have not even addressed in my post. I stand by my assertion that Shirley and Jay are part of an outstanding family that our government should support and work to keep together. But in doing so, I never said that immigrants not in a relationship - or that immigrants who are not homeowners, documented or, for that matter, even employed - are somehow "less than."

And I object - profusely - to the suggestion that I did. That assertion, in fact, is "wildly inaccurate."

The immigrant community is as diverse as any other, and each of them deserve to be treated with dignity, respect and fairness. I have never believed anything else, and certainly did not say otherwise in this post.

The bottom line, in this particular case, is this: Shirley and Jay are an amazing family who deserve to be together. UAFA would, if law, provide an option for keeping them both in the U.S. And it is disgraceful, and heartbreaking, to think our government would split apart these two and cause such incredible pain to them and their children.


As I said, I'm happy to stand corrected, but I note that that it's still not clear how Tan's case could be so easily resolved. Furthermore, the People article itself states that Tan is here illegally. Based on that, it would make sense that she is being sent home. Now, if as you say, it's been determined otherwise, and if she hasn't technically violated the law, then why is she being ordered to return home? There's a lot of fuzziness here, and I'd like some clarity as to how Tan could have so easily just petition for a green card when lots of other immigrants, facing lesser issues, have a tough time.

It's clear that Tan's case is a pretty complicated one, and not the run-of-the-mill one - why would her being in a straight spousal relationship have helped her, given how hugely complicated this is? Even to an outsider, it's clear that this is a pretty complex case, and even the least complicated cases can be cumbersome - why would Shirley Tan's be any different? Seriously, just enlighten me.

To the bigger issues which you avoid: You say at the end that ""comprehensive" immigration reform [CIR]..can never be "comprehensive" until it includes Shirley Tan and her family, too." And this is my problem with both your post and the general coverage of binational couples - you assume that CIR should take account of them, but there's no sense that you care about CIR. Every group has a right to advocate for its constituents the best way possible, but the binational crowd, with extremely rare exceptions, completely ignores all the other immigration issues. There's a division, for instance, between activists who emphasise family reunification and those who want a more labour-based reform agenda - but they don't work in complete blinkered isolation from each other the way the UAFA crowd does. And a lot of that, let's be blunt, has to do with the fact that this bill is less about the rights of immigrants and more about the rights of U.S. citizens to have their partners sponsored. But again, if you won't admit that, at least stop insisting that you deserve to be part of CIR.

As for the rest: You both obfuscate and miss the point. I never suggested that spousal abuse, which you strangely put in quotes, "would be any *more* rife in same-sex relationships than in opposite-sex ones." And I'm not suggesting it in this case, but pointing out that the whole system of spousal sponsorship is, in fact rife with abuse -- proven in the article I cited. Your personalisng things by suddenly accusing me of insinuating things about the couple scores cheap points, but it's inaccurate and slips away from my questions about the larger questions about UAFA.

Furthermore, as you know perfectly well, I very carefully quoted Rachel Tiven in People magazine using those words about good immigrants, just to be clear. But yes, I do think you and Tiven are suggesting that some immigrants are less than others. And let's not be naive here - you and I know perfectly well that the discourse on immigration rights and reform operates on a heavily moralistic axis, which divides good immigrants from bad immigrants. Your language is a part of that, and you have to account for it.

Look, at the end of the day: Do I think that families like Tan's should be torn apart? No. But here's my problem with the way that IE and others are positing the issue of binational couples - as somehow more productive, more enriching, better citizens etc. And my problem with those who implicitly or explicitly push for these couples as somehow more worthy than, say, day workers, is that the entire discourse is so embedded in a particular model of the very family and nation-form that caused all these problems to begin with.

And, furthermore, I can't help notice that even as you insist that CIR should take binational couples into account, you make no effort to even address the issues of economic inequality that play a role in immigration.

And, to the larger issue here, why use this case to pretend that marriage will solve the issues of everyone in a binational relationship when it clearly won't?

colored queer | April 15, 2009 11:47 PM

Yasmin, I agree with you and your deep understanding of immigration issues (abuse of foreign spouse, long process even for heterosexual couples etc.) is excellent. I find the positions of this blogger and Immigration Equality VERY troubling -- that only those types of "immigrants" who are in binational relationships and have some sort of "economic" status "should" be living in this country. So, how about single, undocumented, poor and those with HIV?? We should NOT allow them to stay at all? And isn't this true that most gay binational couples are white US citizens with Europeans partners? In other words, even for immigration issues, in order for a gay org to advocate for you a gay immigrant has to find a US citizen or go to hell. Isn't this issue being advocated by US citizens who run these orgs and that is why you hear nothing about single or HIV undocumented immigrants who absolutely will NOT benefit from UAFA.

So what is the gay community doing to support comprehensive immigration reform which would help milllions of Latinos, Asians and other mostly immigrants (straight or gay) of color? anything at all?

Yasmin, I read your piece a while ago where you wrote that gay organizations including Immigration Equality even refused to sign a statement supporting comprehensive immigration reform. Just a statment!! So, orgs like Immigration Equality or other gay groups would not even simply sign a statement to support ALL (straight or gay)immigrants of color unless they have a gay US citizen partner. That is such a flawed analysis but this just shows how the gay rights movement is dominated by conservative white folks whose lives revolve around family issues only. That is just another glaring example of racism in gay organizations since they would only support issues which benefit white gays and in this case white US citizens and then white Europeans.

And so much for coalition building with mainstream people of color organizations that we heard so much from white gay leadership after Prop 8 exposed the widespread racism in the gay community and gay orgnaizations.

And, where are the GAY IMMIGRANTS in this debate? Recently, we had a bunch of white gays arguing to boycott Jamaica without even discussing it with gay orgs in Jamaica and even insisting to proceed when those affected by the issues asked them not to. Why do gay orgs (which are mostly white) or white gays somehow feel entitled to "colonize" issues of other people?

Colored Queer,

Yes, you're right about IE (and HRC) not having signed on to a comprehensive immigration statement in the past. And yes, you're right on about the issues facing HIV positive immigrants and the fact that most of the gay orgs only support relatively conservative immigration matters, constructed around conservative notions of the family and state, if at all.

Again, I understand the need for working for one's constitutencies, but I have to question why those working on binational couples huff and puff about CIR (comprehensive immigration reform) not taking them into account when they demonstrate no interest in CIR in return. One of my biggest problem with the issue of binational couples is that the story is being spun that marriage/partnerships would automatically resolve the issue for anyone when, in fact, the issue is a lot more complicated and doesn't, in fact, help everyone.

Where are the gay immigrants, indeed? Watch my space here for more in the coming weeks :-)

Steve Ralls Steve Ralls | April 16, 2009 9:10 AM

Yasmin, Yasmin, Yasmin (and others) . . .

My high school geometry teacher always told me to never assume, because it makes an ass out of . . . oh, well, I'm sure you know the rest.

So let's stop making assumptions and look at the facts.

FACT: You and others should not assume, as is written here, that I have no regard or respect for - or interest in - Latino or Asian immigrants, and care only about white Europeans. It may surprise you - if you set aside assumptions for a while - to know that my partner is, in fact, an immigrant . . . and not a European one. Nor does he come from a fabulously wealthy family. Indeed, he falls into one of the groups that you so sanctimoniously accuse me of ignoring. What a "wild inaccuracy!"

FACT: You say I have no interest in comprehensive immigration reform or in helping undocumented people who are not in a relationship. Could you please point out the exact words I used which say precisely that?

Of course you can't, because I didn't.

In fact, I wholly support a path to citizenship for every immigrant. I wholly support comprehensive immigration reform. And I wholly support treating everyone with dignity and respect, regardless of whether they are European, Asian, Latino, straight, gay, male, female, transgender, etc.

FACT: Shirley Tan's case has nothing to do with white gay activists or European bi-national couples. In case you missed the photo in People, Tan and her partner are both Asian. And their twins are Asian. You may want to re-visit the photo one more time.

FACT: I do understand how costly it is to navigate the immigration system, and how expensive it is to find a good lawyer to do so. That's why I'm such a huge fan of Rachel Tiven and Immigration Equality. They provide their services for free. They never charge a client. And they offer services to LGBT and HIV+ immigrants who are in a relationship, and those who are not . . . regardless of their ability to pay.

FACT: Some ask "where are the gay immigrants in this debate?" Let me tell you: While you and others are pointing fingers, arguing about Europeans, attacking HRC (an organization that has nothing to do with this article or this case, by the way) and insinuating that others - without a shred of evidence to back up your accusations - are somehow biased against single people or people of certain nationalities . . . the gay immigrants, like Shirley Tan, are being split apart from their families and getting deported. Those immigrants are real people with real families who are facing very real, very dire circumstances that will not be resolved by pointing fingers and spouting "wildly inaccurate" rhetoric.

SURELY we can make better use of our time by helping people like Tan and others (including those who are undocumented, Asian, Latino, HIV+, etc., etc.) instead of making baseless accusations about those who are already doing that necessary, hard and heroic work.

I dare say that few people, and few organizations, have personally helped as many LGBT and HIV+ immigrants as Immigration Equality.

But, I digress. I suppose I'm just getting distracted by the facts.


Stop pretending this is about you. You had to have noticed that the "you" in my comments also referred to the binational movement as a whole, as it's curently represented. As I've said in an earlier comment, personalising this and pretending that this is all about pot shots at your character/life scores cheap points but it doesn't hide the fact that you refuse to engage with the larger issues.

And stop putting words in the mouths of your commenters (I could also tell you to stop being childish in your retorts, but given that you're still recycling your high school teacher's cliches, I doubt I'll have any success).

Yes, we're all aware that Tan and her family members are Asian - you'll note the qualifying word "most." Yes, I'm sure you might understand, to some degree, on a personal level, what it might mean to not be a white, privileged immigrant. But none of us here are demanding your bio - or a plug for IE. We're simply pointing out that the discourse you propagate is implicitly about what kinds of families deserve protection and the role of major gay organizations in furthering a narrow gay agenda in the issue of binational couples -- and all that bears scrutiny and discussion. A discussion that you'd clearly prefer not to have. Instead, you keep pretending this is some kind of personal attack. You can't post on something as complex as immigration reform and then resort to personal narratives when asked about your points.

A lot of us ARE working on immigrant rights issues, and we'd like to have a more nuanced discussion about immigration, one that goes beyond the "these are the good immigrants, these are the bad immigrants, and, oh, let's forget the issues of labour that are at the heart of this immigration crisis" line being propagated by the pro-binational crowd.

It's clear that you're unwilling/incapable of going beyond the party line and engaging on this matter and that you are reduced to petty, schoolboy comments. Good luck with that.

And, by the way, you've also avoided answering my questions about Shirley Tan.

Steve Ralls Steve Ralls | April 17, 2009 4:15 PM


Once more:

UAFA would likely resolve Shirley Tan's case.

Last Friday, Tan received a decision from the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA). BIA, while finding that Tan was not necessarily in the U.S. illegally (a conclusion reached, in part, because of her original attorney's failure to properly pursue her asylum request), but nonetheless reissued the deportation order and has given her until May 10 to voluntarily depart.

As The San Francisco Chronicle pointed out, " . . . her case also touches off two flashpoint issues - immigration law and same-sex marriage - that are combining in a way that shows the unfairness of this country's laws. If she is deported, Tan will be separated from her partner Jay Mercado, who is a naturalized citizen. For straight couples, there wouldn't be a similar problem because a citizen can sponsor a spouse for residency."

"[A] fuller answer is needed:," the Chronicle wrote, "an overhaul of immigration law that would recognize special circumstances and also passage of the Uniting American Families Act. That measure would end the discrimination against gay and lesbian Americans [like Mercardo] and let them sponsor partners [like Tan] for immigration."

THE BIA RULING LAST FRIDAY WAS CLEAR AND UNEQUIVOCAL that, were Tan heterosexual, Mercado could sponsor her for a green card TODAY. But without UAFA, the fact that this couple is same-sex means Tan faces almost certain deportation on May 10th.

I don't see and couldn't find a link to the BIA ruling; please post that if you would. "The BIA was clear and unequivocal" reads like a claim you're making about the implications of the BIA ruling. Are you saying that the BIA actually said, "were Tan heterosexual, Mercado could sponsor her for a green card TODAY."? If so, I find it odd that BIA would come out and make statements like that. If I'm wrong (and those are indeed BIA's words, not your surmise), I'm happy to be corrected, of course.

I do find several newspaper reports making claims like yours: "were Tan heterosexual, Mercado could sponsor her for a green card TODAY." I find that hard to believe given the complexity of spousal sponsorships. Most people believe that spousal sponsorship is simply a matter of a) a wedding b) simple paperwork.

BUT ... if you look at this website alone:

it becomes clear that the process can be pretty complex. It may be easy for some, but based on what I know anecdotally and from what I've studied so far, it can be complicated when legal issues are involved. So, the point here is that being straight and married *may* not have helped her anyway. Here's a link that explains what it means to sponsor an undocumented partner (if you're a straight couple):

And if UAFA simply substitutes "permanent partner" for "spouse," why would sponsoring Tan be any more simple? And even if it's possible that Tan as an individual case could be sponsored easily, why not make it clear that this will not automatically help *everyone* in a binational relationship, especially if one person is undocumented? The fact that straight couples *can* sponsor their spouses doesn't mean that it's always an easy process.

I note that you now state that "UAFA would *likely* resolve Shirley Tan's case." (emphasis mine) As opposed to your more resolute earlier insistence that "UAFA would, in fact, resolve this case in full."

I'm not questioning that Tan's case is a sad one. I'm questioning the validity of the case being made here that a)Tan is being separated from her partner because she is a lesbian. Your post clearly states: "So why is the United States government spending so much time - and so much taxpayer money - tearing this family apart?
Simply put, because Shirley and Jay are a lesbian couple."

I question the validity of that claim since we can see that her deportation order came about because of issues unrelated to her sexuality (that's not to say that queer immigrants don't face particular hardships, but that's a post for another day).

I'm also questioning the validity of the claim that: "were Tan heterosexual, Mercado could sponsor her for a green card TODAY."

I'm basing my scepticism on a couple of things:

1)At a Chicago immigration conference, I asked IE's Julie Kruse if undocumented aliens would be helped by UAFA, and the answer was no. I even attended a workshop hosted by HRC (a big supporter of UAFA) and IE at that Chicago conference and directly asked the same question, and got the same response.

2) There's too much that's fuzzy about the Tan case for me to believe, at this point, that her case would be easily resolved by UAFA, or if she were part of a straight married couple. We don't have considered legal opinions on this case, only newspaper and magazine reports which are regurgitating the idea that a straight spouse would have been able to sponsor Tan. Even if that were true, it's clear, from looking at how immigration law operates, that spousal sponsorship is not always the easy and simple process that sponsors of UAFA would have us believe. And even if it were the case that Tan, if in a straight marriage/covered by UAFA, could be easily allowed to stay with a spousal green card, we KNOW that such would not automatically be the case for all binational couples. That doesn't even get near the issue of the UAFA's relationship to Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR), which is tenuous at best.

So, I think the best thing here is to say, once again: I'm deeply sympathetic to Tan's predicament, I hope it gets resolved to the satisfaction of all involved. I also hope that people will consider the case of the millions of undocumented immigrants who don't have the means to take their stories public, and who are "disappeared" or deported out of the public eye without being able to plead their cases as spouses/partners of U.S. citizens.

I'm going to take a very close look at the Tan case, in an attempt to work (even more) through its fuzziness, and I'm also going to write more extensively about UAFA's relationship to immigration reform and to the issues that face millions of undocumented immigrants, whether in binational relationships or not.

Until then, I hope others will at least look more closely at UAFA and, if they think their binational relationships could be helped by it, first ask attorneys for details on whether or not it will, in fact, help their cases. And I would also ask people to look very closely at how the claims of what UAFA can and will do -- and for whom -- are being phrased.

Also, for those who're interested in the Tan case - it's important to note that hers was originally an asylum case (the People article notes that her request was turned down). People should know that asylum on the basis of sexual orientation or political belief are among the few ways to gain asylum in the U.S. I don't know the details of the Tan case, and don't know what her grounds of appeal were. But we should note that asylum is an option for many. It's also an option riddled with problems too long to go into here, but it can be an option - and in Tan's case, it certainly did come up in the past. Clearly, hers is a complicated and painful case for her and her family.

At the end of the day, Tan's case doesn't prove the need for UAFA as much as it reveals how deeply flawed and often cruel the current system can be. We need a more humane and flexible system for all, not just one that prioritises certain kinds of families over others.

I do wonder about cases like this one and the other one John Kerry got involved a few weeks ago. Do these people want to stay in American for asylum or to stay with their families? The way they're discussed (since I haven't met any of the people involved) is usually that they want to stay in the US, and they're willing to go with whatever reason will get them an in.

I should point out that this issue is pretty close to me since I'm the American half of a binational same-sex couple. Alberto doesn't have the ability to sponsor me under French law since we have to prove one year of communal life (kinda hard to do since I can't stay here longer than 3 months in one stretch). I did just get approved for another work visa (starting in October going through next year) that I have to go back to America this summer to apply for, but it's really no problem.

Which then changes after that as I don't plan to live in France all my life. Oh, well, we'll cross that bridge when we get to it. The situation is pretty tough considering my career plan requires me to be in America and Alberto's requires him to be in Paris, specifically. There isn't much of a market for French-language avant-garde theater elsewhere.

My cousin was in a similar situation with his Danish wife. He was working at a Walmart in Texas at the time, just out of the military. Since he didn't have enough of an income, she was sent back to Denmark (she came to the US on a tourist visa), and he re-enlisted so that he could sponsor her.

My parents are also a bi-national couple, but, as far as I know, that was a bit easier because my mother completed her studies in the US.

Anyway, I do have to agree with this:

And a lot of that, let's be blunt, has to do with the fact that this bill is less about the rights of immigrants and more about the rights of U.S. citizens to have their partners sponsored.

The slogan on this issue seems to be "People shouldn't have to choose between their country and the person they love." But it doesn't make sense - the inherent problem with being in a binational couple of any sort is that one of the two people will have to choose between their country and the person they love.

Unless, of course, all the focus is on the American person's rights, or the assumption is that no one would ever want to live in another country.

As for this:

And in the case of Shirley and Jay, it's outrageous to suggest such a thing could be at work. They've been together 20 years, have twin sons and are exceptionally committed to one another.

I don't think anyone was suggesting spousal abuse in this case, but I did want to point out that just because a couple has been together a long time, has children, or appears happy to the outside world, doesn't mean that there isn't any spousal abuse going on.

colored queer | April 16, 2009 11:33 AM

This blogger is absolutely "wrong" and actually that is too simplistic of a view that gay immigrants are absent from this debate because they are all being deported. Have you heard of an organization of LGBT persons of color called "Audre Lorde Project?" They actually have many LGBT immigrants of color who are involved in grassroots organizing and multi-issue advocacy to help their own communities but you don't write about them or even mention that group because they don't fit into your own imagination of what advocates (with savior mentalities)should look like. That strategy of focusing or putting out "white" faces on gay rights movement and gay media miserably failed with the loss of prop 8 and we are now doing the same with immigration issues. Why exclusively focus on binational couple issues but not immigrants who are single or HIV+ and poor?

It is quite clear from those arrogant and racist comments how certain types of immigrants (good ones with US citizen parnters) deserve to be in this country and others do not. It is shocking that this whole analysis leaves out a huge group of immigrants (without US citizen partners/spouses) who are facing employment exploitation, racial profiling, police violence, immigration raids and every other type of oppression that one can imagine. Only white gay orgs can interpret such a big issue so narrowly as they have done with all other issues which affect people of color communities.

Just because you work for a large organization and don't see those gay immigrants who are fighting at grassroots level does not mean that they don't exist. Just because white gay activists and white gay orgs are trying to maintain a monopoly over issues does not mean that other people without any self-interests are not working on those issues.

And yes it is time for white gay organizations to support communities of color by supporting comprehensive immigration reform and not just a single issue of binational couples which would mostly benefit those with European partners. Rights are not in limited supply and while arguing to recognize the rights of gay binational couples we can also support a broad immgiration rights movement. Otherwise that position that we would only support those who are in relationship with US citizens is quite "racist" and "imperialistic." But, then that deep seated racism is at the very heart of gay rights movement and has so far defined the agenda/issues of the top down approach of white gay orgs.