LGBT Binational Couples Must Be Included in ICE Deportation Guidelines
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2011 will be remembered as a rollercoaster year for the entire LGBT
community, but particularly for gay and lesbian couples in binational
relationships. With President Obama’s declaration and decision earlier this
year that the Federal Court stop defending DOMA, tens of thousands of
same-sex binational couples believed relief was finally in sight after many
years of discriminatory immigration laws. Additionally, a number of recent
court decisions have stayed the deportation of many gays and lesbians
for whom time had “run out.” The same-sex binational community was
further encouraged when ICE issued a statement in June 2011, granting
agents guidelines for prioritizing deportations, making partners in binational
relationships a low priority.
That same community is now disappointed that the most recently released
ICE guidelines fail to specifically mention gay and lesbian binational couples,
instead opting for this vague language,
“Cases that are not considered high priority include those who have
an “immediate family member” who is a U.S. citizen, …and government
attorneys can interpret that term to include a same-sex spouse or partner.”
Without concrete definition in the new guidelines, gay and lesbian binational
couples will be at the mercy of individual ICE agents who may or may
not use their discretion when prioritizing these cases. No one can be
sure that each and every ICE agent will recognize a same sex partner as
an “immediate family member.” Clear, definitive language is necessary. We
urge that “permanent partners of LGBT Americans” or similar language as
outlined in the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA; H.R. 1537; S. 821) be
integrated into these guidelines immediately.
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