Obama Administration Sends Conflicting Messages on Same-Sex Binational Couples and DOMA
On June 8th at the tail end of a White House press conference, Press Secretary Jay Carney was asked about the ongoing deportations of same-sex spouses of Americans, specifically:
“In June 2009 the Department of Homeland Security issued a memorandum on deporting certain widows and widowers of U.S. citizens. At the time, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said that, “smart immigration policy balances strong enforcement practices with the common-sense practical solutions to complicated issues.” Yet, in May, asked about requests by advocates for a moratorium on deportation of foreign partners and same-sex binational relationships, similar to the 2009 moratorium, you said the President can’t just wave a wand and change the law. Can you explain the difference there?”
The answer from Mr. Carney? A) The President cannot wave a magic wand. B) That we need to work on comprehensive immigration reform and generate bipartisanship support for it sometime in the future, one day it will happen.
Imagine having plans for your life, your career, your family, your dreams—even your ability to go home to the one you love in the evening—hinge upon successful comprehensive immigration reform! It’s ludicrous to think any citizens would be faced with this, yet thousands of Americans and their families are.
While a court has struck down The Defense of Marriage Act as unconstitutional, and the Justice Department’s agreement with that, one must wonder why no action has been taken to stop the deportations.
This equivocating at the highest branches of government MUST stop. Press Secretary Carney is the mouthpiece for this administration, and his answers are highly unsatisfactory to the estimated 54,000 couples whose partners are at risk of deportation.
The body of our petition letter springboards from the words of Attorney Lavi Soloway, writing in response to the interchange described above. We have been saying for a long time that this is a community issue. As long as some of us are not free to choose where we want to live and who we want to commit our lives to, then no one is free. If we do not have the support of wider community, we allow injustice to perpetrate. Please sign our petition letter, and please share it on!
Out4Immigration (O4I) is an all grassroots volunteer organization. Each week we target members of Congress, elected and appointed officials, and policy makers with our weekly petition urging them to do something to change the unjust laws that keep same-sex binational couples from fair and just immigration rights.
You can visit Out4Immigration at its website, through its Yahoo Group Page, on Facebook and Twitter, or at its blog. If you know someone in a same-sex binational relationship, please encourage them to speak up and get involved. The time for justice is now!
We believe that a more focused effort to address this issue is long overdue, and simply diverting these questions about the impact of DOMA on same-sex binational couples by re-framing it as an immigration reform issue is no longer acceptable. Some American families continue to be less equal than others, their lives are being destroyed, and the culprit is DOMA. This administration has rejected DOMA in every way possible and must work to ensure its swift repeal; meanwhile, we need clarification from the administration: how will the White House ensure that LGBT Americans with law-abiding, foreign spouses are not torn apart by unnecessary deportations?
One of the most prominent voices advocating for binational same-sex couples is attorney Lavi Soloway, a veteran of LGBT immigration and Marriage Equality movements and the founder of the Stop The Deportations - The DOMA Project campaign. This was his reaction to the answer you gave at the press briefing, which was published in Metro Weekly by Chris Geidner:
“It is true that comprehensive reform is desperately needed to fix our broken immigration system. But achieving bipartisan support in the foreseeable future is extremely unlikely and, frankly, irrelevant at this point to the thousands of lesbian and gay binational couples who are threatened with deportation, separation, and exile. By repeatedly returning to its comprehensive immigration reform talking points, the administration side-steps what is at the core of this issue: Equality.
We agree. With all due respect, this is not about achieving comprehensive reform, bipartisan or otherwise. It is about treating all American citizens with foreign spouses with respect and compassion by protecting them from being torn apart. The executive branch has the power to ensure that our families are at least protected from deportation today while we continue the fight for full equality.
Same-sex binational couples should not need to wait until immigration reform is achieved years from now, because US immigration law already provides for an American citizen to sponsor his or her spouse for a “green card.” It is DOMA that is destroying the lives of same-sex binational couples, not a lack of immigration reform.
This administration believes DOMA is unconstitutional and refuses to defend it in federal court. Just last week the White House informed us that President Obama “believes that Americans with partners from other countries should not be faced with a painful choice between staying with their partner or staying in their country.” The President must take action immediately to ensure that no Americans face this choice. He can do this by putting in place a moratorium on the deportations that would protect all LGBT binational couples until DOMA’s fate is resolved by Congress or the courts.
The administration has an opportunity and a responsibility here to match its public statements about DOMA and same-sex binational couples with action. We simply cannot accept that the admirable goal of achieving comprehensive immigration reform requires that unnecessary “DOMA deportations” must continue. Along with 65 members of the House and Senate, we urge the President to put a halt to all deportations of spouses of LGBT Americans.
The conflicting messages coming from the White House leave us with no protection against the deportation of our spouses and partners. We are not asking the President to “wave a magic wand.” We are asking for meaningful, and overdue, leadership on this irreparable harm that is being perpetrated on our families because of DOMA.