VICTORY! DHS Issues Written Guidance to Stop Deportations of the Spouses and Partners of Gay and Lesbian Americans
We learned today that on October 5, the Principal Legal Advisor to the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency issued long-awaited written guidelines (attached below) clarifying that prosecutorial discretion guidelines issued by the agency in June 2011 to protect families from being separated by deportations in low-priority cases, would, in fact, include same-sex couples. The written guidance began to circulate today and was first reported on by the media this evening.
“For the first time ever, the federal government has put in writing a policy to protect gay and lesbian couples who are threatened with deportation by explicitly including same-sex couples in the definition of “family relationships,” putting it beyond doubt that gay and lesbian couples are eligible for favorable acts of discretion when subject to removal.
Since the summer of 2010, a group of determined gay and lesbian binational couples have organized and fought for this policy as a central part of our “Stop the Deportations, Separations and Exile” campaign. This is a tremendous moment for our community, and an especially important illustration of how those affected by our nation’s discriminatory immigration laws have, through their own acts of courage, made a change possible. This is trickle-up, grass roots activism at its best.
This guidance is a big win for all lesbian and gay couples seeking to end the catastrophic consequences of the Defense of Marriage Act.
We are grateful that the Obama administration has finally issued written guidelines that bi-national same-sex couples can invoke when fighting deportations in court. Our law firm, Masliah & Soloway, as part of this pro bono campaign, continues to represent numerous same-sex couples in immigration courts around the country who are facing imminent deportation, and, thanks to this document, we can help many more couples from being torn apart.
Specifically, this guidance helps clarify that foreign-national spouses and partners of gay and lesbian Americans are now protected from deportation. This new guidance will help bring an end to the confusion caused by the contradictory signals the administration had been sending: that DOMA precluded the recognition or even the acknowledgement of married lesbian and gay bi-national couples who were facing deportation, and the fact that these couples are same-sex partners who constitute families that should not be broken apart.
The foundation of this policy is an inclusive definition of family and a statement of principle that LGBT families deserve protection. It is evidence that the Obama administration is able to develop innovative, interim remedies to protect gay and lesbian Americans who fear being torn apart from the person that they love. This policy is a great start. We now must continue to work with the Department of Homeland Security to open up “humanitarian parole” to bring all the gay and lesbian Americans and their partners back from exile and reunite all same-sex binational couples. The administration should also provide immediate relief and protection for those gay and lesbian binational couples in the United States, by accepting the green card petitions and putting their adjudication on hold until the Supreme Court has ruled on the constitutionality of DOMA.