Rep. Jackie Speier affirms support for UAFA, Tan and Mercado family

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At a townhall meeting this past weekend I asked Congresswoman Jackie Speier (CA-12)—who represents my district—about immigration reform as it pertains to bi-national same-sex couples.

Speier is one of 97 co-sponsors for the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA), which provides a path to citizenship for bi-national same-sex couples where one of the partners is not a natural-born or naturalized citizen. I asked Speier what was the best method of passing UAFA, either as a stand-alone  measure or as a part of more comprehensive immigration reform. I framed the question  around the story of Shirley Tan and Jay Mercado, a local bi-national lesbian couple nearly split apart by deportation. Speier responded directly:

So the only way that bill is going to get passed is if it’s part or larger immigration reform measure. That’s the intention of Zoe Lofgren who chairs the subcommittee and who will be moving the bill once one is actually crafted, and that’s the way we are going to see it happen.

Speier then began to speak at some length about the Tan and Mercado family:

The Tan family was in the office yesterday; they came in to thank us for the effort we had made. I’ve got to tell you this is a wonderful family with two thirteen your old boys that love both their parents and were frightened that they were going to lose their mother. So Senator Feinstein introduced a private bill which would prevent deportation.

They are now home and have two years of breathing space. This deportation will occur in two years unless Senator Feinstein reintroduces the bill. So hopefully we can address this issue [UAFA]. For those of you who don’t know about this… does anyone not know about this issue?

A smattering of nods and few voices in the affirmative…

Our immigration laws provide that if you are a naturalized or natural-born citizen and you marry some one who is not, that you can petition to have that individual stay in this country and receive a green card. Now, if you happen to be a gay or lesbian couple, that does not apply.

So in this case, this couple had been together 23 years, had been married locally, had two sons—the egg came from one spouse and was carried by the other spouse. The two of them are very committed physically, and emotionally to these children. And they’ve lived their lives in Pacifica… and their two sons were about to lose their mom. She was going to be deported mid-April.

We got a stay and we were able to do more due diligence, and finally Senator Feinstein said she could introduce the bill, so they now are an intact family.

And I did a home visit, because as part of the due dilligence, I wanted to find out if it was real or if it was a sham. And I looked through probably 6 picture albums, over the course of 13…15 years and there was never a more intact family, more committed family, more loving family. And they shouldn’t be discriminated against.

Pure and simple.

What followed was a resounding applause, perhaps the largest of the event. It filled me with hope and optimism, that this crowd of strangers felt empathy and support for the plight of Mercado and Tan family.

While not well-versed in the intricacies of getting legislation passed into law, I am concerned that UAFA will be bundled as a part of larger immigration reform. UAFA and the protections it provides is just the kind of the line item that can easily be scratched from a bill in order to get it through committee and eventually passed, particularly when contentious Republicans and Blue Dog Democrats may take issue with it. Senator Charles Schumer is optimistic comprehensive immigration reform may come before year’s end.

Never-the-less I applaud Speier’s support of UAFA and the Mercado and Tan family. In addition to UAFA, Speier continues to be a strong ally for the LGBT community, having co-sponsored HR. 1283 which would repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and voting for hate crimes legislation for LGBT, transgendered and disabled persons.

Post by ILO on 05/04/09 at 1:46 pm