Metro Weekly

House Democrats Urge DHS To Recognize Same-Sex Couples

Democrats on Capitol Hill today urged the government to recognize binational same-sex relationships in deportation cases.

In a letter sent to the Department of Homeland Security, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and 83 Democratic members of Congress pushed the Obama administration and DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano to recognize in writing “the ties of a same-sex partner or spouse as a positive factor for discretionary relief in immigration enforcement deportation cases.”

Speaker_Nancy_Pelosi.jpgIt was the second attempt by congressional Democrats since September 2011 to persuade the Obama administration to make official what they promised last August: that gay couples would be given the same protections as straight couples in deportation cases.

“Keeping loving families together, particularly in cases in which one partner or spouse is a U.S. citizen, should be a priority for immigration enforcement,” Pelosi said in a statement. “The Department of Homeland Security has stated that their policy will positively factor in family ties, including those of LGBT couples, but we have now asked them to put this in writing to provide a measure of clarity to those enforcing our laws and confidence to families facing separation.” 

Under the Defense of Marriage Act, immigrants in relationships with Americans of the same-sex are denied various protections, including eligibility for green cards, because the federal government does not recognize their relationship.

The 84 members of Congress state in their letter that a written statement by DHS would be the best way to ensure President Obama’s promise to consider LGBT family ties as a positive factor in deportation proceedings. Moreover, they accuse DHS of missing “an opportunity to unambiguously include LGBT relationships in its prosecutorial discretion guidance.”

“By issuing written guidance, DHS can keep LGBT families from being separated and thus prevent the irreparable, permanent harm to families that is caused by the so-called Defense of Marriage Act — discrimination the Department of Justice has determined to be unconstitutional,” they write.

Although Democrats on Capitol Hill continue to push DHS, they have also tried to go around the administration with legislation, including the Uniting American Families Act, which would add the term “permanent partner” to several sections of the Immigration and Naturalization Act.

The administration’s delay in making good on the promise they expressed to reporters last summer has led to several high profile court cases challenging DOMA.

As Metro Weekly reported last month, Jane DeLeon, an immigrant in California who is married to an American woman, filed a class action lawsuit against DOMA after facing deportation to the Philippines. Her deportation would also affect her son’s legal status because his residency depends on his mother’s residency.

At the time of the filing, DeLeon’s lawyers urged the Obama administration to grant DeLeon and other married gay immigrants facing deportation temporary protection as the courts continue to determine the constitutionality of DOMA.

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