In August when Obama promised that the Department of Homeland Security would stop tearing apart “low priority” LGBT bi-national couples and focus on “high-priority” security risks instead, we cheered. But now the DHS has just released guidelines to attorneys with U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement and immigrants in same-sex relationships with U.S. citizens are not listed as those who could be considered low priority. Have we just been played?
According to Chris Johnson at The Washington Blade, even though LGBT couples don’t get explicitly mentioned in the DHS guidelines, the guidelines do identify as another low category an undocumented immigrant “who has a very long-term presence in the United States, has a immediate family member who is a United States citizen, and has established compelling ties and made compelling contributions to the United States.”
A DHS official who spoke on condition of anonymity said:
“One of the strongest reasons why we go with a family approach — focusing on the family relationship and not a marital relationship — is because we want to include individuals who are in long standing domestic partnerships so we can capture more same-sex couples. We used the term the family members largely so that domestic partnerships would be included in the standard.”
That’s nice and all. But Steve Ralls, spokesperson for Immigration Equality explains why the new guidelines should have explicitly mentioned LGBT couples:
“By declining to address, in writing, the unique circumstances surrounding those couples, DHS has left too much room for interpretation and left too many couples vulnerable to separation… the fact that [the] DHS does not say so in its written guidelines, leav[es] the definition of ‘immediate family member’ open to interpretation by DHS and ICE officers. That’s problematic because, without that explicit guidance, there is no documentation mandating that officers use an inclusive definition as they review pending deportation cases.”
Ralls goes onto say that without such explicit documentation, a foreign-born spouse could get shipped back to their homophobic country of origin.
We guess we’ll have to wait until the next high profile bi-national deportation case to see if Obama will make good on his seemingly weak fall season promise.
Image via mediajorgenyc