Is Shirley Tan Out Of Options to Stay In the U.S.?

Will tomorrow be Shirley Tan’s last day in the United States? It’s looking that way. The same-sex partner of 23 years to Jay Mercado and mother to twin 12-year-old sons is likely to be deported from California’s Bay Area back to the Philippines, given her un-recognized status as a married immigrant.


Though Sens. Barbara Boxer and Diane Feinstein’s offices are working on emergency legislation that would allow for at least a delay, the bill hasn’t moved, and it’s expected Tan will be in federal custody on Friday. Her only option then is to request an emergency stay.

How did Tan end up here?

Tan first came to the United States as a visitor in 1986, stayed for about six months, then returned to the Philippines. She returned to the United States in 1989 and has stayed in this country since then, according to the documents, which also state that Tan failed to leave the United States by March 22, 1990, as her visa required.

In 1995, Tan applied for asylum based on past persecution and fear of future persecution from her cousin, but her case was denied. Tan fought that decision but in May 2002, the Board of Immigration Appeals gave her 30 days to leave the country voluntarily or be deported.

Tan claims that she didn’t know about that decision until it was far too late. Her recent motion to the Board of Immigration Appeals to reopen proceedings and stay her deportation while her motion is pending states that the notice had gone to an old address for Norma Molinar, the attorney representing her at the time.


While Tan and Mercado face the most difficult of circumstances, federal legislation has been reintroduced in Congress that would protect binational same-sex couples. Unfortunately, it comes too late for Tan and Mercado as no action has been taken yet by Congress.

The Uniting American Families Act – House bill 1024 and Senate bill 424 – is proposed federal legislation that would protect thousands of couples like Tan and Mercado. The bills were re-introduced February 12.

The act would enable gay Americans to sponsor their foreign same-sex partners for legal residency in the United States. Under the current Immigration and Naturalization Act, an American citizen can only sponsor his or her opposite-sex spouse for a green card, representing legal residency.

[Bay Area Reporter; In Look Out]

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  • Z reveals

    It is very sad :(

  • Carsen Tyler

    Awww that is sad, I really hate it when stuff like that happens. I hope she gets a green card.

  • Chris

    People, call your congressman and senator NOW and demand they support the Uniting American Families Act! We need fair and equal treatment NOW. Americans are being forcibly separated from their loved ones because of this country’s cruel and unequal treatment of same-sex relationships.

  • InExile

    How long are these injustices going to continue against LGBT families? This case has children envolved, what are they just supposed to tell the children “sorry Mommy is moving away”?

    It is unbelieveable how many same sex couples are forced to separate or move to another country. When my partner of 14 years employer went out of business, so did his work visa. We were forced to move to a France and have now lived in France for 3 years. My partner had lived in the US for 14 years on a work visa provided by his french employer.

    Leaving your family, home, career, and friends turns your entire world up side down! And even here in France I have to now fear that “whoever” happens to be working at the immigration office on renewal day for my french green card might say I do not speak fluent enough french and have to leave. I had a solid career US that I had spent years building and made a good living, here in France I cannot get a job because my french is not fluent enough.

    We hope the Uniting American Families Act Passes so we can move back home to the USA and so other people do not have to go through the nightmare we have been through and are still going through right now.

  • tropoSpice

    Maybe I am being slow today, but one of the two looks like a guy and the other a gal (and no jokes please!). Are they a lesbian couple, or gay?
    They could try to move to gay-friendly Canada .. my partner (US citizen) and I (legal foreign national) have that as emergency backup in case my permanent residency takes too long.

  • InExile

    @tropoSpice: “Just Moving” cost lots of money, I have spent about $40,000.00 to date in travel expense, immigration fees, and attorneys. That money was most of my savings and at 46 years old to loose that much money along with your career and have no prospects of making that kind of money in a foreign country is devastating to say the least! I hope you don’t get stuck having to move, you could probably use that money for something else in your life. We are not separated which is the ONLY GOOD THING about our move out of the country.

  • sal

    @InExile: @Chris: amen,amen!!!

  • Ian

    We need immigration reform NOW! It’s time to stop breaking up these families simply to appease those damn nativists and their xenophobic ways.

    Stories like this truly highlight discrimination on so many levels. It breaks my heart.

  • Sam

    Hi everybody,
    When commenting on how sad this story is, please remember that you can DO something.
    There are tens of thousands of couples in the same situation as InExile and TropoSpice. Legally trying to stay together without losing their life savings.
    You can help by calling or writing your SENATORs and CONGRESSperson.
    Please do this. It will only take you 10 minutes:
    Ask them to co-sponsor the Uniting American Families Act.
    In the House, the bill number is H.R.1024
    and in the Senate, bill number 2.424
    Also visit:

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