By Melanie Nathan, June 15, 2012.
The DREAM Act has yet to be passed, but those who could benefit from its passage may well have found some progress today in some good news emanating from Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano who informed reporters of a new policy of “deferred action” for certain young, undocumented immigrants who meet a series of conditions.
In noting this with great joy, members of the LGBT binational community still suffer in a country and under an administration that has allowed them to languish as exiles and outcasts.
In essence this means that certain undocumented youth could be safe from deportation.
In a Rose Garden address later today, President Obama noted that his administration has utilized its prosecutorial discretion and some improvements which are new.
According to DHS, under the new policy, “certain young people who were brought to the United States as young children, do not present a risk to national security or public safety, and meet several key criteria will be considered for relief from removal from the country or from entering into removal proceedings.”
Unlike the DREAM Act, there is no end result in today’s action in which so-called DREAMers would be able to obtain citizenship and the decision could be reversed by a future administration. The deferred action, however, will enable those covered by the action to apply for a work permit and the two-year deferred action can be renewed. It falls dramatically short of passage of the ACT but provides welcome relief:
Of the limits of today’s action, Obama said in his address, “This is not amnesty, it is not immunity, it is not a path to citizenship, it is not a permanent fix.”
Poligot reports that “Today’s action regarding the DREAMers is a similar action to that sought by Immigration Equality and Stop the Deportations regarding same-sex binational couples who face separation because they are barred from getting a spousal-based green card because of the Defense of Marriage Act.”
The Blog went on to note that Rachel Tiven, the executive director of Immigration Equality, celebrated today’s move, saying, “Today’s announcement is great news for our country. The young people who will be positively impacted are our classmates, our colleagues, our friends.”
In fact, apparently Immigration equality asked in May and July of 2011 about the possibility of a blanket policy to defer action on the green card applications of same-sex binational couples, White House press secretary Jay Carney would only say of Obama, “he can’t just wave a wand and change the law.”
While we must celebrate this reprieve for DREAMers, this is further evidence of the abject failure and ineptitude of Immigration Equality to fully support binational same-sex couples, who cannot sponsor spouses for green cards because of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) which defines marriage as between a man and a woman only, barring participation of married same-sex couples under the law.
Immigration Equality purports to be the preeminent group representing binational same-sex couples, thereby placing upon itself the task of leadership on the issue. Yet it has failed in strategy and accomplished nothing for so many years, after ditching the only hopeful stand alone legislation that could have enjoyed congressional traction back in 2009 and possible passage during the lame duck sessions of 2010. Instead IE hinged it to the implausible hope of comprehensive immigration reform.
Immigration Equality gambled with the fate of bi-nationals and shoved bi-national couples under the bus when the organization let go of advocating for the binational stand alone UAFA legislation at the appropriate time and used the group’s preeminent visibility for the DREAMers and comprehensive immigration reform instead.
Their current request of the President is limited in scope and a feeble attempt to make up for the damage they have caused to thousands of lives. There could be a better and more inclusive option such as special interim VISAS which have yet to be attempted – to include helping to reunite separated binational partners and keep them in the US together.
Madison Reed a binational American who has been separated from his partner for years notes the flaws and inadequacy of Tiven and the Immigration Equality focus when he says:-
“Still though, Americans like me, who are denied marriage rights and the right to live with the ones we wish to spend the rest of our lives with, (same-sex bi-national couples) and who are forced into living lives apart, separated by vast distances in different countries, HAVE NOT BEEN GIVEN A SINGLE DECENT, CARING SOLUTION by the Obama administration. We rejoice in this good news for the “Dreamers,” but we still live in pure hell.
I’d like to remind everyone, just in case we’re forgetting: Most bi-national couples, like me and my partner, haven’t had the good fortune of being able to marry. Your might as well say, obtaining legal marriage is impossible for us, because he can’t even get a visa to visit me in the U.S., and together, we have no means to get to a marriage equality country to get married. Our crisis cannot be solved by only helping only the bi-national couples who are lucky enough to be legally married and physically together on U.S. soil.”
It is most unfortunate that all the LGBT groups advocating for binational couples seem to have fallen into lock step with Immigration Equality on the issue of the plight of binational couples. No other organization has been able to separate itself from the Comprehensive Immigration reform Platform and/or repeal of DOMA as being the only mechanism to help binationals. The problem is not treated as urgent and nor seen as a priority by these groups.
We have yet to see any crafting of a special VISA reminiscent of an R1 Visa or the exploring of other interim options.
Unlike the situation impacting DREAMers, I have always see the predicament of Bi-national same-sex couples as an equality issue rather than an immigration issue per se. This is because of the discrimination against the lesbian or gay American partner who unlike heterosexual Americans, cannot petition for a fiance visa or green card on behalf of a partner or spouse.