Washington, DC Immigration Equality today praised the Obama Administration, and specifically the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), for new, written guidance that will extend discretionary relief to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) immigrants with U.S. citizen spouses and partners. The new written directive, which was announced in response to a Congressional letter spearheaded by Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), marks one of the very first times LGBT families have been recognized within federal immigration policies. The guidelines, which are expected to be distributed soon to field offices across the country, will instruct officers and field agents to recognize LGBT families for purposes of relief as defined by a June 2011 memo from Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director John Morton.
"This is a huge step forward," said Rachel B. Tiven, executive director of Immigration Equality. "Until now, LGBT families and their lawyers had nothing to rely on but an oral promise that prosecutorial discretion would include all families. Today, DHS has responded to Congress and made that promise real. The Administration's written guidance will help families facing separation and the field officers who are reviewing their cases."
In the June 2011 memo from Director Morton, the Department of Homeland Security spelled out factors ICE officers should consider when deciding which immigration cases are classified as "low priority" for removal. Those guidelines included family ties to a U.S. citizen. DHS stated verbally in August of last year that it intended for the "family" guidelines to be LGBT-inclusive, but it had not previously distributed written guidance codifying that intent to field offices. In a letter yesterday to the 83 Members of Congress who demanded written guidelines, the Administration said it intends to do so.
"In an effort to make clear the definition of the phrase 'family relationships,' I have directed ICE to disseminate written guidance to the field that the interpretation of the phrase 'family relationships' includes long-term, same-sex partners," Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano wrote.
"The new guidelines will put in writing a commitment the Administration has expressed over the past year," said Tiven. "Now, the courts and Congress should act to make relief permanent, and provide access to green cards for all LGBT families."
Quigley applauds DHS for recognizing LGBT families in immigration policies
WASHINGTON Today, U.S. Representative Mike Quigley (IL-05) praised the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for new, written guidance codifying that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) family ties would be recognized in immigration cases. The moves comes in response to a letter sent by Quigley and 83 additional Members of Congress calling on the agency to explicitly recognize the ties of a same-sex partner or spouse as a positive factor for discretionary relief in immigration enforcement deportation cases.
"The Department of Homeland Security should be commended for its willingness to reexamine and clarify policies that unfairly discriminate against the LGBT community, and I hope other agencies will follow their example," saidRep. Quigley. "By clarifying the definition of 'family relationships' to include LGBT couples, the new DHS immigration guidelines provide equality and some measure of confidence and relief to these families facing separation. One step at a time, through changes like this, I am confident America will someday reach a place of true equality and justice for all."
Immigration Equality, the first and only organization in the United States dedicated exclusively to achieving full equality for LGBT and HIV-positive immigrants, recognized Rep. Quigley for his efforts on this issue.
"Immigration Equality is grateful to Representative Mike Quigley for his ongoing efforts to ensure LGBT immigrant families are not separated," said Rachel B. Tiven, the group's executive director. "Today's announcement is the direct result of calls by Congressional leaders for clear, written guidance that will help our families. Representative Quigley has been an important part of the coalition in Congress requesting real change that will help real families. We look forward to working with him as we continue our efforts in Congress to pass fair, inclusive legislation that will permanently end the discrimination LGBT immigrant families face in our country's immigration system."
A member of the Congressional Equality Caucus, Rep. Quigley has been a tireless advocate for the LGBT community. He is a co-sponsor of the Respect for Marriage Act, which would ensure that all couples are treated fairly under federal law. Recently he called on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to reexamine itsantiquated blood donation policy that places a lifetime ban on men who have sex with men (MSM) from donating. He has also offered legislation that would expand the Violence Against Women Act to include the LGBT community.