Lesbian Mom Gets Deportation Reprieve

April 23, 2009

Shirley Tan (R) with her family and Sen. Barbara Boxer. Courtesy of The Examiner.com.

Great news to report about a lesbian mother of two we told you about several weeks ago who was in danger of being deported to the Philippines and separated from her family. Shirley Tan of Pacifica, California was set to be taken from her partner of 23 years, Jaylynn Mercado, and their 12-year old twin boys after her immigration status came into question in January. Tan would have potentially faced violence upon a return trip to the Philippines. Two of her family members were murdered several years ago by a relative over an inheritance, and she was nearly murdered at that time. U.S. immigration law prevents gay, lesbian and bi people from sponsoring a same-sex partner for permanent residency, so Tan's partner Jaylynn, who is a U.S. citizen, cannot sponsor her. However, on the evening of Wednesday, April 22, Tan got good news of her deportation reprieve. Senator Diane Feinstein of California introduced a private bill in Congress that will buy Tan nearly two more years in the United States. One of Tan's advocates, Melanie Nathan, broke the news on her blog. Here's an excerpt from Nathan's post:

When I spoke to Jay today she was crying with joy and said the whole family including the boys were absolutely overwhelmed with emotion. The news was conveyed to her directly by Senator Feinstein’s office. It has been a long and arduous process and so a very special thank you goes to Attorney Phyllis Beech, San Francisco and Fresno. I will write more later - but now I have to call and tell everyone the good news.

The gay blog Lezgetreal also reported on the story, as did Queerty. Nathan's blog post went on to say:

This is unbelievably miraculous and indeed an extraordinary measure on behalf of the family. This also gives all our wonderful activists, LGBT organizations, and community supporters an opportunity to hit the streets, the phones, the faxes, the e-mails, the blogs etc. and to fight like crazy for the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) - in truth the only real long term option for Shirley and the 40,000 other couples/families in this dire situation.

The Uniting American Families Act, which was reintroduced in Congress earlier this year, would allow a gay, lesbian or bi person to sponsor a partner for permanent U.S. residency. GLAAD continues to partner with the organization Immigration Equality to shine a light on the estimated 37,000 couples in this country that face choosing between their country and the person they love. Media played a big role in highlighting the case of Shirley Tan. GLAAD helped pitch several stories and will keep up those efforts moving forward. We featured two excellent pieces in the March edition of Best & Worst of National News, a Washington Post editorial pushing for the passage of the UAFA and a San Jose Mercury News piece that humanized this issue through Shirley Tan's story. People magazine also did a great feature story on this case. Look for more media attention on this vitally important issue in the months ahead.