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DHS Secretary Napolitano Issues Written Guidelines for Bi-National Same-Sex Couples

by Van Le on 10/01/2012 at 4:27pm

Sometimes you just need something in writing.

From the New York Times today:

The Department of Homeland Security has stated in writing that foreigners who are same-sex partners of American citizens can be included under an Obama administration policy suspending deportations of some immigrants who pose no security risk.

In letters sent late Wednesday to several Democratic lawmakers, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said she was clarifying guidelines that enforcement officers had used when applying a policy of prosecutorial discretion in cases of illegal immigrants with no criminal convictions.

Napolitano first issued this change in policy last summer, in a verbal promise that unfortunately continued to lead to threats of deportations for bi-national same-sex couples.  Now the guideline is encased in writing which specifies that “family relationships” include “long-term same-sex partners.”

Here are a few quick comments.  From Steve Ralls, the spokesman for Immigration Equality:

It will mark the very first time that lesbian and gay couples have been recognized within immigration policy for relief.

From Congressman Mike Honda (D-CA), a champion of immigration reform who applauds the move but says we need more for immigrants threatened by deportation:

Current immigration laws are tearing families apart and separating American citizens from their loves ones. No one should have to choose between their spouse and their country, and no family should be left out of the immigration system.”

And from David Dayen of FireDogLake:

Short of legislation, this is what DHS can do to err on the side of keeping American families intact and not subjecting loving relationships to a painful separation through deportation.

In the past, these immigration policy changes have been announced without corresponding real change on the ground. Even since August 2011, after the oral guidance, same-sex binational couples have been caught up in the deportation web. So it remains to be seen whether this will lead to a real difference in how these couples are treated. For now, however, DHS has released written guidance, and that at least gives couples fighting deportation a chance.

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