Rep. Mike Honda is declaring victory after a decision that LGBT relationships will be considered just like any other family relationships in exercising prosecutorial discretion in immigration and deportation matters.
In a letter sent in late July, Honda – along with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, and 82 other House members – had asked Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to explicitly recognize in writing that the ties of a same-sex partner or spouse can be a positive factor for discretionary relief in immigration enforcement deportation cases. A June 2011 memo from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director John Morton, dealing with prioritizing ICE’s resources and reducing excessive deportations, had said a key positive factor in exercising prosecutorial discretion is a “person’s ties and contributions to the community, including family relationships.”
Napolitano responded yesterday.
“After many conversations with President Obama’s administration, a strong push by the LGBT community, and with the help of my colleagues, Secretary Napolitano has announced that she will disseminate written guidance to immigration authorities that confirms the interpretation of the phrase ‘family relationships’ to include LGBT relationships — specifically the relationships of immigrants in same-sex marriages and partnerships with U.S. citizens,” Honda said today.
Honda said this small win underscores the need for more comprehensive immigration reform. “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.”
Honda, D-Campbell, is the author of the Reuniting Families Act, H.R. 1796, which would recapture family and work visas that have gone unused and unclaimed due to bureaucratic delay; reduce the long backlog for families trying to reunite with their loved ones by classifying lawful permanent resident spouses and children as “immediate relatives” and exempting them from numerical caps on family immigration; provide equal treatment for all stepchildren and biological children under immigration laws; and more.
Honda said that bill “reunites same-sex couples and protects the civil rights of LGBT individuals and ensures that they are treated equitably through an immigration reform that is both comprehensive and inclusive.”
“The United States is a nation built upon the toil of immigrants hoping to build better lives for themselves and their families,” he said. “Our country deserves an immigration system that honors that legacy and keeps all families intact.”