Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has announced that she is set to instruct immigration agents to consider same-sex relationships the same as heterosexual ones while determining whether or not an individual should be deported. This marks a victor for advocates and members of Congress who had been pressuring for physical instructions on the issue because verbal instructions could be ignored.
Immigration Equality executive director Rachel B. Tiven stated that “This is a huge step forward. 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.”
According to the Huffington Post “DHS released guidelines in 2011 instructing agents to consider a variety of factors — including family relationships, the age an individual came to the U.S. and other ties to the country — when determining whether the immigrant is high-priority for deportation.”
Over 80 House Democrats including Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, and Representatives Mike Honda and Jerry Nadler called on the DHS to add specific written instructions regarding same-sex couples in their guidelines.
Napolitano wrote to the members of Congress that “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. As with every other factor identified in Director Morton’s June 11 memorandum, the applicability of the ‘family relationships’ factor is weighed on an individualized basis in the consideration of whether prosecutorial discretion is appropriate in a given case.”
Honda stated that “No one should have to choose between their spouse and their country, and no family should be left out of the immigration system.” He plans to continue to push immigration reform legislation.