Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Gay Marriage Debate and Immigration

Guest blogger: Samantha Silvia, third-year law student, University of San Francisco:

The Gay Marriage Debate and Immigration: Making Policy that Fits Both

About a month ago I came across an article from the NY Times entitled, “With No Shortcut to a Green Card, Gay Couples Leave the U.S.”  I found this article both troubling and relevant to considerations of family immigration, inspiring a deeper consideration into the subject.

In the article, the Times tells the story of Brandon Perlberg, a U.S. citizen and family law attorney, and Robert Storey, a British graphic designer. Although married in New York, since they are a same sex couple, they cannot protect each other from deportation. When Mr. Storey’s green card expired, they were left with no choice but to leave New York City for London. As a result, it took Mr. Perlberg, a U.S. citizen, over a year to find employment in a new country. Furthermore, he had to leave the field of work he loved in family law for finance.

While this couple used adversity to their benefit and seem happy now in their new home in London, most are not so lucky. As the debate rises over same sex marriage issues, we need to start forming policy with the future of same sex unions in mind so that as our world evolves and changes, our laws keep up instead of remaining stagnant. I believe Mr. Storey and Mr. Perlberg’s experience emphasizes not only why same sex marriage should be legal but also how imperative it is to implement new immigration policy as our own U.S. policies evolve and change.

The Times article made me think back to the Adams v. Howerton case where a same sex couple was not recognized for immigration purposes based on the finding that Congress did not intend same sex couples to be covered in U.S. immigration laws. The idea of allowing immigrants to stay in the United States if they marry a U.S. citizen does not include marriages within the LGBT community, but it should. As the Supreme Court deliberates on Prop 8, I think it would be naïve to not also plan for what implications these decisions have on immigration as a whole.

One of the main complaints of the immigrant community that I have observed is that the overall processes takes too long whether it be for the Dream Act or for a green card or for citizenship. If our country started to be proactive by having efficient policy in place anticipating how the courts may turn out, perhaps the process of implementation and enforcement would be expedited. By speeding up the process, more families would have answers instead of waiting in a constant state of limbo. Furthermore, families could move forward more quickly after a decision maker’s judgment and start taking the necessary steps for appeals.

Based on news stories, court decisions, and the overall emotional state of our country, our society is headed toward impending evolution. When this happens, immigration policies often get lost in the shuffle as they have with criminal laws and even asylum. By incorporating immigration law when Congress forms new policies a lot of struggle and pain due to lack of consideration can be avoided.  A perfect example of this is through same sex marriage.

I propose, that as our country’s attitude changes toward recognizing the validity of same sex marriage, we do not discount the effect on immigration law and policy and what this means for countless same-sex, binational couples that currently have no rights. As laws change there should be a parallel system that updates immigration policy in order to better serve our country.

If we started taking into consideration the modern family as a whole as we form our policy, we could change a lot of lives and bring families together instead of tearing them apart by forcing deportation. We no longer have only “traditional” families in our country but we have a melting pot of same-sex couples, step-parents, grandparents, and even aunts and uncles supporting children. If we made the process of immigration easier for these individuals, we would make better and stronger families within our country. Not only did the U.S. lose Mr. Perlberg and Mr. Storey to London individually, but our country also lost an entire family due to our outdated and discriminatory policies.


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