DHS Deportation Guides Leave Questions for Gay Binationals

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The U.S. Department of Homeland Security sent guidance to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) attorneys Thursday which clearly identified enforcement priorities among pending deportation cases. In short, it said who should be deported and who gets to stay.

The directive clarified the “Morton Memo” released last June which listed some factors ICE officers, agents and attorneys should consider when apprehending, detaining and deporting undocumented immigrants. Many immigrant advocate groups welcomed ICE’s new policy, which is intended to focus deportations on high-level criminal offenders.

But gay binational couples and their advocates are up in arms because the new guidelines do not specify gay unauthorized immigrants married or partnered to American citizens as deportation cases that should be “carefully considered for prosecutorial discretion on a case-by-case basis” by ICE .

Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), released the following statement Thursday:

I am very concerned by the Administration’s failure to state in its written Guidance to ICE attorneys, released today, that families of LGBT binational couples should be treated equally, like all other families in America. While I appreciate prior commitments by DHS that LGBT family ties will be taken into account in immigration enforcement decisions — and that this will be explained to ICE agents — without such a directive in writing, there is a serious risk that such families could be wrongfully divided.
With the Administration taking an otherwise positive step to make immigration enforcement fairer, it is extremely frustrating that families of LGBT binational couples remain at risk. I will be working to ensure that those families are also protected.

Steve Ralls, Immigration Equality’s Director of Communications told the Washington Blade that the omission of gay binational couples “isn’t just deeply disappointing; it is also detrimental to LGBT immigrants and their American spouses and partners.”

“By declining to address, in writing, the unique circumstances surrounding those couples, DHS has left too much room for interpretation and left too many couples vulnerable to separation,” Ralls said.

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