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October 5, 2012

Same-sex couples granted deportation protection

Washington, D.C.--Having a same-sex partner in the United States can now shield foreign LGBT people living here from deportation if they pose no security risk.

The Department of Homeland Security on September 26 issued a letter to a number of Democratic legislators clarifying the policy that President Barack Obama initiated in June 2011, saying that immigration officials can consider familial relationships and community contributions in possible deportation cases. Obama has also directed immigration officers to focus on those in the country illegally who pose a threat.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano specifically stated in the letter that “long-term same-sex partners” are included in “family relationships” in the directive.

The letter was in response to a request led by Reps. Nancy Pelosi and Jerrold Nadler.

The June 2011 memo stated that Immigrations and Customs Enforcement officers should consider cases as a low priority if there are family ties to a U.S. citizen. Homeland Security stated that it intended that to include LGBT families, but that was said verbally, not in a written directive.

“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,” Napolitano wrote.

“This is a huge step forward,” said Rachel B. Tiven, executive director of Immigration Equality. “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.”

“The administration’s written guidance will help families facing separation and the field officers who are reviewing their cases,” she continued. “The new guidelines will put in writing a commitment the administration has expressed over the past year. Now, the courts and Congress should act to make relief permanent, and provide access to green cards for all LGBT families.”

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