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Filipinos call for LGBTIQ rights in immigration reform: No deportation for Shirley Tan, no separation of families

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Contact: Luzviminda U. Carpenter
Representative, BAYAN-USA and GABRIELA-USA Queer Caucus

SAN FRANCISCO, CA -– On Friday, April 3, 2009, Shirley Tan was threatened with deportation and separation from family which included her life partner, Jaylynn “Jay” Mercado, her twelve year old twin sons, and Jay’s 76 year old mother, of whom she was the primary caregiver.  Tan was unable to be petitioned for US citizenship by her life partner of 23 years, Mercado, because the US federal law does not recognize their union as a family based on their identification as women and their partnership as lesbians. Congresswoman Jackie Speier (CA-D) was able to postpone her deportation until April 22, 2009.  BAYAN-USA and the newly founded GABRIELA-USA as anti-imperialist alliances of Filipino migrants and Fil-Ams with over fourteen organizations representing youth, students, artists, workers, professionals, women, and more, stand against this unjust act on the grounds that their union should be recognized as a marriage and family unit with all the rights that citizenship holds and that if deported the Tan-Mercado family will be yet another casualty to the broken bureaucracy toted as the US immigration system.  We recognize that this is not a unique story, but represents a staggering 37,000 others who face such heart-wrenching and unjust circumstances.

The revitalization of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered, Intersex, and Queer (LGBTIQ) Caucus during the 3rd BAYAN-USA Congress and Founding Assembly of GABRIELA-USA brought to light the unique struggles of Filipinos and Filipinas living within the US and abroad that identify as LGBTIQ.  Both organizations have taken a stand to understand these struggles to become stronger for all Filipinos fighting and defending their rights here and in their homeland.  On the heels of the highly controversial passage of California’s Proposition 8, the situation of the Tan-Mercado family humanizes an issue whose core is often lost in political trickery around “family values” and religious rhetoric around “unholy unions.”  At the same time, communities of color like the Tan-Mercado family suffered from the LGBTIQ movement that did not tell stories of immigration and families being separated across borders and seas and often blamed communities of color for Prop 8 not being passed.  The civil rights of all families are being lost in the shuffle of power and blame.   With Tan’s potential deportation, there is the threat of violence from which she escaped in the past.

As alliances that advocate and fight for the rights and welfare of Filipinos in the United States and is an active supporter of all marginalized and oppressed peoples the world-over, BAYAN-USA and GABRIELA-USA strongly condemn Tan’s deportation order that would rip her apart from her family that she has built for over 23 years within the United States.  After the 9/11 tragedy, legislation considering a pathway to legalization for migrants was taken off the table and the issue of immigration was subsumed under the Department of Homeland Security, inextricably linking migrants to an issue of national security.  We see this as a contradictory move by a nation that historically has forced the migration of many Filipinos from their homeland through unequal economic trade relations and military policies. It is US imperialism that profits from the underpaid, under-recognized work of migrant workers that serves as the foundation for the economies in the US and the economies of migrant workers’ homelands.  Fundamental to US imperialism is heterosexism that works to systematically profit from the unpaid work of women to care for their household and ultimately raise the world’s workforce. We understand LGBTIQ families as a challenge to the heterosexism upon which US imperialism thrives. We recognize the fight in support of the Tan-Mercado family as an anti-imperialist fight for LGBTIQ and migrant workers’ rights.

The Tan-Mercado family’s threat of deportation exposes the viciousness of US “homeland security” policies that work to justify a domestic form of US-led, US taxpayer-funded military attacks on the people of Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, the Philippines and all around the world. It further reveals the unequal relations between the US and the Philippines in light of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) that allows US military personnel to enter the Philippines without a visa and commit crimes with impunity. Meanwhile, hardworking Filipinas like Shirley Tan, who has committed no crime and is a productive member of society, is being deported from the US.

As BAYAN-USA and GABRIELA-USA LGBTIQ Caucus, we call on all allies to LGBTIQ people and migrants to support a stop to the deportation of Shirley Tan and join the international struggle against the root cause — US imperialism!  Please join our forces as we develop contingents on May 1, 2009 for the historic May Day actions across the US calling for migrant workers rights! In these times of the deepening global economic crisis and parallel intensification of US military aggression it is ever more urgent that we unite our diverse communities, raise the consciousness of everyday people, and strengthen our struggle against US imperialism!