FILIPINOS CALL FOR LGBTIQ RIGHTS IN IMMIGRATION REFORM No Deportation for Shirley Tan, No Separation of Families


April 3, 2009

Reference: Luzviminda U. Carpenter

BAYAN-USA & GABRIELA-USA Queer Caucus Representative

(206) 859-7525


No Deportation for Shirley Tan, No Separation of Families

SAN FRANCISCO, CA, USA – On Friday, April 3, 2009, Shirley Tan was threatened with deportation and separation from family which included her life partner, Jaylynn “Jay” Mercado, her 12 year old twin sons, and Jay’s 76 year old mother, of whom she was the primary care giver. Tan was unable to be petitioned for U.S. citizenship by her life partner of 23 years, Mercado, because the U.S. 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 & the newly founded GABRIELA-USA as anti-imperialist alliances of Filipino migrants and Fil-Ams with over 14 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 U.S. 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 National Congress and Founding Assembly of GABRIELA-USA brought to light the unique struggles of Filipinos and Filipinas living within the U.S. 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 & 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 U.S. imperialism that profits from the underpaid, under-recognized work of migrant workers that serves as the foundation for the economies in the U.S. and the economies of migrant workers’ homelands. Fundamental to U.S. 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 U.S. 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 U.S. “homeland security” policies that work to justify a domestic form of U.S.-led, U.S. 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 U.S. and the Philippines in light of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) that allows U.S. 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 U.S.

As BAYAN-USA & 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 – U.S. 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 U.S. military aggression it is ever more urgent that we unite our diverse communities, raise the consciousness of everyday people, and strengthen our struggle against U.S. Imperialism!









6 thoughts on “FILIPINOS CALL FOR LGBTIQ RIGHTS IN IMMIGRATION REFORM No Deportation for Shirley Tan, No Separation of Families

  1. Hi,

    I’m Shirley Tan’s half sister. My dad and I believe that what was done to Ate Shirl is an obvious example of discrimination, especially to same-sex partners. After the decision of extending her stay in US for two weeks was declared yesterday, we were somehow relieved. But the fight does not stop there. We hope that in roughly two weeks her lawyer and supporters would give their full support and that her case will be examined and considered. This is also a plea to Filipinos in the US. Let Ate Shirl be with her family and live a normal life in US.

  2. I am Jay’s classmate and friend in the Philippines but we lost contact when she came here in the US. I myself became an illegal immigrant in 2001 but will be a US citizen soon through my American husband. It is very unfortunate that Jay can not do that for Shirley just because of their gender preferences. I am equally concerned about the kids if indeed the family will be forced to go back to the Philippines. Although we are a nation of close-knit families, I am not sure of the level of sophistication we have achieved in our views about this kind of family. I pray that they will be allowed to stay here , in the US, as a family.

  3. Hello Sheenah,

    Thanks for commenting on this story. I know that local BAYAN-USA and GABRIELA-USA organizations have been in contact with your sister and her family. We hope that we can support your family with the ongoing fight. Please know we stand with you in solidarity throughout this process.

    Valerie Francisco

  4. Hello Teresa,

    Thank you for your kind thoughts. I hope you are in touch with Jay and if not, we can pass along your support.

    The narrow definition of family by the US government combined with increasingly vague immigration policy has really put the Tan-Mercado family at risk. We only hope that legislators in California can find it in their hearts to consider this case and act on suspending Shirley’s deportation. We are in full support of Jay and Shirley’s family and hope that when time comes, our community will stand up to support them as well.

    Valerie Francisco

  5. My wife Melanie Nathan worked with Shirl and Jay and as an update to your article they were able to secure the introduction of a Private Bill through Senator Dianne Feinstein which effectively postpones the Deportation for the suration of this Congress 111 and can be reintroduced inot next congress. SHirley and all binational couples need URGENT passage of Uniting American Families Act. (UAFA)

    • Thank you for the update. And thanks to Melanie Nathan for her help on this case. We are definitely reviewing the UAFA and considering what are plans should be.

      Valerie Francisco

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