For Immediate Release

September 25, 2012

Contact: Valerie Francisco, Chairperson, gabrielawomen@gmail.com

Customs Declaration Form Becomes A Source Of Discrimination

For Filipina-American Lesbian and Her Partner

San Jose, CA – On September 1, 2012 a Filipina-American lesbian was re-entering the United States through the San Jose Airport with her long-time partner of ten years after a vacation out of the country. As part of routine procedure, Annie Sayo and her partner Jatill Antione were required to fill out a customs declaration form. With the minimal instructions available, the couple filled out a single form since the instructions stated that only one form is needed per family. In the absence of a formal definition of what constitutes a “family” on the customs declaration form, the couple believed that they fit the definition of a family since the two have been registered domestic partners for over ten years. Upon their entrance interview with the U.S. Customs agent, it appears they were wrong.

“The Customs agent told us that under Federal law, we aren’t defined as a family even if California recognizes us as domestic partners,” says Annie Sayo. “It felt really unfair, and what made it hurt more was the condescending and rude tone of the agent,” she added.

“This issue is way more than a customs declaration form,” states Valerie Francisco, Chairperson of GABRIELA-USA. “Same-sex couples face insurmountable challenges in having to constantly exert their basic human rights, and to be recognized as equals in our communities and in this country.”

Amidst the current whirlwind of campaigning by presidential hopefuls, not one has stepped up to truly champion the rights and welfare of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer community. “LGBTQ individuals and couples continue to be discriminated against or disregarded in public policy, laws, and overall representation. It’s really up to us to advocate on behalf of our LGBTQ sisters and brothers. Even the most ‘progressive’ of politicians are still not doing enough,” concludes Francisco.

Recently, organizations like the Immigration Equality and Family Equity Council have been spearheading positive efforts to have the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol to make amendments to the current customs declaration form to include a wider definition of “family,” which would include same-sex couples, step-children, half-siblings, and foster children. “This a step towards the right direction,” says Pia Cortez, Vice Chair of Babae San Francisco, “but we have a long way to go towards achieving equality.”

GABRIELA-USA and its member organizations are hopeful that the amendments to the customs declaration form will pass, and call for the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol to provide a sensitivity training to all its employees upon the release of the new form.

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