April 30, 2009 Reference:

Northwest Region: Luzviminda “Lulu” Carpenter –
Northeast Region: Yancy Mark Gandionco –
SF Bay Area Region: Tina Shauf –
Southern California Region: Bev Tang –

BAYAN USA & GABRIELA USA QUEER CAUCUS Condemns Discriminatory Laws Against Bi-National Same-Sex Couples and Their Families. Filipino Americans Demand Equal Marriage and Immigration Rights.

BAYAN-USA & GABRIELA-USA Queer Caucus calls on all Filipinos and allies to commemorate May Day (May 1st), by continuing to fight for genuine immigration reform in the United States, including the rights of immigrant same-sex couples, and systemic change to the exploitative labor export structures in the Philippines. There are thousands of bi-national couples being forced to separate due to our administration’s failure to recognize their unions of marriage.

There is a history of LGBTIQ people being actively excluded from immigration bills up to today. One example is the Immigration Reform Act of 1965, which amended the Immigration and Nationality Act to exclude “homosexuals” or “aliens afflicted with sexual deviation.” This language was technically removed in 1990 and today we are still fighting for the Permanent Partners Immigration Act (PPIA) which was introduced in 2000 and has been reformed and renamed.

There are over 4 million Filipinos living in the United States, comprising the third largest immigrant population in the country. At least 60,000 Filipinos enter the US every year, mainly through family sponsorship. Of this, at least one million Filipinos in the US are undocumented. It is important to acknowledge why over 3,000 Filipinos are forced to migrate everyday. For the vast majority of the 10 million Filipinos living outside of the Philippines, migration is not a choice, but a means of survival. The Philippine economy is crippled by a neoliberal system that has been shaped over the past 60 years between global monopoly capitalism and the Philippine ruling elite. Multinational corporations are allowed to buy a vast amount of natural resources at cheap prices, while imported processed products are expensive to buy, creating a chronic economic deficit that impoverishes and forces Filipinos to migrate for economic survival. The Philippine ruling elite, currently represented by the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo administration, profits from this misery by pimping Filipino labor export in the Philippines through the country’s oppressive and exploitative Labor Export Program (LEP).

In the wake of new leadership in the United States, President Obama promises to make large strides in pushing for genuine immigration reform to legalize hardworking people who contribute to the economy but are marginalized in the current system. At the same time, he has promised to support same-sex couples in their fight for marriage equality with all the benefits and rights that are denied them by this union.

Under discriminatory laws that do not grant same-sex couples the same rights as heterosexual couples, Shirley Tan, mother of 12-year old twin boys, was unable to be petitioned by her partner of 20-years. She was recently at risk of being deported back to the Philippines, possibly tearing a mother away from her children and her life-long partner. Fortunately, Shirley was granted a reprieve until January 2011, which extends her legal time with her family in the US. This case and other bi-national same sex couples highlight the untold stories of immigrant LGBTIQ people that are often overlooked by both the LGBTIQ and immigration reform movements. Tan’s two-year reprieve is only a temporary solution to the larger issue: there are no avenues for bi-national same-sex couples to sponsor their partners for legal residency, and many face unjust policies that break up families! Every year, thousands of same-sex couples are separated or live in constant fear of being stopped by officials who demand to see documentation and threaten detention.

One of the fundamental principles of U.S. immigration law and policy is the notion of family re-unification, which allows citizens and legal permanent residents to sponsor their spouses (and other family members) for immigration purposes. Unfortunately, under current federal law, same-sex couples committed to spending their lives together are not recognized as “families.” On May 1, 2009, people within the United States from various backgrounds will be marching together in solidarity to hold the new US administration accountable for these promises and to highlight the personal untold stories of our communities.

Washington’s state legislature passed a bill on April 15, 2009 that would grant all state-level spousal rights to gay couples. This bill, however, does not grant gay couples equal federal immigration rights that heterosexual couples have, allowing people to petition their partners for US legal residency. New York’s Governor David Patterson introduced a bill that would legalize gay marriage. With the leadership of these states, the road to equal immigration rights by way of equal marriage for same-sex couples and their families is being paved. However, with the passing of legislations that counteract this progress, such as Proposition 8 in California during the November 2008 elections, we are regressing. In March 2009, a California Supreme Court case against Proposition 8 challenges this legislation as a violation of civil rights.

There is a need for everyone fighting for marriage equality to also include immigration benefits and build alliances with those fighting for immigration rights. We stand in unity with those that are connecting the issues that affect all people, but in particular Filipino immigrants that identify as LGBTIQ. By connecting these issues and building alliances we make our movements stronger and continue the fight for Immigration and Marriage Equality. As the BAYAN-USA & GABRIELA-USA Queer Caucus, we call on all people to stand in solidarity with us on May Day 2009 to demand human rights as workers, as LGBTIQ people, as immigrants, and as allies for justice.