Pacifica mother of two Shirley Tan, whose deportation was halted last month after Senator Dianne Feinstein intervened, testified this morning before the Senate Judiciary Committee Chaired by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont). She will be introduced by Congresswoman Jackie Speier, who brought her plight to the attention of Senator Feinstein and is an original co-sponsor of the Uniting American Families Act, on which Ms. Tan testified.
Shirley Tan is the mother of twin sons, products of a 23 year same-sex relationship with partner Jay Lynn Mercado. She emigrated from the Philippines after a horrific attack in which a relative killed her mother and sister and seriously wounded Ms. Tan. Had she been in a heterosexual marriage, her spouse could have sponsored her for a green card, but that right is denied to same-sex couples. The UAFA seeks to redress that inequity.
Here is the text of Congresswoman Speier's remarks:
Chairman Leahy, Ranking Member Sessions - thank you for holding this hearing on the Uniting American Families Act which seeks to fix a fundamental injustice that rips children from the arms of their parents and sadly suggests that our Constitutional guarantee of "equal protection under the law" is often quite un-equal. I would like to commend Congressman Nadler and Chairman Leahy for introducing this legislation.
Thank you, also, for allowing me to introduce my constituent, Shirley Tan, from the scenic and hard-working community of Pacifica, California where - when God and sunshine conspire to lift the fog - you can see the beautiful Pacific Ocean that Shirley and so many of my constituents crossed from her native Philippines.
I only recently met Shirley and her family. That is because they are not political people - they are family, church and school people. Shirley and her partner of 23 years, Jay Mercado, are not activists trying to change the world by marching and shouting from the rooftops, they are parents - like most of us - who hope to change the world by quietly raising confident, studious and generous children.
Not long ago, I did a home visit with Shirley and her family. I spent ah hour and a half with them, flipping through family albums - over 23 years worth. I talked to their sons who feared losing their mom. They are an all-American family. Shirley and Jay both sing in their church choir and their twin boys get straight A's and are active at school, both playing on the junior high basketball team.
This family would be no different than the thousands of other families in my district with one or more foreign born parents were it not for the fact that, through no fault of their own, they are victims of an anomaly in US law that tears families apart based solely on the gender of the person that a citizen or legal resident happens to fall in love with.
I would like to thank my friend Senator Dianne Feinstein who introduced a private bill for Shirley - she has a two year reprieve - but that is not good enough. Not in America, where everyone is offered protection under the law.
Shirley Tan and her family are exemplary members of our community who, after being thrust these past few months into the public spotlight, have handled themselves with grace and dignity.
Thank you for allowing Ms. Tan to tell her compelling story.