When all was lost and there was no “next step” for Shirley Tan, about to be deported within mere weeks, Molly McKay of Marriage Equality called my office to see if I could be of assistance. Unfortunately Shirley’s was a losing case and she was told that there was nothing anyone could do to help her stay in the US with her partner of 23 years and their twin sons. A native of Philippines, Shirley had been unable to receive any help as there were no groups or organizations that could take this to the next level. Most people do not know how to advocate for themselves at the higest of levels and it is probably a service that is unavailable to most.
Having gone through the pain of being a binational myself, I offered to help and had no idea where this would lead, but was willing to stop everything to keep this family together. The saving of Shirley from deportation took a life of its own. I had the idea that we should ask Senator Feinstein for a Private Bill and against all odds and contrary to the recommendation of those who had more experience , we asked Senator Feinstein for a Private Bill.
During this time, and through my advocacy and coordination, Marriage Equality, Love Exiles , Julie Kruse of Immigration Equality , OUT 4 Immigration, GLAAD, People Magazine, all jumped on Board and helped with advocacy and strategy meetings. Great commendation must go to Congresswoman Jackie Speier for her help and to Senator Feinstein’s office and her extraordinary group of Staffers.
SO who would have thought the utterance of my words on the very first day I spoke to the Family when I said “ This case is going to blow the roof off UAFA. If I take it on, and it will be at no charge, will you be willing to stand up for UAFA.”Jay said, “Melanie, if we can keep Shirl here we will do anything,” would lead to this:-
Shirley and Jay have came through on their word a good many times. In June of this year, Shirley testified at the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing; the family have been key note speakers at numerous important conferences in both the LGBT community and Asian American communities, culminating in this week in their meeting with White House Staffers, Senator Feinstein and other members of Congress.
This adventure to D.C., now their second was sponsored by Immigration Equality. Who would have imagined where that one call by Molly could lead. It just goes to show what going that extra mile can do. This should be a lesson to all – there is always hope as long as one takes it to the ‘n-th degree.’
So well done Tan Mercado family you have been true to your word and your community.