Binationals UAFA Died on June 4, 2009 – and now DOMA is Killing us!

I received a note via Face Book today containing this picture of a Binational separated from her spouse.  My anger was triggered and I ran to blame!  I blame Immigration Equality for the death of UAFA (Uniting American Families Act)!

Now we must focus on the repeal of DOMA-  its too late for UAFA!

Without this reminder for our organizations to join forces to forgo secrecy for transparency, this debacle may not have happened, and our friend would not be standing holding that painful sign!

WHEN Immigration Equality decided that Comprehensive Immigration reform was the best way to get UAFA passed, it was during a Democratic majority in the House and Senate and Obama Presidency. I knew at the time it was a big mistake and I was angry at the low -blow leadership that lacked transparency and failed to seek counsel amongst other important advocacy groups and leadership. I was angry at the other groups that did not intervene and handed Immigration equality ownership of the issue.

Immigration Equality took ownership and messed up.  Rachel Tiven must step down.

This is what I wrote and published on LGR  back in July in 2009:- (and many more follow up pieces.)

(After you have read this historically and in the context of the resulting mess, I intend to publish my new piece which will be even more revealing  and a devastating indictment about the operation and business of Immigration Equality and how they have failed individuals and couples on a more direct story level.)

Home » Commentary » D.C. Intelligence vs. Grassroots Desperation = UAFA and Fate of Bi-Nationals

D.C. Intelligence vs. Grassroots Desperation = UAFA and Fate of Bi-Nationals

Written by: Melanie Nathan on July 18, 2009.

According to an exclusive interview  by Matthew S. Bajko (Published 07/16/2009 in the Bay Area Reporter):

“Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-San Mateo), said she is confident that lawmakers in D.C. will pass a federal bill banning workplace discrimination against LGBT people this year.  But Speier also raised doubts about Congress’ ability to approve other legislation of importance to the LGBT community during the nearly 90-minute sit-down at her district office in downtown San Mateo Saturday, July 11. In regard to a bill that would allow LGBT Americans to remain in the country with their foreign-born partners, Speier said the issue had not gained enough traction in Congress to become a priority…. ”

As my readers know I have expressed a great deal of concern with how the  Uniting American Families Act has been handled by our self-appointed-by-ommission-leadership. It  is sad, yet validating  to note the comments of Congresswoman Speier  on UAFA’s unlikely passage.    Albeit it disturbing news, I believe it can and ought to serve as a titanic wake up call to bi-nationals, supporters and the LGBT community as a whole.  It is time to fight for UAFA and it must be NOW.  The Article can be read in full at….  http://www.ebar.com/news/article.php?sec=news&article=4072

Congresswoman  Speier mentions that UAFA is low on the list of important and hence unlikely to see passage.   I too have heard that many members of Congress have not even heard about UAFA, the bill that will allow American Partners in same-sex relationships to Petition under the immigration law for their Permanent Partners to remain in our Country.  While Shirley Tan and Jay Mercado’s case created astonishing awareness, I agree with Representative Speier’s comment – “ In regard to a bill that would allow LGBT Americans to remain in the country with their foreign-born partners, Speier said the issue had not gained enough traction in Congress to become a priority.”

To me this is indicative of the very problem that I and many others have been concerned about and I am willing to go out on a limb to assert UAFA  has not gained traction for, inter alia,  the following reasons, and some points are cryptic:

1. Lack of involvement and utilization of grassroots groups;

2. Failure to use the stories of bi-nationals as a poignant tool, beyond mere display on websites;

3. Lack of effective leadership by Immigration Equality organizations– good leaders gather the best brains in the Country and do not make decisions without consultation, alliances, strategies and delegation.  When alliances are made, we should never lose sight of the prize by being swayed into battles that deplete our minimal resources.  Losing sight of the prize is when we minimize the fight for equality by shifting to a fight for immigration reform for those who already have the right to petition for spouses.  UAFA is an issue of Equality and not an immigration issue.  We have been manipulated to look at the issue from the perspective of the immigrant.   UAFA should be seen and advocated through the eyes of the suffering of the American partner citizen who has been denied the same rights as other Americans in permanent committed relationships having the option to marry.    Immigration is a privilege for the immigrant and inherent in the Immigration & Naturalization Act is a right for an American citizen spouse/ fiancé. Lesbian and Gay Americans are denied these rights. That is the fight and we should not be led down other paths.

I believe as do many that the Shirley Tan and Jay Mercado story hit the mark.   Their Story provided a mix of every element critical to immigration awareness and especially the LGBT and bi-national plight.   The fact that had there been equality of process by recognition by US law of same-sex permanent partnership,    the family would never have gone through the hell they did.  This exacerbation of hardship is clearly evident from Shirley’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on June 3rd this year.  I urge every reader who has yet to see the testimony to do so on you tube and to add to the already 29,000 plus who have viewed it. 

The very day after their testimony, Immigration Equality  in D.C. effectively shifted the focus to RFA, the new legislation being introduced by Rep. Mike Honda.  Although this Bill was momentous and Shirley spoke at the initiating press-conference, I had not been fully apprised of the nature of the conference.  Regardless, as Shirley’s personal advocate I did believe her appearance was important, but I would not have agreed to it had I known what I now know and that is that the focus would shift from UAFA as an absolute, and that Immigration Equality would re-assign its resources, contrary to the expectation and consultation with a fully respresented  bi-national community itself.

This was a big mistake in my opinion.  Of course LGBT language should be included in immigration reform as a matter of course as it is the right thing to do.    However, our fight is still the equality fight and we are selling our community and those who have funded and advocated the work, short if we fail to focus on UAFA.

Shirley and Jay agreed to represent the issue of UAFA and that is why we went to testify; and they remain committed and focused to continue to do so.  They know and understand the value of comprehensive immigration reform and the inclusion of LGBT language therein, but will not take their eye off the ball when it comes to the inequity of immigration laws against same-sex couples. I believe a great opportunity and momentum may be lost if we do not take Shirley and Jay’s advocacy to the next level in relation to UAFA – and that should be to speak to and motivate other couples to deliver and share their stories with their own congressional representatives.    I am convinced this type of direct advocacy would  impact Congress to move quickly.  They have no idea about the extent of the suffering – someone has to deliver the message.

I had a great conversation this week with a prominent D.C. insider who has much more experience in D.C. than me.  He explained his view and the reigning sentiment amongst LGBT organizations such as Immigration Equality, on the importance of  the LGBT alliance with the larger immigration community via the Mike Honda Bill, Reuniting Families Act, (HR 2709)  that seeks to incorporate UAFA.   He also conveyed, similar to Rep. Speier, that D.C. intelligence is clear that UAFA stands less chance than Comprehensive Immigration reform of passage; and that for this reason some organizations may be seen taking a new path which clearly veers from the absolute focus on UAFA. I was really appreciative of our discourse yet remain unconvinced, especially when my source admitted that we could land up being dumped,  the sacrificial lamb at the end of the road.

However at no time to date  has the beast been unleashed, truly unleashed; and believe me there is one waiting…. If all the bi-nationals band together on a grassroots level and strategize and if more Shirley and Jays and Carla and Britta’s have the courage to show up on doorstep of congress with their reporters, cameras and bloggers in tow, and if people like me are willing to advocate for Private Bills  and in arenas that most say are impenetrable, I really believe that UAFA can move in a direction that would provide a format of a Bill that will pass.

Congress can and will have a new attitude toward UAFA – but it is not going to happen until we empower our community to make appointments with their representatives in every district, to show up with their own stories asking for help and if they do not need help, then to show up with the stories of other constituents.  Congress will buzz if the dialogue between Rep and Constituent is prevalent and persistent.   Until this constituent push happens the D.C. insider intelligence is meaningless.  If congress has not taken the issue on after we do this, then I will succumb to the current D.C. Intelligence.

Shirley Tan’s testimony at the Senate Judiciary Committee has had almost 30,000 hits on YouTube – compared to about a couple hundred by Session’s witnesses.   I believe that speaks volumes for the clout of empowerment.

If anyone who reads this article is interested in joining the battle, providing funding, or simply chatting, please contact me directly for direction at nathan@privatecourts.com.

Blogged by MELANIE NATHAN, CEO of Private Courts, Inc. Consulting, mediation & private advocacy ; motivated by injustice,

….NOTE
It is now October 24, 2011

Now we must focus on the repeal of DOMA-  its too late for UAFA! Immigration Equality is suddenly – almost 3 years too late – asking supporters to push for UAFA!  They missed the boat?    No – actually they jumped ship and are now swimming behind the cruise line…wait wait we still want to be relevant!”

That is why Immigration Equality is suddenly screaming all “UAFA”  and less “Comprehensive Immigration reform. (CIR)” If they did not push now for UAFA , their organization will have little relevance to bi-national couples and their plea for advocacy dollars would have little to no basis.

melanie nathan


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