DHS Issues New Guidance for Same-Sex, Bi-National Couples
September 28, 2012 by Josh King, Senior Public Policy Advocate
Today the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued new guidance indicating that bi-national, same-sex partners will be explicitly included in in the definition of ‘family relationships’ that will be considered under prosecutorial discretion decisions by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). This decision is in response to a letter from Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY), Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA) and 81 additional Members of Congress who requested clarification on the issue from the department in July 2012.
Currently, same-sex, bi-national couples were to be considered for prosecutorial discretion, ensuring that they were “low priority” for removal, but that decision was not explicitly in writing to ICE field offices. HRC and other groups were concerned that the lack of guidance would result in some field offices failing to consistently follow the ICE’s stated policy. The response from DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano stated that “In an effort to make clear the definition of the phrase "family relationships," I have directed ICE to disseminate written guidance to the field that the interpretation of the phrase "family relationships" includes long-term, same-sex partners.”
This is an important step forward that provides greater clarity for couples in bi-national, same-sex relationships. We applaud the work of the many Members of Congress and of Immigration Equality who has continued to move this issue forward.