tv [untitled] February 1, 2012 3:18am-3:48am PST
if you stress family, -- our l1 was granted three times and then the ninth three years later. are there any rays of hope? following my experience in london, i returned to the u.s., arriving at sfo. the immigration agents looked at my file and ask why i did not get a green card. i told him i plan last year but it was denied. but they gave you an e2 investor visa, he said. i know, i said. he said, welcome back.
[applause] >> thank you for the opportunity to appear before you this evening. i am a 44-year-old mother and help weiss -- housewife from pacifica, california. i am grateful to share my story with you on an issue that is so critically important to my family and others in the same situation. i am honored to be here today with my partner of 23 years jay mercado. i met him as a graduation present when my father brought me to the u.s.. when we met, our love was instant. since then, we have been committed to each other and our family.
our relationship continued even after i returned to the philippines, following the expiration of my six-month the set. our relationship was expansive given the long distance. when i return to the philippines, i learned my cousin, who murdered my mother and sister, and almost killed me as well, was released from prison after serving only 10- year sentence. i feared for my safety and i knew i was in danger and understood in order to meet, but -- to live, i have to leave the philippines to jay, where i would feel safe. i hired an attorney to apply for legal asylum. my application was denied, so my attorney filed an appeal to the
ninth circuit court, and jay and i requested and a regular basis on theúagr status of the appeal. again and again we were told that it would take a long time before the court gets to my case. i did not know it, but my appeal had also been denied. my attorney never told me. all the while, we thought i was legal in we were waiting for the decision of the court. jay and i went about building our lives together. i gave birth to my two kids. they are the biggest joy in our lives, and i became a full-time mother. our family has always been like every american family, and i am so proud of jay and the twins.
the boys attended catholic schools through sixth grade. they excelled in glasses inclasses and have been at the top of their class. i've volunteered at the school when they need someone to pitch in. i am always the first one to call. jay was a member of the school board at the catholic school. i am a eucharist the minister at the good shepherd church where jay and i sing in the choir. our family is fortunate because we have never fell discriminated against in our community. our friends, mostly heterosexual couples cost a model family. they even call us and their role models.
we try to mirror the best family values in spite of the fact that our children are so well adjusted to the love that we parents have been able to provide their classmates to know that they have two moms and it has never been an issue. i can say without any doubt, our lives were almost perfect until the morning of january 8, 2009. that morning at 6:30 a.m. ice agents showed up at my door. they were looking for a mexican girl. jay did not think twice about letting them in time. when i asked to search, it turned out they were looking for me. the agent showed me a piece of paper which was a 2002
deportation letter, which i informed i had never seen. before i knew it, i was handcuffed and taken away like a criminal. i was put into a van two other men and searched like a criminal. in an instant, by american family was being ripped away from me. when i did return home, i had an ankle in monitoring bracelet. i went to great lengths to hide it from my children. i have a partner who is a u.s. citizen and two beautiful children who are also citizens, but none of them can petition for me to remain in the country with them. because my partner is not a man, she cannot do anything to help
me, nor can my children, who keep asking, why does this happen to us, and what will ultimately happen to our family? passage of the uniting american families act or inclusion of ufa and lgbt families in immigration reform will not only benefit me about the thousands of people who are also in the same situation as i am. amending immigration policy of this country to include permanent partners will serve, in the long run, to keep families like ours together. it is a great privilege to be here with you today. i humbly ask for your support, and thank you. [applause]
>> good evening, everybody. i have to do it. now i cannot see you. i want to thank the commission, organizers, and tell the panelists how great we are for your insight and advocacy. my name is melanie nathan. i am a personal advocate and conflict resolution specialist. i serve as vice president on the board of fair housing in marine and was recently reappointed to the marin human rights council.
i practiced law in south africa before moving to the u.s. in march of this year i was faced with a choice. i could stay in the united states with might call-year-old daughter in a shared custody arrangement or i would have to leave her behind to go into exile with my same-sex spouse and our four-year old. our nightmare involves navigating the complex immigration system to keep our family together. had we not been of the same sex, we would have not had any problems. after receiving help from senator feinstein, i led the drive to introduced private bill 867. when my advocacy became public, scores of bi-national couples began contacting me for help. not a day goes1/ request. i testified before the california state assembly, judiciary committee, and
provided written testimony to senator leahy for the uniting of american families act. the irc, in making their recommendations to the mayor and board of a supervisors, to improve and enhance the quality of life into the participation of all the grim immigrants in the city and county of san francisco must include the plight of same-sex couples and by-national relationships. at the four of any immigration reform discussion, particularly for this city, the current immigration law fails so many immigrants and families. yes, same-sex relationships stand on prejudicial ground when compared to their heterosexual counterparts. without specific language such as that in the united families act which seeks to have
permanent partners, same-sex by dutch national couples will remain victims to the law that compels discrimination against lgbt couples, including the right to sponsor a spouse, and with no right to a k1 same-sex visa. we are advised that took schumer will introduce same-sex reform in january 2010. we are also told that passage by the spring is imperative. congressman good cheer rest will introduce comprehensive immigration reform for the house apparently in the next few weeks of around thanksgiving. while senator schumer is likely to include this language in any legislation, it is not a slam dunk. as the professor told us, there will be different versions of different bills.
now, gutierrez's office has been quiet on their version. it is critical that lgbt couples are included in the house and senate versions of comprehensive immigration reform. is a quality-based legislation is critical for the tens of thousands of gay or lesbian couples living in exile, illegally, in fear, in detention, or perhaps separated from loved ones. california makes up a large percentage of bi-national couples, and with special notes -- social networking, it has probably tripled. the largest percentage is from the bay area. i would be remiss -- i believe it would be remiss of san
francisco for this iconic city to fail in its local by not placing this as a critical element regarding any advocacy modifying legislation. the city of santos, has its work cut out for it. it must stand for all its residents. well certainly is committed to strong support immigration reform, it is apparent there will impose the inclusion of -- rather than excluding no one. from the lgbt perspective, this is going to be tough, and i submit to the city that they consider the following list of ideas which i have cryptically penned for this testimony. i have noticed that time has gone over, and i know how that feels, so i would just read one
or two of them and make my testimony available in writing. the one that i would like to read which may add to what the professor had to say is, i think the city and county needs to form an urgent advisory committee and instruct a point person to work with our congressional representatives and senators to include promotion. that's send citizens to washington d.c. -- washington, d.c. they really do want to hear from us. i have another list of ideas that i would like to present to you. i will not take your time now. so my respectful and more urgent request, if you could get to make and use them to get a phone call as soon as possible to rep gutierrez's office and senator
schumer's office to tell them how important it is to have comprehensive reform here and that it must include our gay and bi-national couples. we need to ensure he receives the message from san francisco this week or it might be too late, that lgbt families matter equally and there is no comprehensive immigration reform until we are all included. thank you. [applause] >> thank you. it takes a lot of courage to share your experiences and put a
human face on the immigration issue, so you are an inspiration to us. to our panelists, we are going to shorten the questions because i want to be sensitive to you want to speak. the commission has asked that we set aside public speaking time. to our panelists, after hearing the testimony from the individuals that are here tonight, which put to the human face on cir, what strikes you the most about what you have heard, and under cir, how can negative practices, including criminal conviction, be dealt with differently? i will start with mary. >> thank you. i thought all this testimony from the community speakers was incredibly moving and shows a wide range of issues that really has to be addressed.
i guess i slipped into my pragmatic mode at some point and try to figure out what the calculation is, basically in terms of what the market will bear. it is clear, political pressure from around the country is often what helps to determine that, but we can also tell by watching how things develop, that there are forces impinging on what will actually get accomplished. i think the critical thing is to remember there are two ways that we can influence what the government does. there is the legislative, cir approach, and there is the administrative reform. some of which does not require
legislation. some of the stories we were hearing, particularly from the business perspective, is about changing the way people do business, in terms of the government, changing the way we think about the relationships that exist. a lot of that can be done by pressuring the government to be more open, more transparent, treat people with decency and respect. that goes a long way. it is like the doctor who does not get to for malpractice, does something wrong, but takes the time to explain things. on the broader cir perspective, one thing that we have to be aware of is, right now there is nothing on paper. we anticipate congressmen gutierrez will introduce a bill
in the beginning of december. i know they have been working hard to figure out the component parts, but adds cindy said, congresswoman lofgren's staff is ready to put the pieces together. i cannot tell you what his bill will look like, what senator schumer's bill will look like. what i can say it is all those pieces work together to ultimately come up with something that is hopefully, at least, something that we can create a foundation from. comprehensive immigration reform has to be broad enough to make -- give us the foundation to build more, but i do not think it will be done at that point. there will be a lot of issues that will not happen in the first go round that will need to
be perfected, but me to do enough to turn immigration into something that is not so politicized and is more about really getting down to the problems. i wanted to address briefly some by pointing out, you cannot always tell what will happen based on one set of votes. in the dhhs appropriations bill for 2010, in the senate, and there were a lot of horrible amendments to make e-verify mandatory, inshore every inch of the fence was real, we get ensure every inch of the fence was real, not virtual. -- ensure every inch of the fence was real, not virtual.
a lot of people said, my goodness, the senate is horrible, we are not going to get anything. we kept trying to calm people down, saying, wait for conference. that is a big step. you cannot just look at a bill and say that is it. there are all kinds of steps going on. if what you care about is not in the basic bill, it does not mean that it is over. that means you work to find the champion to will advance your cause. at this point, rather than focus on the specifics that need to be in the bill, the important thing is focusing on the fact that congress needs to do it, and the rest will naturally follow if we
have the political pressure to get the different parts that people care about in. >> bill, you gave us a reality check earlier about what we can expect in a cir bill. what needs to happen, what is likely to happen before a bill is authored? what compromises to you think will be made? >> mary and i are friends, but let me respond to her because i think she was responding to me. [laughter] , to believe, mary, that things will be resolved in conference -- i want to believe, mary that things will be resolved in conference. maybe because i am older than mary, i remember what happened with the 1990 and 1996 legislation where bad stuff remained in the bill.
but i will defer to marry in terms of -- yes, if there is bad language, you try to influence the conference. let me go to a different point. first of all, the dream act and uafa, we have to fight hard for that. one thing that we'v need to do s pressure the administration. they have the responsibility, too, and it is being quarterbacked by people in homeland security. we should be talking to them about this. in terms of family immigration, it is funny. i alluded earlier to 2007 and the awful point system that was proposed. the funny thing is, if you went back one more year to 2006, the
mccain-kennedy bill, there were great provisions in terms of family immigration, clearing the backlogs and extra numbers. so it is a shame that senator kennedy has passed away and it is a shame that so has senator mccain. [laughter] neither of those individuals are still there. but we should resurrect the proposals they had in terms of family immigration. it has created huge problems. the backlog of family immigration has contributed to undocumented immigration, family separation. it is counter to the family values that the nation counts. to me, it is a no-brainer clear
the backlog. -- the nation touts. >> cindy, in advising the immigration rights committee, for advising them on cir, who needs to be heard, which forces need to be lifted up? >> i could take professor hing's sarcastic way of looking at it -- just kidding. [laughter] i hope my other congressional colleagues do not kill me about sang this but i think it is important to keep your congressional office into an with what is important to you. i could not agree more with the two speakers. i think you have to be an optimist to be working on this issue, on this job, but i am with prof. hang in that we are
scared with the flip side is. right now we are in the good state. right now nothing is written on paper. i do not know what is going to be on the gutierrez bill but it will not be the only one out there. right now we are talking about all the things that we agree on. we are going to try to focus on those things to see if we can move at first. the point that professor hing made previously about having to admit to a conviction, that is not something that we have signed off on, not something that we have signed off on with immigration committee. you have to have a bit of wisdom. i have not been around as long as anyone else, but we have seen some pretty horrible things happen when we thought we ever going to do pretty well. i think both of these perspectives should be weighed equally.
what we can do at this point is be grateful for our congressional representatives in the bay area but really understand that the bay area is different from the rest of the country, especially on this issue. it is important to wait in -- way-and -- weigh-in. i think also of san francisco has a good way to show that if you have an immigrant rights commission and you are in accenture city, civilization does not end. you actually forage and you get stronger economies. i think that is invaluable. when we were all briefly speaking about how can we make san francisco happen in the middle of the central valley -- that is the million-dollar question. i do not have that answer.
i just know the optimist in me what is working toward that. taking into account the things that we have seen in the past have been unpleasant, when it comes down to paper, but again, we need to look at speak your community. everyone who calls get an appointment. everyone who writes to get a response. we do that in order to know the pulse of our community is, as well as the country. >> so, nellie, as an activist and organizer, what would be your recommendations on how one can really leverage reform? >> i think you should go to community centers, all the city leaders. how many nationalities to we have here? i see diversity with all of you
commissioners, but maybe once of view -- one of the once a week should be going to the schools, churches, community is, talking to real people and getting involved. getting the fear out of immigrants about approaching the government. everyone believes if they go onto the street, claiming they want amnesty, it is going to backfire. they all are already feeling in all the demonstrations and marches that we did four years ago, they have backfired. we need to prove to them that this is not true. but we need your support and government support. mainstream america has the