Deportation tears apart local couple

April 2, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
A lesbian couple is fighting deportation orders that would force one of them to leave the United States. Currently, federal immigration law does not protect same-sex couples.

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Shirley Tan was supposed to hand herself over to immigration authorities on Friday, but Congresswoman Jackie Speier asked for an extension.

Immigration officials granted her request giving Tan a few more weeks. During this time, Tan's attorney will ask that her case be re-opened.

Shirley Tan and Jay Mercado have been together for 23 years. The couple from Pacifica have twin 12-year-old boys. They were married at San Francisco City Hall in 2004 and are registered as domestic partners.

Still, none of those things will protect Tan from being deported to the Philippines.

"The kids have been crying. It's sad because they know mommy is leaving," said Mercado.

During her last visit to the U.S. in 1989, Tan claims she stayed for fear her cousin would kill her if he were released from jail.

"My cousin, who murdered my mother, my sister, and almost killed me -- and there were two other people involved too, the two maids," said Tan.

Tan's family had been involved in a battle over her grandfather's estate. She applied for asylum, but her request was denied and in May of 2002 immigration officials ruled she had to leave.

Tan says she was never notified.

"We only saw that letter the day the officers came and picked her up," said Tan.

That was January 28. Now the couple wants the case re-opened, but an immigration official told ABC7, "they had their day in court."

"She would have to establish new circumstances, new facts that were not available at the time of the final hearing in 1995," said immigration attorney Paula Solorio.

Solorio says any U.S. citizen can petition for a green card for their spouse, but that excludes same-sex couples.

"We already fought our families for our relationship common. Now it's no longer the family, it's something else," said Mercado.

If she is deported, when one of her sons turns 21 he can petition to bring her back. The family has said if she is forced to leave, they will all move to the Philippines.

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