The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has agreed to change current immigration rules and will begin to consider same-sex partners as being in a "family relationship" during immigration proceedings.
According to the New York Times, Department of Homeland Security Secretary (DHS) Janet Napolitano sent a letter late Wednesday to several Democratic lawmakers stating foreigners who are same-sex partners of American citizens can be included under the Obama administration's policy of suspending deportations of some immigrants who pose no security risk.
ABC News says that on July 31, 2012, eighty-four members of Congress signed a joint letter asking Napolitano to put in writing an order that prevents deportation proceedings that will separate immigrants from their American citizen same-sex partners.
In a letter to Congress on Thursday, Napolitano stated: “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." Napolitano added that the temporary stays are decided on a case-by-case basis.
For more then a year DHS has said it would be focusing available resources on "priority" deportation cases, such as those involving individuals with criminal records. Although saying it would favorably treat those who had strong family ties in the U.S., DHS never addressed the issue of same sex relationships until now.
ABC News quotes Rachel B. Tiven, director of pro-gay rights group Immigration Equality, as saying: "This is a huge step forward. Until now, LGBT families and their lawyers had nothing to rely on but an oral promise that prosecutorial discretion would include all families. Today, DHS has responded to Congress and made that promise real."US News says there are an estimated 36,000 binational gay couples in the U.S.