Shirley Tan and Jay Mercado are, by all accounts, a picture-perfect family. The two have been together - happily - for more than two decades. They have adorable 12-year-old twins. They married in 2004. And they are hard-working, productive members of their community in Pacifica, California, where they have built a loving home that also includes Jay's mother, Renee.
So why is the United States government spending so much time - and so much taxpayer money - tearing this family apart?
Simply put, because Shirley and Jay are a lesbian couple.
As a result, on April 22nd, Shirley is scheduled to be deported - and torn away from her partner, children and mother-in-law - unless Congress takes action to keep their family together. And if you think that's outrageous, consider this: Shirley and Jay's story isn't exactly unique.
According to Immigration Equality, an organization that does heroic work on behalf of same-sex, bi-national couples, an estimated 36,000 such couples face similar situations simply because, to date, the United States has refused to level the playing field for lesbian and gay Americans who have long-term partners from abroad.
In fact, keeping Shirley at home with her partner and two sons could be as simple as making a slight change in the language of U.S. immigration policy, and treating all couples equally, regardless of who they love. But Congress, in delaying action on the issue, has made life very, very complicated for these families and their loved ones.
These couples, like Shirley and Jay, are hard-working, law-abiding people who only want to be able to be with the person they love. And many, like Shirley, have spent years caring for their families, working in their communities and, yes, making our country a better place for all of us to live in. "They are exactly the kind of people you want living in this country," Immigration Equality's executive director, Rachel Tiven, told People Magazine in their recent profile of Tan and Mercado and their family.
Yet, on January 28th, at 6 a.m. in the morning, ICE agents rang Shirley's doorbell, placed her under arrest and took her to jail, where she spent a day away from her family, unaware of why she was even there.