Sunday, October 7, 2012

US immigration chief: Same-sex ties are family ties

Same-sex couples will be considered “family relationships” in immigration proceedings, according to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, a move that could help stem the deportation of those in gay or lesbian binational relationships.

Close family ties to the United States are a factor considered by authorities in deportation cases, and gay and lesbian advocates have long argued for same-sex couples to have the same immigration rights as opposite-sex couples.

“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 said in a letter.

Eight-four members of Congress signed a joint letter to Napolitano on July 31 asking for her to put into writing an order to prevent the deportation and separation of immigrants from their American citizen same-sex partners.

 One of those who penned the letter, U.S. Congressman Michael Honda of California, said Napolitano’s response, which he received Thursday night, heralded “promising news.”

“In the wake of this important victory, we must take a step forward and continue the fight for immigration reform. Current immigration laws are tearing families apart and separating American citizens from their loves ones,” he said in a statement. “No one should have to choose between their spouse and their country, and no family should be left out of the immigration system.”

There are an estimated 36,000 binational gay couples in the U.S. Two such couples have brought lawsuits challenging the Defense of Marriage Act, a U.S. law passed in 1996 that bars federal recognition of same-sex marriages and thereby denies various benefits given to heterosexual couples, such as the right to immigrate.

Rachel B. Tiven, executive director of Immigration Equality, called the announcement 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. The Administration’s written guidance will help families facing separation and the field officers who are reviewing their cases,” she said in a statement.

Tiven was referring to the prosecutorial discretion laid out in June 2011, when ICE Director John Morton issued a memo requiring staff  to consider the circumstances presented in individual deportation cases, such as whether the person has close family ties to the U.S.


Australia:  Immigration crackdown: over 10,000 student visas revoked

THE Immigration Department cancelled more than 10,000 student visas in the past financial year, with many students failing to fulfil course requirements.

The department revoked 2219 student visas in 2011/12 for failure to meet course progress or attendance benchmarks.

Two visas were cancelled on character grounds and 15 visas withdrawn for providing wrong information or bogus documents. A department spokesman said student visas were also cancelled if the holders falsely claimed to be students.

The department cancelled 3107 visas for non-genuine students, breaches of visa conditions and voluntary requests for cancellation. The department is currently compiling figures for the previous financial year.

Earlier this week, The Age reported an underground market for university essays in Australia was proliferating with "online essay mills" targeting international students through Chinese language social media sites.

In the year to August, there were 461,477 enrolments by full-fee paying international students in Australia. But enrolments had declined by 7.6 per cent compared with the same period the year before, according to Australian Education International.

These figures include students studying at university, TAFE and secondary school.

Foreign students make a massive contribution to the Australian economy with international education accounting for $16.3 billion in export income in 2010/11.

But International Association of Universities secretary-general Eva Egron-Polak said international students offered far greater value than income.

Ms Egron-Polak, who spoke at an international education conference in Melbourne this week, said universities around the world needed to foster stronger cultural and academic links with international students. "They really do enrich our lives and our study," she said.

Ms Egron-Polak said Australian universities would face stronger competition to attract foreign students from Asian countries, including China and Malaysia, which were improving the quality of their higher education sectors.

"Those countries have invested heavily in building their own capacity in higher education. China is now almost balancing the number of outgoing and incoming students," she said.


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