After hearing recently of the Senate failing to include the issue of bi-national LGBT couples in their immigration reform platform, I sent very personal letters sharing my concern with my Senators, the Honorable Senators Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray.Very shortly after, I received a reply from Senator Cantwell that demonstrated she had not even bothered to have an aide read my letter. The full text of the exchange is below.
Dear Senator Cantwell:
I write to you today as a disenfranchised Democrat. It is with great shock and disappointment that I learned that the Senate’s framework for “comprehensive immigration reform” fails to include equality for bi-national gay and lesbian couples. For years, our Democratic party leaders at the Federal level have talked about LGBT rights and equality, but frankly that talk has turned to rhetoric as no actionable progress has been made. Only at the State levels have I seen any significant progress.
I would like to share with you my story. In January of 1995, while we were both attending university in Minnesota, I met my partner, Jose (Joe). Joe is a Filipino and was in the US on a student visa. We spent eight wonderful years together, and eventually moved to settle in Seattle, Washington. Unfortunately, Joe had no legal way to remain in the United States and [in] 2003, he returned to his home in Manila, Philippines. Our lives were shattered when that happened. After three years of depression and pain, I moved to Shanghai, People’s Republic of China in 2006. Fortunately, I was employed by a large Washington-based software company and was able to transfer to their Shanghai office.
Unlike the United States – my country – which held no option for Joe to even obtain a visitor visa for a short-term stay, he was able to easily obtain Chinese visas. For the next five years we were together again in China. During this time, I struggled with a particular fiscal element of my stay there. I was earning several hundred thousand dollars a year, and because Chinese taxes are significantly higher than US taxes, I was paying nearly six figures a year in taxes to a tyrannical, repressive, communist government, while paying nearly nothing in US taxes. As much as this went against my core belief system, it was a means to an end and Joe and I were together.
In 2010, after five years away from my home, I returned to Seattle, and again Joe and I were separated. After again falling into a deep depression and state of extreme unhappiness, I decided to move to Manila, Philippines. I quit my job. Today I write to you unemployed again [sic]. I am an American who believes deeply in our system of government and cares for the welfare of my country and fellow citizens, yet I will pay no taxes. You see, I am in the Philippines on a tourist visa and unable to work. I have sold my home in Seattle. I left left my friends, my family, my job and my country behind, simply so that I can be with the person I love deeply and have committed my life to.
The total impact to the American economy and government, when you consider taxes that went to a foreign government instead of my own, and living expenses paid to foreign companies and landlords, is well over $1 million at this point. I am saddened by that, but have no other options.
For seven consecutive years, the Uniting American Families Act has been introduced into a dysfunctional congress that seems more interested in wasting time than making progress. For six consecutive years, that bill has died without ever coming to a vote, in many cases before a Democratically-controlled body.
I understand that yesterday, the party leadership was kind enough to inform gay rights activists that comprehensive immigration reform will not include any provisions for bi-national LGBT couples. Senator Cantwell, I ask of you, at what point do LGBT people simply throw up our hands at the rhetoric and inaction of the Democratic party? At what point does the talking become moot without action? I suggest that we have reached that point.
Although I could never imagine voting for a candidate of the current flavor of the Republican party, I find voting for Democrats also becoming a distasteful proposition, as they seem equally incapable of effecting any meaningful reform at the Federal level. I feel that abstention is my only real choice.
Senator, I implore you, now is the time to put action behind words. Now is the time for real immigration reform to address and correct one of the largest inequalities in our system of immigration and naturalization. Please allow me to cast my ballot for our Federal Democratic party officials with a high head and a clear conscious.
Eastwood, Libis, Quezon City, 1110
Registered to vote in what I still consider to be my home of Seattle, WA
As you can see from the reply below, I was sent a form letter, and not even a good one considering the concerns I had expressed in my letter.
My question to the Senator and her staff: How do constituents that have a serious concern about an issue that affects them personally ever get their voice heard in your office?
I have added emphasis to the portions of the letter below that I believe are pure lip service and said with such a lack of genuine intent that i find them offensive.
|Dear Mr. Smith,Thank you for contacting me regarding immigration reform. I appreciate hearing from you on this important matter.I believe that Congress should continue working to deliver comprehensive immigration reform. Comprehensive immigration reform should prioritize our nation’s security by bringing undocumented immigrants out of the shadows and requiring them to register with the government, undergo background checks, study English, and pay taxes. Any policy changes must improve border enforcement and address the labor shortages in the fields of agriculture and technology. Employers must abide by fair labor standards and respect the rule of law in the workplace, and all workers should be paying their fair share of taxes.Major religious denominations, law enforcement leaders, the labor movement, business owners, civil rights leaders, economists and a majority of Americans agree that our current immigration system is broken. Immigration reform is vital to getting our economy moving again and is crucial to farms and businesses across Washington State and the country.
On June 15, 2012, President Obama announced that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security will no longer initiate the deportation of illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. before age 16, have lived here for at least 5 years, are under the age of 30, and are high school graduates or in military service without criminal records. Though this will not grant permanent or conditional legal status nor is it a pathway to citizenship, it will allow this group of immigrants to work legally and obtain driver’s licenses without fear of imminent deportation.
I am committed to working on a long-term solution to improve our broken immigration system and to better ensure our nation’s security. I take the views of Washington State constituents very seriously and appreciate hearing your position on this issue.
Thank you again for contacting me to share your thoughts on this matter. Please do not hesitate to contact me in the future if I can be of further assistance.
United States Senator
Maria Cantwell’s website is http://www.cantwell.senate.gov