Shirley Tan, a petite stay–at–home mother of twins, is wearing pink slippers on her feet and a black electronic bracelet around her left ankle.
"I feel like a criminal," said Tan, sitting on the sofa of the ocean-view home she shares with her longtime partner, Jaylynn Mercado, their 12-year-old sons and Mercado's mother, Renee.
In the eyes of immigration authorities, Tan is in the country illegally. Federal courts have denied her bid for asylum. But beyond that court battle, she argues that the law discriminates against her because she is a lesbian – and cannot be sponsored for citizenship by her partner.
Later this month, unless her pleas to congressional leaders and the courts are successful, Tan, 43, will be deported to her native Philippines, more than two decades after she fled a murderous relative and began a life in the United States.
"It's a shocking thing for all of us," said Mercado, who works in commercial insurance. "All this time, we thought she was legal … . This is a nightmare."
Things likely would be different if Mercado were a man, according to legal experts.
Tan, who came legally to the United States as a visitor in 1989, wed Mercado in 2004, when San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom opened City Hall to same-sex unions. Those marriages later were declared invalid, and this past November California voters approved Proposition 8, which defines marriage as between one man and one woman. The matter now is under consideration by the state Supreme Court.
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