Yesterday the Senate Judiciary Committee had a hearing on the Uniting American Families Act, a bill that will "amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to eliminate discrimination in the immigration laws by permitting permanent partners of United States citizens and lawful permanent residents to obtain lawful permanent resident status in the same manner as spouses of citizens and lawful permanent residents and to penalize immigration fraud in connection with permanent partnerships." Of course, some of the discrimination that the bill would eliminate would benefit same-sex couples, so, CONTROVERSY!
One of the people who testified in support of the bill was a woman named Shirley Tan, who is in a same-sex relationship and thus caught in the crosshairs of existing law. The New Republic's James Kirchick documents her circumstances thusly:
Testifying was Shirley Tan, a Fillipino woman who has been with her American partner for 23 years. Together, they are raising twelve-year-old twin boys. She originally left the Phillipines after suffering a violent attack from a man who murdered her mother and sister (one of the reasons why Tan does not want to return to her native country, aside from the fact that her partner and children live in the U.S., is that the man who brutalized her has since been released from prison.) Tan was originally scheduled to be deported on April 3rd, but won a reprieve after Senator Diane Feinstein introduced a private bill allowing her to stay in the country temporarily.
Almost right from the start of Tan's testimony, one of Tan's young children started crying. The committee chairman, Pat Leahy, paused the testimony and offered the child some measure of comfort. According to Kirchick, these kindly sentiments were not shared by everyone on the committee:
For most people, the sight of a 12-year-old boy in tears at the prospect of his mother being deported halfway around the world would invoke some sympathy. Unmoved, however, was Alabama Republican Jeff Sessions, ranking minority member of the Committee and the only Republican to bother to attend the hearing. At the sight of the weeping boy, according to a Senate staffer who was at the hearing, Sessions leaned towards one of his aides and sighed, "Enough with the histrionics." Sessions's press secretary did not return a call seeking comment.
In fairness to Sessions, he is at least being remarkably consistent:
Q: When you hear President Obama talk about nominating someone to the court who has empathy and real-world experience, do you understand what he means?
Sessions: I don't know what he means. And it's dangerous, because I don't know what empathy means.
Ha! Clearly not!
Here's Tan's testimony before the committee in full:
And via Queerty, here's some good documentation of what Tan is facing:
Exclusive: Jeff Sessions Makes Children Cry [The New Republic]
Is Shirley Tan Out Of Options to Stay In the U.S.? [Queerty]
Sessions Says He's Looking For Judicial Restraint [National Journal]