A same-sex Israeli couple struggling against U.S. immigration laws are set to become the faces of the fight to extend one of the foundations of immigration policy to gays and lesbians.
Adi Lavy and Tzila Levy have been caught in the bureaucratic red tape of the American immigration system since Lavy, who suffers from a kidney ailment, arrived in the United States in 2011 to seek treatment.
The couple, whose New York marriage is not recognized by the federal government, have been able to stay together during Lavy’s illness and her subsequent return to Israel to care for an ailing parent thanks only to a series of interventions by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.). But an estimated 36,000 binational LGBT couples are potentially at risk of separation should one partner be forced to leave the country.
Now the Brooklyn couple’s struggle is being highlighted as part of an effort to extend residency rights commonly granted to straight couples to gays and lesbians.
“Adi fears that she and her wife could be torn apart,” said testimony submitted last month by the Immigration Equality Action Fund to the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is considering a bill proposed by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) that would extend residency rights to the foreign-born permanent partners of U.S. citizens.
“She fears being left alone to face her chronic health issues without her primary caregiver and emotional support,” the testimony said. “Without a lasting immigration solution, this family will continue to face a life filled with uncertainty and fear.”
The fund, which is spearheading advocacy for the Uniting American Families Act, selected the couple in part because of their compelling story, said Tom Plummer, the fund’s lawyer. The fund receives more than a thousand calls a year, Plummer said, and he takes on only the dozen or so cases likeliest to “help move the issue” of same sex-family reunification.