Sixty Members of Congress, led by Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), have issued a letter calling on President Obama and Congressional leaders to pass legislation which would end discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) immigrant families. The statement, which comes from members of the LGBT Equality Caucus, urges passage of the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) and for inclusion of “LGBT binational families in comprehensive immigration reform.” Under current immigration law, lesbian and gay Americans are unable to sponsor their partners for residency in the United States, resulting in many such families living separately, or facing imminent separation, from their loved ones.
“No one,” the letter insists, “should be forced to choose between the person they love and the country they call home. It is time that our immigration laws kept families together instead of tearing them apart.”
“Passage of immigration reform will require every family standing with their neighbors and loved ones to work for change,” said Rachel B. Tiven, Executive Director of Immigration Equality, a national organization that works to end discrimination in U.S. immigration law. “The LGBT Equality Caucus’s letter signals that our champions in Congress, and the LGBT community, are ready to work for passage of reform that includes all families, including LGBT families. There are more than 36,000 lesbian and gay binational families counting on us to get this work done.
The letter – spearheaded by Congresswoman Baldwin and Representatives Barney Frank (D-MA), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Jared Polis (D-CO), Mike Honda (D-CA) and Mike Quigley (D-IL) – comes as Congress is expected to turn its attention to comprehensive immigration reform legislation in the near future. According to an analysis of U.S. census data, more than 36,000 lesbian and gay binational couples would benefit from an LGBT-inclusive immigration reform bill. Nearly half of those families, data show, are raising young children who face the possibility of being separated from one of their parents.
“Recognizing how important familes have been to our national development, the central mission of our immigration system has always been to reunify families.,” said Thomas Saenz, president of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF). “In order to be true to that core value, comprehensive immigration reform must fix our system to include LGBT families. Failure to do so would leave us with a flawed system that continues to tear apart families, contrary to our legal and constitutional traditions.”
Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), the lead House sponsor of the Uniting American Families Act, which would also end discrimination against LGBT binational families, agreed.
“We must take the government out of the business of singling out LGBT families for discriminatory treatment and live up to our democratic ideal of equality under the law,” Nadler said. “I join my colleagues in calling on Congress and the White House to include the Uniting American Families Act, which I have introduced in every Congress since 2000, in any immigration reform legislation, and end discrimination against binational LGBT families.
“There is simply no place for discrimination in America,” Congresswoman Baldwin added. “As we tackle comprehensive immigration reform, it’s imperative that we end discriminatory laws that hurt couples, their children and extended families, and their communities and employers.”
Immigration Equality has also significantly increased its legislative work on the issue, recently announcing the formation of a 501(c)4 Action Fund, to significant increase its lobbying work, and an expanded Washington, D.C. office.
“This is the moment,” Tiven said. “Introduction of comprehensive immigration reform legislation provides a unique opportunity to win a critical victory for LGBT families, and all families. We will work, non-stop, with our allies in the LGBT Equality Caucus, and the immigration rights movement, to do just that.”