A framework for comprehensive immigration reform, authored by Senators Harry Reid (D-NV), Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ), includes a call for an end to discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) binational families. The principles, which are meant to guide Congressional crafting of immigration reform legislation, specifically call for key provisions of the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) to be part of a future reform bill.
Immigration Equality hailed the inclusion of the language, which would allow LGBT citizens and legal permanent residents to sponsor their foreign national partners for residency in the United States. Under current law, no such sponsorship is available. An estimated 36,000 face imminent separation or exile because of discriminatory immigration policies. UAFA is sponsored in the Senate by Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont, and in the House by Congressman Jerrold Nadler of New York.
“Today’s inclusive framework is an historic step forward for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender binational families,” said Rachel B. Tiven, executive director of Immigration Equality. “Now, it is time to turn these principles into laws. We will fight to ensure that the Uniting American Families Act is an indelible part of the immigration reform bill.”
“The LGBT community is committed to comprehensive immigration reform that includes everyone,” Tiven added. “Our community understands, all too well, the pain of being punished and singled out for who we are. Our solidarity with the larger immigrant community is deep, and our resolve to fix our broken immigration system is real. We will work for a bill that provides a path to citizenship for the undocumented, including those who are LGBT. Time is of the essence for those facing separation or deportation, and Congress must act, urgently, to pass humane, comprehensive reform.”
Immigration Equality also applauded the inclusion of the DREAM Act – a path to citizenship for undocumented students – in the principles released today. Earlier this week, DREAM activists who have walked from Florida arrived in the nation’s capital. Two of them, Juan Rodriguez and Felipe Matos, are also a couple, and have faced additional discrimination because of their sexual orientation. The outline also includes important provisions related to family unification, including ending the unconscionable backlogs that so many families face under the current system.
The group expressed dismay, however, over a proposal to implement a de-facto program for National ID Cards. Such a proposal, known as biometric identification, could be particularly troublesome for transgender immigrants, who struggle to get identity documents which match their correct name and gender.
“Immigration Equality,” Tiven concluded, “is working for a bill that protects LGBT immigrants who so desperately need reform. The path forward is about keeping families together and building a system that values our country’s unique and precious history as a nation of immigrants.”