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LGBT groups say they won't give up inclusion of gay people in comprehensive immigration reform

Several leading LGBT groups have reacted to gay people being left out (at least for now) from proposed immigration reform:

HRC, Human Rights Campaign:

WASHINGTON – Following the introduction of the “Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act” in the Senate by Senators Schumer (D-NY), McCain (R-AZ), Durbin (D-IL), Graham (R-SC), Menendez (D-NJ), Rubio (R-FL), Bennet (D-CO) and Flake (R-AZ), Chad Griffin, President of the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization issued the following statement:

“The bill introduced by the Senate’s Gang of Eight brings us one step closer to the historic immigration reform this country desperately needs. From a groundbreaking pathway to citizenship, to a lasting solution for the young DREAMers hopeful for a future in this country, to much-needed reform for asylum-seekers, this bill will change millions of lives for the better.

“But as immigration reform reaches the Senate Judiciary Committee, there is work left to do. As drafted, the bill omits reforms that would end discrimination against tens of thousands of binational gay and lesbian couples. Currently, committed couples like Santiago Ortiz and Pablo Garcia from New York City are stuck in legal limbo because gay or lesbian couples are denied a chance to obtain relationship-based permanent residence.”

“Judiciary Committee Chairman Leahy has been an outspoken champion of the legislative fix to this problem, the United American Families Act (UAFA, S. 296). This bipartisan legislation, also sponsored by Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), deserves a vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee as an amendment to the immigration bill.”

“Failing to act on UAFA would stand in stark contrast to this bill’s unprecedented inclusivity. As we stand at the crossroads of history, leaving anyone out weakens the moral authority of this once-in-a-generation legislation. No one should be forced to live in the shadows of society.”

Lambda Legal:

(New York, April 17, 2013) - Today, the Senate introduced a comprehensive immigration reform bill that included many important provisions but did not include critically important protections for same-sex binational couples and their families. Lambda Legal issued the following statement from Kevin Cathcart, Executive Director of Lambda Legal:

"We are pleased that Congress is moving forward on this vital issue. Reforming immigration will protect millions of immigrants seeking a decent life and make our country stronger. But those who dismiss the needs of LGBT families and suggest that we can only protect some, but not all people are not being true to deeply held American values of fairness.

"We are deeply disappointed that the Uniting American Families Act that would ensure that binational same-sex couples and their families are not torn apart is not included in this proposed bill. There is still time to include this provision in the bill, and we urge the Senate to do so.

"LGBT undocumented immigrants are among the most invisible of the invisible. Many inhabit a double closet, afraid of disclosing their sexual orientation and/or gender identity and afraid of disclosing that they are undocumented. Our current immigration system is broken. Gross inequities in our country's current immigration system disproportionately harm LGBT people and people living with HIV - in extremely grievous ways. Without a path to legalization, LGBT and HIV-affected immigrants who are victims of hate crimes or who experience discrimination or other civil rights violations often are deterred from seeking justice out of fear of arrest or deportation. Furthermore, many immigrants rely on asylum and immigration relief for protection from persecution in their home countries based on their sexual orientation, gender identity or HIV status. 

"The LGBT community knows all too well what can happen when legislative proposals pit communities against one another - we cannot let that happen.  We urge Congress to enact comprehensive immigration reform that provides decent and fair treatment for all immigrants, including those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) or who are living with HIV."

National Gay and Lesbian Task Force:

WASHINGTON, April 17 The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, a longtime advocate of fair and humane immigration reform, responded to the introduction of a bipartisan immigration reform bill in the U.S. Senate. The Task Force is a signatory on this Statement of Principles for Immigration Reform.

Statement by Rea Carey, Executive Director
National Gay and Lesbian Task Force

"This bipartisan bill marks a first step on the road to full and fair immigration reform this country so urgently needs.

“There are 11 million undocumented immigrants in this country — including at least 267,000 who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. Under our broken immigration system, they are forced to live in hiding, spending every day fearful that they will be discovered, sent into detention, and separated from their families. No one should ever be forced to live this way.

“This measure will help create a pathway to citizenship for millions of people who are eager to contribute their skills and talents to this country. This includes many young people — the DREAMers — who love and have always called the United States their home. We are very pleased they will have a more streamlined path to citizenship. The DREAMers, who include countless LGBT youth, represent an investment in our nation’s future.

“But the bill, as it was introduced, will also require us to double down our efforts over the next few months as Congress takes up this legislation. It lacks several key components, including how it treats LGBT families. Right now, thousands of binational same-sex couples are threatened with forced separation because they are blocked from sponsoring their partner for citizenship. It is cruel and unfair to force loving couples and their families to live apart — to make them choose between family and country.

“In addition, we’re paying close attention to potential barriers to citizenship arising from one’s economic circumstances. We do not believe it is humane to deny vulnerable residents, whether they have citizenship status or not, basic social services. Finally, we want to ensure that the legislation promotes a dignified quality of life for border communities and enforcement provisions that do not contribute to racial profiling or other abusive practices.

“Many of the reforms unveiled in this measure will have a positive impact on immigrants, including many LGBT immigrants, but we must keep pushing for reform that leaves no one behind. We are committed to working together throughout the legislative process to get the bill we all need and deserve.”

GetEQUAL:

Washington, DC -- The introduction of an immigration reform bill marks the beginning of a long battle for justice for immigrants from every walk of life in this country. An estimated 267,000 undocumented immigrants identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) and approximately 40,000 binational same-sex families struggle with immigration issues in order to stay together. Immigration reform is a LGBT issue and GetEQUAL will fully engage in this process to keep key provisions that protect LGBT immigrants intact and to fight so that our families are included through an amendment strategy. The following is an assessment of the immigration reform bill from Felipe Sousa-Rodriguez, co-director of GetEQUAL:

"Our broken immigration system has created a moral crisis. Thousands of families have been separated, millions of families have waited years to be reunited in the U.S., and workers have been abused. This bipartisan effort at reform is a first, powerful step to start the process of honoring our legacy of immigration in our country.

LGBT immigrants have a lot of stake in this bill. The lift of the one-year filing bar for asylum will help hundred of thousands of immigrants coming to our country who are escaping homophobic and transphobic nations. The detention reforms will help us prevent some of the abuses currently happening in the detention system. We are excited that approximately 267,000 LGBT undocumented immigrants will have a pathway to citizenship. We are also celebrating the current version of the DREAM Act contained in this legislation, which is the most progressive version ever introduced.

We still have a lot to do in order to improve this bill. The allocation of resources to border enforcement will harm local border communities and will almost certainly lead to more deaths of migrants seeking a better life. We are extremely disappointed on the elimination of family visas and various triggers contained in the bill. And, of course, we are committed to fighting hard so that the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) -- which will allow binational same-sex couples to remain in the United States without fear of deportation -- will be added to the bill via amendment in committee.

I am a DREAM Act beneficiary and in a binational relationship. The inclusion of UAFA is about the recognition of our families and the end of a century-old exclusion of LGBT families in our community. Last night, as pieces of the bill's text began to surface online, I held my husband tightly -- knowing that the Gang of 8 had excluded our family from the Comprehensive Immigration Reform bill. I know exactly what 40,000 families felt this morning when they saw that the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) was not included in the bill. Our community has fought hard for full recognition under the law in this country and our struggle for equality has not ended, but only just begun.

LGBT immigrants have historically being denied fair access to our immigration system and this is our chance to be included in what could be a once in a generation overhaul of our immigration system. We will work so UAFA is included in the package in the Senate Judiciary Committee and we will hold accountable those who don’t help us get there. We will protect the important provisions for LGBT immigrants currently in the bill, and we will fight hard against those provisions that will drive our community further into the shadows or put them even more desperately in harm's way."

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