WASHINGTON — As a broad immigration reform framework is being unveiled on Capitol Hill Monday and President Obama plans to address the issue in Las Vegas Tuesday, several leading national LGBT organizations came together Monday to urge all involved to include protections for same-sex couples in any reform.
"Any legislation must include the ability of couples in same-sex relationships to sponsor their spouse or permanent-partner in the same way opposite-sex couples have long been able to under current immigration law," four leading LGBT organizations, including the Human Rights Campaign, announced Monday.
Currently, the federal government does not grant green cards to the foreign same-sex partners of American citizens, as are available to opposite-sex spouses, citing the Defense of Marriage Act. The practice has resulted in couples separated in some cases, couples leaving the U.S. in other cases, and foreign partners remaining in the U.S. beyond their applicable visas.
Although Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has ordered that same-sex couples be considered to have a "family relationship" — a factor in deciding whether prosecutorial discretion is appropriate in a given deportation case — the underlying green card issue remains.
The Uniting American Families Act, a version of which has been introduced in the past several congresses, would address that disparity in treatment. It has been included in Democratic plans for comprehensive immigration reform in the past, but has not been mentioned thus far in terms of the bipartisan Senate framework being formally unveiled Monday.
HRC, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, Immigration Equality and National Center for Lesbian Rights issued a joint statement Monday before the Senate news conference calling on the inclusion of such a policy in any reform pursued this Congress:
"We are fully committed to and deeply understand the need for this nation to adopt a humane and effective comprehensive immigration policy which places a premium value on justice, dignity, respect and opportunity.
Any legislation must include the ability of couples in same-sex relationships to sponsor their spouse or permanent-partner in the same way opposite-sex couples have long been able to under current immigration law.
We stand shoulder-to-shoulder with those striving for and dreaming of a nation that embraces all who come here seeking a better life. We look forward to working with Congress, the White House and every community harmed by our broken immigration system to finally achieve the comprehensive reforms we all so desperately need."
Chris Geidner is the legal editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC. In 2014, Geidner won the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association award for journalist of the year.
Contact Chris Geidner at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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