by Mike Andrew -
SGN Staff Writer
LGBT immigration rights activists expect Gay and Lesbian families to be left out of the immigration reform bill that will be presented to the U.S. Senate by the so-called 'Gang of Eight,' according to the Washington Blade.
Immigration Equality Executive Director Rachel Tiven told activists in a conference call on April 8 that binational same-sex couples would not be included in the bill, which was expected to be released April 11. Details of the bill had not been made public as SGN went to press.
'We are not expecting LGBT families to be included in the Gang of Eight bill,' Tiven said. 'That, in our minds, means that of course the bill is incomplete.'
The Gang of Eight are four Democratic senators and four Republicans, who are attempting to put together a bi-partisan compromise on immigration reform. The group includes Dick Durbin (D-IL), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Michael Bennett (D-CO), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), John McCain (R-AZ), and Lindsey Graham (R-SC).
Washington's U.S. Senators, Democrats Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, while not part of the gang, have repeatedly advocated for equal treatment of binational same-sex couples. Currently, opposite-sex spouses of U.S. citizens get preferential treatment in entering the country, getting a 'green card,' and obtaining citizenship, but same-sex partners do not.
'A person's immigration status shouldn't change because of whom they love,' Murray said in an e-mail to SGN, 'so I look forward to working with my colleagues to pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill that includes protections for LGBT families.'
Murray's press secretary, Sean Coit, also noted that Murray is a co-sponsor of the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA), to give same-sex binational couples the same protections opposite-sex spouses enjoy.
'Senator Cantwell is a co-sponsor of the Uniting American Families Act (S. 296),' her staffer Janeen Heath May told SGN, 'and she is committed to supporting legislation that protects the rights of all Americans regardless of sexual orientation, race, religion, gender, national origin, age, or disability.'
McDERMOTT, SMITH WEIGH IN
Seattle's U.S. Reps. Jim McDermott and Adam Smith also cited UAFA in separate statements sent to SGN.
'While we won't know the content of the Senate's Gang of Eight immigration reform bill until the bill becomes public on Thursday, it is my hope that any comprehensive immigration reform will contain aspects of the Reuniting Families Act, which would make it easier for same-sex couples to sponsor a foreign-born spouse for a visa,' McDermott said.
'Same-sex families share the same commitments and deserve the same protections as any other family. There are thousands of Gay and Lesbian binational couples waiting to be reunited and it is unconscionable that our immigration system would continue to institutionalize bigotry in its citizenship process. I deeply hope any comprehensive immigration reform will make protecting all types of families a priority.'
'Right now, we have an opportunity to make real strides in equality for LGBT families and fixing our broken immigration system,' Smith wrote.
'The reality of current U.S. immigration law is that same-sex couples committed to spending their lives together are not recognized as 'families' and, as a result, could be separated from their homes, their children, their spouses, and the people they love. I strongly support the Uniting American Families Act, which is a bill that would give legal standing to LGBT families with mixed immigration statuses. While we await the details of the 'Gang of Eight' immigration reform proposal, I hope that protections for same-sex couples will be included. I was pleased to see that the Senate plans to provide a full debate and amendment process for any legislation that comes from the deal, and I will continue to fight to see that equal rights and protections of LGBT people are included in any comprehensive immigration reform law.'
UAFA AMENDMENT POSSIBLE
The latest version of UAFA was introduced in February by Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT). Leahy indicated he might attempt to include UAFA as an amendment to the Gang of Eight bill in committee before it reaches the Senate floor and Nadler said he would support such an amendment.
'I will fight like hell to ensure that LGBT-inclusive language remains in any House and Senate conference report,' Nadler told the Blade. 'The ultimate goal is, of course, not how we pass LGBT-inclusive immigration reform, but that we make certain that such a bill lands on the president's desk.'
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