Immigration Reform Must Include Same Gender Bi-National Couples

More Light Presbyterians calls on Congress to pass comprehensive and inclusive immigration reform, including a provision allowing a path to citizenship for the same-gender spouses of American citizens.  Our faith calls us to show empathy, to recognize the face of God in the other. “When an alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien. The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God” (Leviticus 19:33,34).

Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy has shrugged off concerns that offering rights to LGBTQ immigrants will harm immigration reform. In an interview with Politico, the Vermont Senator stated, “You can’t go into a state like mine or — it will be now 11 or 12 states and the District of Columbia — where same-sex marriage is legal, and say to this couple, ‘OK, we can help you with the immigration matter.’ Turn to another couple equally legally married and say, ‘Oh, we have to discriminate against you.’”

More Light Presbyterians has joined with other faith organizations to support the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA). UAFA would allow a U.S. citizen or permanent resident to sponsor their same gender partner for immigration to the U.S., a right which is currently denied. According to the 2010 U.S. Census data, over 36,000 couples are affected by this discrimination and 46% of them are raising children.

Hyacinth Alvaran, an immigrant from the Philippines and HRC Diversity Program Manager, writes on the HRC blog about why immigration reform must include rights for LGBTQ immigrants and end the pain of separation so many experience.

There are two groups of people who come to mind who understand the pain of separation: immigrants, and LGBT people.

And there are nearly a million adults who live at the intersection of the two, including myself: LGBT immigrants.

In the worst cases, we immigrants leave our families, our support networks and our communities behind in order to escape poverty, persecution, or war.

In the worst cases, we LGBT people face the constant pressure of separation from our loved ones: by a family who forces us to choose between them or someone else we equally love, by a community that doesn’t recognize us as parents to the children we adopt, by laws that treat us and our partners as strangers to each other and leave us no choice but to live countries apart.

And in the worst cases, we LGBT immigrants experience all of the above.

We have a lot more in common than we think, or in some cases, want to realize.

Because in all these cases, we know how it feels to be separated from the ones we love.

It is the longing experienced by the nearly 4.3 million families waiting to be reunited in the U.S., many of whom wait for years in a backlogged and inefficient system.

It is the anxiety experienced by 32,300 binational same-sex couples raising11,000 children in this country, couples who are not allowed by the Defense of Marriage Act to sponsor each other for family-based immigration.

And it is the fear experienced by over 11 million undocumented immigrants who live under the threat of deportation and forced separation from their families; at least 267,000 are LGBT people over 18 years old.

A comprehensive and inclusive approach to immigration reform will help all of our families and all of our communities.

Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin issued the following statement on immigration reform:

When examining the facts, it is clear that LGBT equality is not the controversial, hot-button issue that a handful of legislators portray it to be.  Marriage equality continues to advance in the states and polls show super-majority support for everything from workplace non-discrimination laws to anti-bullying protections.  Moreover, a broad coalition of religious groups, labor organizations, businesses and civil rights groups support the inclusion of same-sex bi-national couples in a comprehensive reform bill.

This bluster is nothing more than a political maneuver designed to divide the pro-reform coalition and at the same time appease a small but vocal group of social conservatives that will do anything to stop progress for lesbian and gay couples.  The LGBT community will not stand for Congress placing the blame of their own dysfunction on our shoulders.

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