Earlier this week, the Senate proposed what some are calling a bipartisan proposal for comprehensive marriage reform as it related to immigration. As President Obama made a speech in Las Vegas, where he announced he’s releasing his own immigration reform plan which could impact same-sex couples, those involved on both sides of the aisle seem to agree that something must be done to address our nation’s current policy.
One issue of particular interest is the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA), which would grant lawful permanent resident status to individuals who are in a same-sex civil marriage or partnership, but who are not currently granted this status through their union. Heterosexual couples, in contrast, already enjoy these rights.
“The political reality today is that in nine states and the District of Columbia, there are same-sex married couples, and many of them are bi-national couples who want nothing more than to be citizens of the United States,” says Gregory T. Angelo, interim executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans. “As it stands, committed bi-national couples are forced to choose: Leave the country and family they love or stay here illegally.”
Some progress has already been made as a group of senators from both sides of the aisle have agreed to support the Uniting American Families Act. Republican Senator Susan Collins has even signed on as an official co-sponsor, while members of both parties are showing that they understand the importance of including legally recognized same-sex partners in this critical immigration reform debate – finally.
President Obama also included same-sex binational couples in his own framework. However, the president also included a few provisions that are raising the eyebrows of groups like GetEQUAL. They say that these guidelines could actually cause more pain than gain to more 11 million undocumented individuals already living in the U.S. And it’s especially risky for same-sex couples who are not protected thanks to DOMA and other barriers.
During the past four years, the Obama administration deported more than 1.5 million undocumented immigrants, shockingly more than any other administration.
“We are thrilled that the president is using his moral and political leadership to push for inclusive, comprehensive immigration reform, and we’re very glad that his vision for reform includes provisions for same-sex binational couples and a direct pathway to citizenship,” says Felipe Sousa-Rodriguez, national field director for GetEQUAL. “As a beneficiary of DACA [Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals], I know firsthand how one’s life is deeply changed by courageous leadership. However, we need President Obama to show real and tangible leadership on immigration issues, and to immediately call for a moratorium on deportations. Hundreds of thousands of LGBT immigrants like myself would benefit from that call in enormous ways while we want for Congress to act.”
GetEQUAL is now asking the administration to use its executive power to issue guidance to USCIS in order to hold green card applications from LGBT binational couples in abeyance as immigration reform is being considered by Congress and as the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which bans marriage equality nationally. This would not only protect same-sex binational couples from painful and unnecessary separation from their loved ones, but also the danger of being deported to countries where homosexuality is criminalized.