President Unveils Historic Immigration Reform That Includes Provisions for Gay and Lesbian Couples (UPDATED)
Today, President Obama announced his plan for comprehensive immigration reform in a speech in Las Vegas, Nevada. In advance of the event it had been reported that the President will call for broadly inclusive immigration reform that includes provisions for same-sex binational couples (“Obama Will Include Same-Sex Couples In Immigration Plan“). The President did not disappoint. The speech itself described the broad outlines of new humane, fair and practical immigration policies, with the same basic underpinnings as the Senate plan released yesterday. White House staffers distributed a detailed plan to streamline legal immigration by “Keeping Families Together” that would broaden the family unification provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act to provide for the immigration of same-sex partners of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents. This new policy, never before advocated by a sitting President, hews closely the language of the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA), and its predecessor, the Permanent Partners Immigration Act.
The proposal seeks to eliminate existing backlogs in the family-sponsored immigration system by recapturing unused visas and temporarily increasing annual visa numbers. The proposal also raises existing annual country caps from 7 percent to 15 percent for the family-sponsored immigration system. It also treats same-sex families as families by giving U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents the ability to seek a visa on the basis of a permanent relationship with a same-sex partner. The proposal also revises current unlawful presence bars and provides broader discretion to waive bars in cases of hardship.
DOMA Project co-founders, Lavi Soloway and Noemi Masliah, who, in 1999, helped draft the same-sex partner legislation now known as the UAFA, have called for its inclusion in any comprehensive reform package. Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) the bill’s chief architect and long the most vocal advocate for lesbian and gay binational couples in the House, re-iterated his belief that immigration reform will not pass without a provision inclusive of LGBT families. Yesterday, the Senate unveiled a bipartisan blueprint for immigration reform that provided little detail and omitted mention of same-sex binational couples. Reacting to the Senate plan, Congressman Nadler said it would be “madness” to advance immigration reform that did not include protections for same-sex couples, adding “I feel certain that Democrats would not move forward with a bill that was not fully inclusive.” Today the President seemed to assure Congressman Nadler that he will fight for this provision.
On January 21, 2013, President Obama made history as the first President to acknowledge the rights of gay and lesbian Americans at a Presidential Inauguration. His call for equality for gay and lesbian Americans on that auspicious occasion was consistent with stated position that lesbian and gay couples should have the right to marry and that the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional:
It is now our generation’s task to carry on what those pioneers began. For our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts. Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law — for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.
President Obama’s call for equality for lesbian and gay couples, as he stood just a few feet from all nine justices of the U.S. Supreme Court, is another important milestone in the fight against DOMA. We must continue to urge the President to use the power of his office to develop and implement policies that protect lesbian and gay binational couples and our families now. To have the unequivocal support of the president should be celebrated, but we must continue to demand and expect concrete actions to follow this soaring rhetoric.
Today, tens of thousands of same-sex couples in America continue to be denied security for their family and their future. The love and lives of same-sex binational couples are often strained because these couples are forced to live apart from one another, in exile from their home countries, or in hiding because the Federal Government will not recognize their marriage and commitment.
“Our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity”
The President should follow his public declarations of support for LGBT families with action, by directing the Attorney General and Secretary of Homeland Security to implement an abeyance policy for petitions by same-sex binational couples.
Please sign our petition to President Obama asking that the government stop issuing denials to green card petitions from same-sex couples. Your support means standing up for every couple whose marriage is rendered invisible under the law by the Defense of Marriage Act. President Obama has taken his stance for equality and we urge you to join us in holding him to that promise.
“My fellow Americans. We are made for this moment, and we will seize it – so long as we seize it together.”