Don’t Leave LGBT Families Out of Immigration Reform

Don’t Leave LGBT Families Out of Immigration Reform

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 Editor’s Note: The White House has been reaching out to the evangelical churches for support on immigration reform. While several prominent evangelical leaders have extended their support, some have said if same-sex couple were included in family reunification proposals that would be a deal breaker. Amos Lim, founding board member of Out4Immigration, a group advocating for bi-national same-sex couples has a response.

Not many people realize that within the United States there are approximately 36,000 couples who are struggling to be together because they are binational same-sex couples. The Uniting American Families Act would allow U.S. citizens or permanent residents to sponsor their partners to become permanent residents.

Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., and Rep. Mike Honda, D-Calif., recently held a press conference with more than 40 advocacy groups to urge congress to pass the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) this year by ensuring that it gets included in comprehensive immigration reform.

Here in the state of California, our state legislature voted overwhelmingly in a bipartisan way a few weeks ago for AJR15 -- a joint resolution that makes California the first state to support the passage of UAFA and its inclusion in comprehensive immigration reform.

Most people are still unaware of this situation -- that an LGBT American does not have any right to sponsor his/her foreign spouse for a green card while their heterosexual brothers and sisters have those rights. It really does not matter if you are one of the 18,000 couples legally married in the State of California, or one of the many LGBT couples who are married in the states that recognize marriage equality -- the federal government does not recognize those marriages because of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). In fact, being legally married or registered for domestic partnership could create problems for some couples as the foreign partner could easily be classified as an overstay risk and be denied entry into this country even if they follow all the rules.

All these stories are real! Falling in love and wanting to commit the rest of your life to someone should be one of the biggest joys in your life, but when you are a same-sex bi-national couple, it could also be the start of a nightmare -- being forced to choose between love and country.

SF Weekly recently did a cover story in their June 9 issue titled, "Worlds Apart" about this issue. In it, they highlighted a gay couple, Mark and Sang, who are legally married in San Francisco, but the foreign spouse has since been denied entry into the country.

Sen. John Kerry petitioned personally for a gay couple in Massachusetts who have been separated due to the unjust immigration laws.

California’s Sen. Dianne Feinstein introduced a private bill last year to help stay the deportation order for Shirley Tan so she would not be separated from her wife Jay and twin sons. Ms Tan's private bill will expire at the end of this year, which means she will face the threat of deportation again, when the new Congress is sworn in.

Now there are reports that adding the language of the Uniting American Families Act could potentially be a deal breaker for comprehensive immigration reform.

I want to let all those who oppose adding LGBT couples into the immigration reform bill to know that we are families too! A lot of our couples have made a commitment to each other to stay together in sickness and in health. Even though the obstacles for us to stay together seem insurmountable, we are still here and we are still together! For immigration reform to be truly comprehensive, LGBT families must be included in the reform.

Many LGBT couples have already left the country to live in exile in one of the 20 countries that accepts same sex immigration. It is time the United States recognizes this issue and passes immigration reform that includes same sex bi-national couples, so that Shirleys and Jays, Marks and Sangs and the thousands of others out there could live their lives without worrying perpetually about separation.

By not including LGBT families in immigration reform, or not passing the Uniting American Families Act, we will be forcing families to separate and that is wrong. Don't forget, LGBT families are families too!