A coalition of the nation’s leading LGBT advocacy organizations called several amendments to the Senate immigration reform bill “poison pills that threaten the entire legislation.” The Senate is considering amendments to the immigration reform bill this week that could negatively impact all immigrants and LGBT immigrant in particular, according to a statement released Wednesday by the National Center for Lesbian Rights, GLAAD, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, United We Dream and Queer Undocumented Immigrant Project, GetEQUAL, National Center for Transgender Equality, Equality Federation and National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance.
Increased Enforcement: The Senate rejected two amendments requiring more enforcement at the border as a condition of implementing or completing a legalization program: Vitter 1228, which failed 36-58, and Thune 1197, which failed 39-54.
“Harsher enforcement mechanisms for immigrants will have a disproportionately very negative impact on LGBT immigrants, whom studies have shown receive harsher punishments than their non-LGBT peers — especially in the case of LGBT people of color,” according to the statement released by LGBT advocacy groups.
Health Benefits: One amendment being considered would continue to deny health benefits to immigrants five years after they become legal residents. This means immigrants could be eligible for citizenship after 13 years, but wouldn’t be able to get health care subsidies for at least 15 years or longer.
“Many LGBT people are unable to get health benefits for their partners and children because of a lack of family recognition. Morevoer, because LGBT people are more likely to live below the poverty line, access to affordable health care is especially important to the community," according to leading LGBT advocacy groups. "These factors make access to the benefits of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and Medicaid particularly crucial for the LGBT community. The 13-year roadmap to citizenship is too long as it is; these punitive provisions make that road even more difficult.”
Social Security: The Senate is also considering amendments that would require undocumented immigrants to pay back taxes and limit their access to Social Security retirement benefits.
“These punitive amendments go against the moral imperative of compassionate immigration reform," according to LGBT advocacy organizations. "What’s more, LGBT immigrants and families – especially those of color – would be even more adversely affected by these harsh measures, as they experience unemployment and poverty at higher rates than their non-LGBT peers.”