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New York Leaders Call on Congress to Pass Immigration Reform That Includes LGBT Immigrants & Their Families

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For Immediate Release
March 18, 2013                                                                           

Contact:  Steve Ralls
(202) 347-7007 / sralls@immigrationequality.org

Karina Claudio-Betancourt
(631) 231-2220 / karina.claudio@maketheroadny.org

New York Leaders Call on Congress to Pass Immigration Reform
That Includes LGBT Immigrants and Their Families
Representatives Jerry Nadler & Nydia Velazquez Join NYC Council Members in Supporting Inclusive Immigration Reform Bill

New York, NY – A coalition of elected leaders, immigration advocates and LGBT organizations called on Congress to pass an immigration reform measure that includes lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) immigrant families as part of a forum today organized by Make the Road New York and Immigration Equality. The forum was held at The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center in New York, and featured Members of Congress and New York City Council Members.

Under current U.S. immigration laws, LGBT Americans are unable to sponsor spouses or partners for residency, as straight couples are permitted to do. Today’s coalition brought together leading voices on immigration to demand that elected leaders in Congress include the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) within comprehensive immigration reform legislation. The UAFA would amend immigration law to include LGBT spouses among those eligible for immigration benefits.

“I am proud to be a naturalized US citizen.  As a refugee, I am grateful to the US for the path that brought me here – and I should have the right to sponsor my wife the same as anyone else”, said Angelica Mejia, whose wife, Veronica Flores, is originally from Mexico. “If Congress does not include families like mine in its legislation, Veronica and I will have to leave the country we love.”

Yenny Quispe, a queer DREAM activist and Make the Road New York member added that, “I’ve been living in this country for about 11 years. I left Peru because my father didn’t like the way I dressed or walked. He wanted me to be his princess, forcing me to be another person. I came to the U.S. fleeing from this. It took me a while to come out as queer and undocumented but I managed to do that. Just 2 months ago I became a resident, but that hasn’t stopped me from fighting for my community because I believe in equality and I’m not going to stop fighting until I see my community smiling and being treated well. I want to urge Senator Schumer and the ‘Gang of 8’ to include our LGBTQ community in the bill that they draft. We want same sex couples to be able to petition their undocumented partners and we want transgender people to be able to access asylum and other forms of immigration relief without barriers.”

Quotes from Supporters of LGBT-Inclusive Immigration Reform

Congressman Jerry Nadler (D-NY), lead House sponsor of UAFA: “Today, we reiterate our unyielding support for LGBT-inclusive immigration reform NOW. Any serious comprehensive immigration reform legislation must include a pathway to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants, and must provide equal immigration rights for binational same-sex couples and their families. We must ensure that our policies work to strengthen and support families of all varieties, and that our laws stabilize – and never undermine – families, community or our economy. My bill, the Uniting American Families Act, would end federal discrimination against committed LGBT couples, and must be a part of any immigration proposal.”

U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)*: “We must take action on a federal solution to our broken immigration system. I am more committed than ever to work with President Obama and my colleagues toward passing a comprehensive immigration reform bill that keeps all families together, treats immigrants fairly and gives them a path to earned citizenship.”

Congressman Charles Rangel (D-NY)*: “LGBT families must not be left out when it comes to unification, and all of our binational families should be treated equally under the law. That is why I have been an original co-sponsor of the Uniting American Families Act, which would enable an American citizen to petition for immigration sponsorship for his or her partner. If we are truly going to achieve immigration reform that is comprehensive, we must protect and support all of our families.”

Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez (D-NY): “Comprehensive immigration reform should be just that – comprehensive.  Today, we are saying with one voice – we will not leave you behind.  We will fight to ensure reform protects all of our immigrant neighbors – regardless of who they love.”

New York City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn*: “Our broken immigration system and intolerance towards the LGBT community already tears apart too many families, and it is imperative that comprehensive reform include equal rights for gay and lesbian families. Undocumented families with LGBT members are twice-vulnerable and our nation’s leaders must pass the Uniting American Families Act to protect them.”

New York Public Advocate Bill de Blasio: “Immigration reform cannot be truly comprehensive until every family has the same rights and opportunities. Our President and our New York City congressional delegation have made it clear that we won’t leave our LGBTQ families behind. We will take this fight to Congress–and we will win.”

New York City Comptroller John C. Liu: “Our message here is simple. Equitable, broad-based immigration reform needs to include a serious effort to end federal discrimination against LGBTQ immigrants and their families. Congress must advance meaningful reforms so that the thousands of LGBTQ immigrants and would-be immigrants receive the same rights as others and the protections they deserve.”

New York State Senator Daniel Squadron, the original co-sponsor of the New York DREAM Act: “New York — and our nation — have always been and must remain a gateway to opportunity for all who seek it. But that opportunity can’t be contingent on who a person loves. We must reform our broken immigration system so that every couple, no matter who they are, can stay together. And it’s time to once and for all pass the DREAM Act so that every person who wants to work hard and make a life here has a chance to do so. Thank you to Make the Road, Immigration Equality, the LGBT Community Center, Congressmembers Nadler and Velazquez, and all of my colleagues fighting for true inclusiveness and justice in our immigration laws.”

Rachel B. Tiven, executive director of Immigration Equality: “Congress has a once-in-a-generation opportunity to fix our country’s broken immigration system. It is too important, and too rare, to leave anyone behind. New Yorkers, and indeed the majority of all Americans, believe that all families should be respected and protected under the law. Our elected leaders in Washington must support legislation that allows every American the opportunity to keep their families together. Immigration reform must include a path to citizenship, the DREAM Act and an end to the discrimination faced by LGBT binational families.”

Evan Wolfson, founder and president of Freedom to Marry: “America needs, and all families deserve, welcoming, fair and inclusive immigration policies, and Freedom to Marry is proud to stand with our coalition partners in support of comprehensive immigration reform. No couple, gay or non-gay, should have to choose between love and country; immigration law should respect the committed relationships of binational couples, enabling them, like other immigrant families, to work and build a life together here in the United States.”

Nathan M. Schaefer, executive director of the Empire State Pride Agenda: “LGBT families have lived on the dark side of US immigration policy for long enough. Our love and our families require the same protections as all others – and we need to be included in protections that come with true comprehensive immigration reform.”

Glennda Testone, executive director of The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center of New York: “Every year we see thousands of LGBT immigrants come to get support and find community at the Center.  The Center can and does help them, but only Congress can pass comprehensive immigration reform that recognizes LGBT individuals and families. We urge Senator Schumer and the other seven senators working on this legislation to include LGBT people and families and end the challenges this vulnerable population faces.”

 * indicates a supporter who was unable to attend today’s press event, but submitted a statement of support.

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