This afternoon, the long-anticipated comprehensive immigration reform bill from the Senate’s “Gang of 8” will finally be introduced. It is a big, complex piece of legislation that addresses many different immigration issues. Our legal team is hard at work reading the bill and analyzing its many proposals, and what those mean for LGBT immigrants and their families.
We already know, however, some of the high – and low – points of the bill.
The legislation includes a path to citizenship for many undocumented people. It also includes the DREAM Act, which will allow young, undocumented youth (many of whom are LGBT) a path to citizenship as well. Both of these components will help countless immigrants – including LGBT immigrants – finally emerge from the shadows and have an opportunity to fully participate in the life of our country. The bill also includes repeal of the 1-year filing deadline for individuals seeking asylum in the United States, which is a significant obstacle faced by many LGBT asylum seekers. Immigration Equality supports all of these important measures.
As we anticipated, however, the base bill does not include the Uniting American Families Act. (A “base bill” is the first version of the legislation, before any lawmakers have an opportunity to make amendments, or changes, to the language.)
UAFA’s exclusion renders the bill incomplete. It is not comprehensive and is does not reflect the values or diversity of our country. Senators on the Judiciary Committee must allow a full and open amendment process that provides an opportunity to add UAFA as an amendment during that process. We need a majority of Committee members to support adding UAFA to the bill. This means the time is NOW to contact Judiciary Committee Senators and demand they vote for UAFA during the amendment process.
We will not give Senators of either party a pass on the inclusion of our families in immigration reform. We are watching – and we will remember – which lawmakers stand with us, and which stand to the side, when this critical vote happens. The Judiciary Committee includes Senators from states with full marriage equality, such as New York, Vermont, Connecticut and Iowa. Other states represented on the Committee – California, Texas and Arizona – are home to large numbers of LGBT binational families.
One of those families is Fabiola Morales and her wife, Kelly Costello. Kelly, who is expecting twins, married Fabiola shortly after Washington, D.C. passed marriage equality. Fabiola is currently in the United States on a student visa and is also undergoing experimental medical treatment for multiple sclerosis. Her visa expires when her studies are complete, and her critical medical treatment is not available outside the U.S. Under the legislation introduced today, Fabiola has no pathway to citizenship — despite her marriage, her growing family and the fact that she has never gone out of legal status for a single day.
If UAFA is added as part of the final bill, however, Fabiola will become eligible for residency immediately.
The LGBT community, and our allies, have fought too hard to sit idly by and allow our relationships to be treated as second-class under the immigration system. Kelly and Fabiola should be treated the same as every other couple. Anything less is unacceptable.
Here is what we need you to do today: If your Senator is a member of the Judiciary Committee, pick up the phone and call them. Tell them you, and your family, are counting on their support for adding UAFA during the amendment process. A full list of Committee Members is available online here. To reach their office, call the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and ask to be connected. (Once you make your call, report back to us via our online form.)
Then, if you can, sign up to join us in Washington, D.C. for our lobby days, on April 23 and 24 so you can tell them again – in person – how important this is to you.
The Committee Members’ votes will mean the difference between a stable future, or one of uncertainty, separation and exile, for thousands of LGBT couples. Now is the time – our last real shot for passing UAFA in this Congress. Don’t sit this out. Call, come to Washington and demand our families be part of immigration reform.