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The Immigration Bill: What’s There, What’s Missing & What’s Next

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Immigration Equality 2010

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.

14 Responses to The Immigration Bill: What’s There, What’s Missing & What’s Next

  1. Jill Holmes says:

    We are writing this letter urging you to please consider supporting the UAFA Bill, do away with DOMA and any other laws that stand in the way of LGBT US citizens getting equal rights. Our family has been torn apart as a result of our country’s discriminatory immigration laws when it pertains to gay marriages. Our daughter is a lesbian who is now residing in London, UK with her British spouse. Our daughter and her wife were married in California in October 2008, prior to the first Prop 8 mess. They were “allowed” to keep their marital status, but that does not help them with the current federal immigration laws. Our daughter’s wife was here in the US on a Student Visa, however her Visa allowed her only to work at the school she was attending, and there were no jobs available at the small college she attended. Everything fell onto our daughter to support them as a married couple, and pay for expensive schooling to keep her partner’s student Visa status intact. Her partner was already a graduate of a London University. They were simply “buying time”. Our daughter used most of her inheritance my father had left her in 2007 to keep her wife here in the US. With the money running out, they were ultimately forced to move to the UK in January 2011, where their marriage is recognized as a civil union. Our daughter had to leave a job she loved, her home she lived in…which was very sad as my father had left the home to us along with his dog for her and her partner to live in and take care of. Most importantly, she left a mother, father, sister, relatives and friends that love her and her partner dearly, and we are all heartbroken. If she and her partner had wanted to move to the UK we would of course miss them, but they could have left on a happy note due to their choosing the UK over the US, but this is not the case. Our daughter was forced to choose between her legal wife or “her” country. I have to put “her” in quotes, as we feel if this was really her country, she would have equal rights. Had she married a man in 2008, he would already be a US citizen. With the passage of the UAFA bill, you would be keeping legally married LGBT bi-national couples and their families together. With DOMA thrown out as unconstitutional, it would hopefully open the door for her legal spouse to become a US citizen. We feel that our daughter has been exiled from her own country, because she just so happened to fall in love with a woman from the UK. Our US Constitution starts out with “We the people”….It was not written with limitations to say “We the Straight Heterosexual People”….The time has come to end this blatant discrimination. Please support and help pass the UAFA Bill, and do all that can be done to do away with the hateful DOMA law.
    Thank you.
    Sincerely,
    Wes and Jill Holmes

  2. Leo says:

    I married with my husband in NYC at the beginning of this year, I did my best to ask my company let me come to US for business trip so that I have chance to live with my husband who is an american citizen while on my business period, I traveled every 3 months between Chian and US in last year, but now I cant go to US anymore due to my company problem, but if I am a girl then I can stay here and get a green card preety easily, In our opinion US is a very democratic and human rights protected country, but from LBGT way I cant see this, it seems that US does not care their LBGT people, even some people is exiled or is separated from their wifes or husband,if US can not change this , please dont censure the other countries for despotic, inhunmance and inequlity! Please look at France, Germany, New Zeland,Spain, and think about what you US did for your people. I want to say US please dont stopping social progressing even back the wheel of history. We people just want to be equal!

  3. Madison Reed says:

    This is nothing but vicious bullying of LGBT families again by religious cultists who have taken oaths to uphold and defend the U.S. constitution for all Americans – but they have violated their oaths! How can they get by with this?

  4. David says:

    One thing I can’t understand is how we, America, are supposed to be the leader of the “free” world, yet we are going in the wrong direction when it comes to the LGBT Americans.
    I, myself, am in the lineup of ones that have fallen in love with a foreigner, and we are currently physically separated because of the US law not allowing us to become married and him be a citizen.
    He’s Italian, home of Catholicism, but he said that soon Italy will pass marriage laws to allow LGBT to marry.
    So shocking to me! I never thought Italy would have that done so quickly. He said their laws already allow for it, they just have to vote on allowing it physically.
    Other countries within Europe and around the world have already allowed same sex marriage and they are supposed to be folllowers of America, but clearly they are the leaders; not America.
    Please supposed UAFA and strike down all laws in discrimination of lawful LGBT Americans.
    We are supposed to be the land of the free but clearly we’re not.
    We are also supposed to be teachers of respect for all walks of life, but we’re not.
    I support marriage equality for everyone. I hope you will too!

  5. Anna says:

    I and my partner, one couple of thousands, are separated and have been for over two years now. I am from the UK and my partner is from the US. We thought it would be as easy as her coming to the UK to which we could marry legally and she could then become a permanent resident or a citizen. However, it’s never that simple and due to the circumstances we find ourselves in presently, we have to remain apart. Like thousands, we hope and pray for DOMA to be struck down as right now, that is the only hope we have of actually being able to have the life we want.

    I’m so disappointed that the UAFA has not been included in the bill – but we can’t fall behind now. We need to keep pushing, keep moving forward. I speak for my own pain and for thousands of others, this blatant discrimination needs to end now. It is beyond unfair – you are supposed to be the “United” States of America – the leader of the free world. But yet, there is nothing free about it and you lead no more.

    It’s a human right to be married to the one you love.

  6. Marco says:

    Hi IE,

    Although the fight must keep going, it’d be great if you can compile a FAQ for this bill aimed us, binational couples. I’m currently in an F-1 visa bound to expire in the middle of this year and I cannot figure out if this bill would help me or not (to apply for RPI status, that is). The wording of the bill itself is filled with exceptions to exceptions.

    This would mean the world to some of us.

    Thank you!
    Marco

    • Immigration Equality says:

      Marco,

      Our legal team is currently reading the bill, and will post an analysis on our website once that is complete. (The bill is 844 pages long, so it takes a while to read in its entirety!)

      In the meantime, you can contact our legal staff with questions about your particular situation via our online ‘Contact Us’ form. Someone from our team will respond to you as quickly as possible.

      http://immigrationequality.org/contact-us/

      Thank you!

  7. Tom Hoppel says:

    We have been writing and calling Senator Menendez, who is the senator from my home state of NJ and a member of the so called “Gang of Eight” to tell him how disappointed we are that he has decided to stand with some of the most conservative and anti-LGBT Senators to draft a piece of important legislation that excludes us. I grew up in NJ and have been living in exile for 10 years simply to live with my partner of 18 years. Senator Menendez claims to support marriage equality but when he had this important chance to include us and stand with the President, instead he chose not to and does not respond to calls or letters.

  8. Pingback: The Immigration Bill: What’s There, What’s Missing & What’s Next | Global Equality Today

  9. AGonzalez says:

    My partner and I have been living together since February of 2003. We met while I was going to college, she was my classmate, my tutor and shortly the love of my life. She has lived in the USA since 1998 while getting an education, training, and working — living the ‘American Dream’… Like many foreigners this dream, this life, this love has an expiration date! Her visa will expire this September. We have travelled many paths together but seems like we have hit a dead end and will need to find out our way to her country or any other place that makes us ‘legal’. We will have to leave behind our family, friends and everything we have built and shared together this last ten years. Everything will soon turn into a memory and everything will become a dream — a dream that one day we will be recognized as one more equal member of this society. Our government claims that everyone is treated equal and is proud of its diverse community and the thousands of opportunities that are at our reach… Yet not for us! Women are to be treated equal to men but two of us or two of them is not, how is that? How are we any different? How are we any different? These laws are affecting everyone not just me, not just the LGBT family, it is affecting our country, our society, our family, our friends! What will it take for OUR government to keep our families together.

  10. Marco says:

    Thank you, IE. Looking forward to your analysis and as always, immensely appreciative of your tireless support for us.

  11. Ralph says:

    I honestly do not believe the bill will pass.

  12. Jess says:

    I already emailed 17 senators from the list…. we need to keep on fighting… email… speak out… let our voices be heard… make ourselves more visible than ever

  13. Pat says:

    I got in a commitment ceremony with my Partner David on 23rd March in AZ. He is a US citizen and I am an Indian.
    I still have 2 years of H1-B visa remaining, but just don’t know about the future. We never made it as legal marriage and went to any of the states which allow gay marriages out of fear that if I get the married status legally than it will be in the system and since marriage is not recognized by immigration law, my H1-B extension would be in jeopardy.
    As of now I am clueless what will be our future.

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