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Wisconsin Gazette: LGBT Groups Respond to Senators’ ‘Framework’ for Immigration Reform

by Lisa Neff | Wisconsin Gazette

An LGBT civil rights group on Jan. 28 observed that a proposed “framework” for comprehensive immigration reform from a bipartisan group of Senators fails to mention LGBT binational families.

Immigration Equality said in a statement this afternoon that it was disappointed the Senate proposal, which includes a path to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrations and a guest-worker program, fails to offer a specific solution for keeping binational LGBT families together.

IE, in the release, said the Congressional Hispanic Caucus earlier this year released its priorities for immigration reform, and included, at No. 2 on the list, concern for binational LGBT families.

Also, IE said the White House last week made a statement supporting efforts to include LGBT families in immigration reform, noting that the president “has long believed that Americans with same-sex partners from other countries should not be faced with the painful choice between staying with the person they love or staying in the country they love, and he welcomes changes that would help keep families together.”

The Senate group – now nicknamed the “Gang of 8″ – consists of Charles Schumer, D-N.Y.,  Robert Menendez, D-N.J., Dick Durbin, D-Ill., Michael Bennet, D-Colo., Marco Rubio, R-Fla., John McCain, R-Ariz., Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. The group’s framework is not a bill, but a starting point for a bill.

So, IE said, it will “work non-stop to make sure our families are part of comprehensive immigration reform legislation when it is introduced. Any immigration bill in Congress must allow LGBT people to sponsor their spouse or permanent partner in the same way opposite-sex couples have long been able to under current immigration law.”

“This morning, millions of future citizens awoke to the news that Congress seems willing to reform our immigration system at last. We all share a common goal: Reform that keeps families together, offers a pathway to citizenship for the undocumented who are already Americans in spirit, and honors our country’s legacy as a nation of immigrants. That should include LGBT families, too, and we pledge to continue working for that fair, inclusive reform along with our allies.”

Immigration Equality Action Fund joined in a statement released by a coalition of LGBT civil rights groups responding to the “framework.”

The statement, signed by IE, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Action Fund, National Center for Lesbian Rights, National Center for Transgender Equality and the Human Rights Campaign, said:

“We are fully committed to and deeply understand the need for this nation to adopt a humane and effective comprehensive immigration policy which places a premium value on justice, dignity, respect and opportunity.

“Any legislation must include the ability of couples in same-sex relationships to sponsor their spouse or permanent-partner in the same way opposite-sex couples have long been able to under current immigration law.

“We stand shoulder-to-shoulder with those striving for and dreaming of a nation that embraces all who come here seeking a better life. We look forward to working with Congress, the White House and every community harmed by our broken immigration system to finally achieve the comprehensive reforms we all so desperately need.”

The American Civil Liberties Union also weighed in, with praise for the inclusion of a path to citizenship but also concerns about privacy rights.

“The gang’s plan is the beginning, not the end, of the discussion on immigration reform,” said Joanne Lin, ACLU legislative counsel. “We urge the passage of a roadmap that is just, humane and fair, without exclusions for minor crimes or past removal orders, and unobstructed by prohibitive fees or penalties. Forcing the separation of families and the abandonment of children is contrary to American values and our national interest.”

ACLU legislative counsel Chris Calabrese added, “The outline’s call for employers to be mandated to use E-Verify, an expensive electronic employment-verification system, is a thinly-disguised national ID requirement that undermines the privacy of every American worker while imposing new burdens on businesses. Mandatory E-Verify would not only lead to discrimination against those who look or sound ‘foreign,’ but also increase the risk of identity theft and make it harder to get a job.’

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