Lawmakers Push Immigration/UAFA
BY Kerry Eleveld
July 15 2010 4:55 PM ET
Key House lawmakers convened a press conference Thursday on Capitol Hill in conjunction with an array of 37 advocacy groups to voice their support for including LGBT families in the comprehensive immigration reform effort.
“No immigration reform measure will truly be deserving of the term ‘comprehensive’ unless it provides equality for gays and lesbians as well,” said Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York, chief sponsor of the Uniting American Families Act, which would allow American citizens and green-card holders to sponsor their same-sex partners for residency.
The event came just one day after the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration held a hearing on reform as key lawmakers in the House make an effort to jump-start the issue again before the close of the 111th Congress.
Nadler was joined by out representative Jared Polis of Colorado; Rep. Mike Honda of California, chief sponsor of the LGBT-inclusive Reuniting Families Act; and Rep. Luis Gutierrez of Illinois, a lead member of the Hispanic caucus who introduced a comprehensive immigration bill last December that did not include LGBT families.
But Gutierrez has since voiced his support for adding same-sex partners into the immigration package over the objections of certain groups, such as the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
“I have been trying to highlight the theme that the underlying part of any comprehensive immigration bill is family unity,” Gutierrez said, “and I’m here today because I think we need to speak out more clearly, more articulately, and more frequently that the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community and same-sex couples and their binational relationships are part of those families.”
Gutierrez added that he was “confident” Congress could pass an immigration bill “that would include the provisions of UAFA this year.”
The press conference and the lawmakers’ insistence on LGBT inclusion represents a shift in the immigration landscape away from a deference to social conservative groups who have fought to exclude same-sex couples from the greater immigration effort.
Nadler addressed one of the main objections of conservative groups head-on during Thursday’s press conference. While some detractors of UAFA have suggested that allowing LGBT people to sponsor their partners is related to the marriage debate, Nadler rejected the assertion emphatically.
“It is simply a question of whether the law should [perpetuate] gratuitous cruelty,” he said. “Keeping couples apart is simply gratuitous, purposeless cruelty on the part of our government. Government should never ever engage in purposeless gratuitous cruelty.”
Edwin Blesch and his South African partner, Tim, know that cruelty all too well. The couple, who met 11 years ago in Cape Town and were since married there, has been commuting from South Africa to New York and, more recently, to Quebec, Canada, over the course of their entire relationship in order to comply with the requirements of Tim’s travel visa.
While it may sound cosmopolitan to some, Blesch said he would much prefer to sponsor his husband for residency in the United States and be more settled.
“We want to be in one place,” he said, "with a cat and a dog and lead a life in the country with a garden."
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