Gay Immigration Battle Heats Up
April 14 2011 11:20 AM ET
Congressional advocates for LGBT immigration reform launched a two-pronged offensive Thursday with the reintroduction of the Uniting American Families Act and the release of a letter from 48 House members urging the Obama administration in part to suspend deportations faced by married gay spouses.
The Thursday letter from Rep. Zoe Lofgren of California and Democratic colleagues called on Atty. Gen. Eric Holder and Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano to mitigate the discrimination faced by binational married couples following the administration’s February announcement that it considers the Defense of Marriage Act to be unconstitutional. The 1996 law bars married gay couples from the citizen sponsorship rights afforded heterosexual married couples.
The release of the letter was timed with the reintroduction of UAFA, which would help keep most binational couples together by making family-based immigration inclusive of same-sex partners of U.S. citizens and permanent residents.
But the letter also highlights the continued divide between advocates who argue that immigration officials can protect married gay couples and an administration that has said that DOMA precludes such action.
Lofgren, ranking member of the House Subcommittee on Immigration Policy and Enforcement, called on the Department of Justice and DHS to suspend deportation proceedings and a put a temporary hold on green card adjudications for gay married couples pending either legal resolution or legislative repeal of DOMA.
“Taking these steps would not flout or disrespect existing law, as it would not provide permanent immigration relief to married couples of the same sex, currently prohibited by Section 3 of DOMA,” Lofgren wrote. “Rather, it would prevent the potentially irreparable harm that would be caused by application of a law that is currently under review by the courts and the U.S. Congress.
“As the country grapples with the question of whether DOMA is constitutional and should be the law of the land,” Lofgren continued, “we ask that you take steps to temporarily preserve the status quo and protect American citizens and their spouses from avoidable harm.”
Lofgren’s letter follows a similar one sent to Holder and Napolitano last week by 12 senators, including John Kerry of Massachusetts and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, urging relief for such couples.
But thus far the administration appears unwilling to do so. Asked whether DHS has responded to the senators’ letter, DHS spokesman Adam Fetcher told The Advocate in a statement, “The administration will respond to the members of Congress directly. Pursuant to the Attorney General’s guidance, the Defense of Marriage Act remains in effect and the Executive Branch, including DHS, will continue to enforce it unless and until Congress repeals it or there a final judicial determination that it is unconstitutional.”