By Michelle Garcia
Originally published on Advocate.com January 30 2013 4:53 PM ET
President Obama has unveiled his plan to overhaul the country's immigration procedures, including the establishment of rights for same-sex binational couples.
"I’m here because most Americans agree that it’s time to fix a system that’s been broken for way too long." President Obama said from Del Sol High School in Las Vegas Tuesday morning. "I’m here because business leaders, faith leaders, labor leaders, law enforcement, and leaders from both parties are coming together to say now is the time to find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as the land of opportunity. Now is the time to do this so we can strengthen our economy and strengthen our country’s future."
Obama's speech did not explicitly mention uniting binational LGBT families in the U.S., but his written plan does stress the need to essentially include Rep. Jerold Nadler's Uniting American Families Act in a larger immigration package, along with a clearer pathway to citizenship.
"[The proposal] also treats same-sex families as families by giving U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents the ability to seek a visa on the basis of a permanent relationship with a same-sex partner," the plan reads.
Nadler commended the president's plan, describing LGBT families' experiences in this situation as being "caught in immigration purgatory."
The New York representative added, "What is clear is that U.S. immigration policies must be drastically overhauled to ensure that they always support stable families, strengthen communities and local economies, provide labor and jobs without exploitation, and, above all, are fair and nondiscriminatory."
Human Rights Campaign president Chad Griffin said Tuesday that the president's inclusive plan demonstrates his leadership on LGBT issues.
"Every day thousands of binational same-sex couples are confronted with the uncertainty of immigration laws that treat them as strangers," Griffin said. "They face the impossible dilemma of having to choose between love and country."
Ricardo Lara, a gay Latino California state senator, also heralded the president's plan.
"There are 11 million people in this country whose lives could be changed, and millions of dreams that could finally be achieved through the adoption and integration of people who have for too long been living in limbo," he said Tuesday.
Still, members of GetEqual are calling on the president to use his executive power to end "the needless stream of deportations of undocumented individuals." The organization says that 1.5 million undocumented immigrants have been deported under the Obama administration.
"As a beneficiary of [the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program], I know firsthand how one's life is deeply changed by courageous leadership," said Felipe Sousa-Rodriguez, national field director for GetEqual. "However, we need President Obama to show real and tangible leadership on immigration issues and to immediately call for a moratorium on deportations. Hundreds of thousands of LGBT immigrants like myself would benefit from that call in enormous ways while we want for Congress to act."
According to grassroots group Moms Rising, as many as 5 million children living in the U.S. could be separated from a parent because of current deportation laws.
"Congress must come together to develop policies that are good for all our families, and recognize the damaging effects of separating American children their parents or forcing them to start over in a country that is not their own,” said Mary Olivella, chief strategy officer and director of diversity and inclusion campaign initiatives for Moms Rising.