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Sixty members of Congress have issued a letter to President Obama and congressional leaders calling for immigration reform to include rights for LGBT binational families and couples.
The letter asks to change the current law, which prohibits citizens from sponsoring their same-sex partners for residency in the United States.
Representatives Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, Barney Frank of Massachusetts, Jerrold Nadler of New York, Jared Polis of Colorado, Mike Honda of California, and Mike Quigley of Illinois spearheaded the letter.
"We are a nation of immigrants and, as a result, our diversity is our greatest strength," Polis said in the statement. "Unfortunately, our out-dated immigration system contains laws that discriminate against LGBT families and hinder our economy, our diversity, and our status as a beacon of hope and liberty to people across the world."
Nadler, the lead House sponsor of the Uniting American Families Act, expressed his support of the legislation in a statement.
"We must take the government out of the business of singling out LGBT families for discriminatory treatment and live up to our democratic ideal of equality under the law," Nadler said.
Rachel B. Tiven, executive director of Immigration Equality, added that there are more than 36,000 lesbian and gay binational families waiting for the Uniting American Families Act to pass Congress.
"Passage of immigration reform will require every family standing with their neighbors and loved ones to work for change," Tiven said.
It was signed by members of the LGBT Equality Caucus, the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.
The text of the letter can be found on the next page.
The Honorable Barack Obama
President of the United States of America
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, D.C. 20500
The Honorable Harry Reid
Majority Leader, U.S. Senate
522 Hart Senate Office Bldg
Washington, D.C. 20510
The Honorable Nancy Pelosi
Speaker, U.S. House of Representatives
H-232, U.S. Capitol
Washington, D.C. 20515
The Honorable Charles E. Schumer
Chairman, Subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees and Border Security
313 Hart Senate Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
The Honorable Zoe Lofgren
Chairwoman, Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security, and International Law
102 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515
Dear President Obama, Majority Leader Reid, Speaker Pelosi, Chairman Schumer, and Chairwoman Lofgren:
As members of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus, we are writing to express our strong support for a comprehensive immigration reform bill which would end discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) binational families. We urge Congress to include the Uniting American Families Act (H.R. 1024/S. 424) in any comprehensive immigration reform legislation.
Currently, U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents may sponsor their spouses (and other immediate family members) for immigration purposes. But, same-sex partners committed to spending their lives together are not recognized as "families" under U.S. immigration law and thus do not have this same right. As a result, tens of thousands of binational families are either already living separately, face imminent separation, or have left the U.S. entirely in order to remain together. This is unacceptable, and we believe comprehensive immigration reform legislation must include a strong family reunification component inclusive of LGBT families.
According to 2000 census data compiled by the Williams Institute, an estimated 36,000 LGBT binational families are impacted by the inability to sponsor their partners for residency, and nearly half of those (47 percent) are raising children. Our existing, discriminatory immigration laws hurt not only those individuals, but their extended families, communities, and employers, as well. Not only would an inclusive family reunification provision strengthen American families, it would bolster the competitiveness of businesses in the U.S. by allowing corporations to attract, employ, and retain the very best talent from across the globe. Indeed, the U.S. lags behind 19 countries that already recognize same-sex couples for immigration purposes, including the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, France, and Germany.
In truth, no immigration reform bill can be called "comprehensive" unless it includes all Americans, including those who are LGBT. This is recognized in the Reuniting Families Act (H.R. 2709), which includes LGBT families in addressing the broader immigration problem of family unification.
We urge you to include LGBT binational families in comprehensive immigration reform legislation. No one should be forced to choose between the person they love and the country they call home. It is time that our immigration laws kept families together instead of tearing them apart.
Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Congressmen Barney Frank (D- MA), Jared Polis (D-CO), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Mike Honda (D-CA), and Mike Quigley (D-IL), et. al.