Immigration Reform that Includes the LGBT Community
February 14, 2013 by Allison Herwitt, Vice President for Government Affairs
Immigration reform is an issue that affects many in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. The Human Rights Campaign has long worked on issues around relationship recognition for same-sex, bi-national couples. Presently, the government’s failure to recognize lesbian and gay families for immigration purposes wreaks havoc on the lives of the American citizens who are in relationships with non-citizens and the children who fear being deprived of one of their parents. Many are forced to leave family and friends, sell businesses and abandon the community and country they love in order to keep their families together. Families are forced to choose: separate or live in exile. The Uniting American Families Act would remedy this situation for many of these couples who are not able to sponsor their foreign-born partner for citizenship.
Additionally, we know that there are other issues of importance to LGBT immigrants including providing a pathway to citizenship for those who choose to become U.S. citizens and issues around detention and asylum. There are many stories of LGBT immigrants who go to great lengths to leave their home country where they may be persecuted or even put to death because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Hergit Llenas is a Latina lesbian immigrant from the Dominican Republic who left her country as a young woman. Now living in a country where she is free to live openly and honestly, Hergit is determined to help other LGBT families stay together. By organizing citizenship workshops in Las Vegas, she has helped thousands of Latino permanent residents become naturalized U.S. citizens. Hergit’s love of the country she calls home, and her burning desire to live the American dream, serves as an inspiration to many who want nothing more than to live in a country where they are free to be themselves and don’t need to live in fear of persecution. Hergit’s dream will only become a reality through comprehensive LGBT-inclusive immigration reform.
HRC also believes that those who were brought to this country as young children through no fault of their own should be included in commonsense immigration reform. These young immigrants are active members in their communities and deserve to be able to continue their path to full citizenship.
While there are many aspects of immigration reform to consider, we hope that the lives of those, like Hergit Llenas, who choose to come to America in search of a better life are treated fairly under the law regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
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