HRC Blog

Nadler: Immigration Reform Must Be LGBT-Inclusive

Rep. Jeremy Nadler; Uniting American Families ActPost submitted by Rep. Jerrry Nadler, the Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, and the lead sponsor of the Uniting American Families Act

With Congress set to act on comprehensive immigration reform, one of the most important unresolved issues is whether we will end the gratuitous harm that our immigration law inflicts on bi-national, same-sex couples and LGBT immigrants.  Unlike other loving couples that may sponsor their spouses for immigration purposes, current federal law treats committed gay and lesbian couples as complete strangers—a double standard that rips apart stable families.

Take, for example, Santiago Ortiz and Pablo Garcia of New York City, a committed couple since 1991 and married since 2011.  Because they’re gay, when Pablo’s visa expired, he was forced to choose between staying with the love of his life or returning to his native Venezuela.  When Pablo chose to stay with Santiago, he was forced to live in legal limbo—unable to visit his family or attend his father’s funeral for fear of being unable to return to the U.S. and his life with Santiago.

Pablo and Santiago’s story, while heartbreaking, is not unique.  There are an estimated 40,000 bi-national LGBT couples in America that are in danger of separation, deportation, and general instability.

What makes these situations worse is that there is simply no legitimate reason for these harms.  Forcing any family to either separate or live together in fear does not accomplish any public policy goal.  Instead of tearing apart families and communities, our immigration laws should support strong, stable, and united families of all varieties.

This is why I have again introduced the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA), which would update our immigration law to allow LGBT Americans the opportunity to sponsor their permanent partners for immigration purposes.  This bipartisan legislation has the support of President Obama, much of the Congress, and hundreds of civil rights and business organizations, including the NAACP, the American Bar Association, and the Anti-Defamation League.

If our immigration laws are to be just and effective, they must allow loving, committed families to stay together.  Our current policy fails this simple test.  And, as Congress debates what reforms are necessary to fix our profoundly broken immigration system, it is plain that no comprehensive immigration legislation can be truly comprehensive unless it includes LGBT families.  UAFA must be a part of any deal.  Period.




Over the coming weeks, HRC will chronicle the stories of a diverse group of Americans who are harmed every day by this country’s immigration laws. Stay tuned to HRC Blog for more.

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