Post submitted by Gregg Moreland, HRC Portland Steering Committee Political Co-Chair
When I wrote that letter, it was the first time I had ever contacted a member of Congress. I did not know if there was anything else I could do to help my partner forge a path to citizenship. I wrote a simple letter to Senator Ron Wyden, telling him the story of a young man who was brought across the border from Mexico by his family when he was 10 years old. In 2001, my partner was in his mid-20’s and did not have any hope for citizenship in the United States.
We had met a couple years before that, and shortly after meeting, we started dating. He eventually moved in with me and I shared my home with the person I loved. Much of the time that we were together, he was unemployed. As an undocumented person, basic things like good employment and healthcare were out of reach for him. As an undocumented person, I was not able to register him as a domestic partner with my employer, which would have provided him with very good health insurance. Since we were a gay couple, I was not able to even sponsor him to become a citizen. Every day, when I left for work or he left to search for work, I would often wonder if that would be the last time I’d see him or if something would happen which would cause him to be deported to a country where he would be a stranger. I could not live with that daily anxiety any longer, so I wrote to one of my Senators.
Senator Wyden, in his response, spoke about how "the issue of whether aliens residing in the United States without legal authorization may be permitted to become legal permanent residents has been debated periodically" in Congress, but that Congress "have not specifically addressed circumstances of an individual’s entrance into the United States." The Senator also noted that “If legislation comes before me regarding the issue of citizenship for aliens…please be assured that I will keep your views in mind.”
When I was in Washington, DC, representing the HRC Portland Steering Committee as part of the annual HRC Spring Lobby Day, I was able to share this story with the Senator’s staff. I was able to remind the Senator that the time is now to act to protect binational LGBT couples as they are considering comprehensive immigration reform.
I have since followed up with all my representatives in Congress to remind them of this story and ask that the comprehensive immigration reform is also inclusive of LGBT couples. Even though my partner and I are no longer together, I will continue to work to make sure that other couples do not have the same barriers.
Immigration reform will not be complete as long as undocumented LGBT citizens do not also have a defined path toward citizenship.
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.