Senate Immigration Bill Removes Added Burden on Same-Sex Couples Sought by House

by HRC Staff

Human Rights Campaign and Immigration Equality Ask Congress to Push Forward on Fair Policies for Same-Sex Couples

The Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday passed a guest worker program granting an estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants a path to U.S. citizenship. While binational same-sex couples will continue to face discrimination under the Senate-proposed program, it stands in stark contrast to last year's House-passed measure that would criminalize harboring undocumented immigrants, including same-sex partners with expired visas.

"The Judiciary Committee's bill is good news for America," said Immigration Equality Executive Director Rachel B. Tiven, "but lesbian and gay families are still cruelly discriminated against under immigration law, despite Congress' promise to value families."

"Nobody should be forced to choose between the person they love and breaking the law," said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese. "The House version would force a same-sex partner to turn in their loved one or risk criminal penalties. American families are being torn apart under the current structure and there is absolutely no reason to increase their burden."

The version passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee includes an amendment protecting groups and individuals from being prosecuted for knowingly or unknowingly offering humanitarian assistance to illegal immigrants.

Under the Senate Judiciary Committee's bill, participants would receive a valid visa status that would enable them to work for up to six years. After the six-year work period, an individual under this program would pay a fine and then become eligible to apply for permanent residency.

The Senate Judiciary bill goes a long way toward addressing many problems within the U.S. immigration regime but it is neither comprehensive nor fair. The bill fails to address the second-class nature of same-sex relationships despite the guiding principle of family unity within the Senate bill and within the larger immigration system. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender immigrants, as well as their U.S. citizen partners, continue to be devalued as their relationships go unrecognized.

Additionally, several troublesome measures aimed at increasing border security and increasing the government's power of indefinite detention of individuals, expedited removal and deportation, now go to the full Senate for debate.

"Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender immigrants and their families are uniquely vulnerable," added Tiven. "Detaining more immigrants, with less judicial review, will put the lives of innocent people at risk."

Immigration Equality addresses the widespread discriminatory impact of U.S. immigration laws on the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and HIV-positive immigrants, their families and loved ones.

The Human Rights Campaign is the largest national lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender political organization with members throughout the country. It effectively lobbies Congress, provides campaign support and educates the public to ensure that LGBT Americans can be open, honest and safe at home, at work and in the community.

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