An influential pro-immigrant U.S. House member has endorsed including protections for LGBT bi-national couples as part of comprehensive immigration reform legislation.
In a statement Thursday, Rep. Luiz Gutierrez (D-Ill.) said inclusion of language allowing LGBT Americans to sponsor foreign partners for residency in the United States is an important part of a broader reform bill.
“Our efforts to fix our broken immigration system and protect basic civil rights are not truly comprehensive if we exclude same-sex couples,” he said.
Standalone legislation that would enable an estimated 36,000 bi-national same-sex couples to stay together in the United States is known as the Uniting American Families Act. Proponents of the legislation have been seeking inclusion of UAFA as part of upcoming comprehensive immigration reform legislation in Congress.
Gutierrez is schueduled to announce officially his support for inclusion of UAFA on Monday at a press conference in Chicago, Ill. Joining him at the conference will be Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) and gay Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.), who also support inclusion of LGBT couples in immigration reform.
Late last year, Gutierrez introduced his own version of comprehensive immigration reform legislation that was seen an alternative to the working bill expected later. However, even though Gutierrez is a co-sponsor of UAFA, the legislation didn’t include UAFA-like language.
According to the statement from Gutierrez’ office, the lawmaker’s recent announcement means he’s “recommitting himself” to inclusion of specific UAFA-like language as part of comprehensive reform.
Support from Gutierrez — a favorite among Latino and pro-immigration groups – can only bolster the efforts of LGBT rights supporters seeking to include UAFA as part of larger reform. In the Senate, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) is poised to lead legislative efforts this year on the issue, although when his bill will be introduced remains in question.
Steve Ralls, spokesperson for Immigration Equality, called Gutierrez a “key ally” in including UAFA in comprehensive reform because of “his leadership on immigration issues, his membership of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.”
“He’s someone who carries a huge amount of influence and credibility on immigration reform generally,” he said.