July 19, 2010 | by Erwin de Leon
A continuing plight

Last week, U.S. Reps. Luis Gutierrez, Mike Honda, Jerrold Nadler, Jared Polis and Mike Quigley came out in support of an LGBT-inclusive immigration reform at a press event in the Rayburn House Building.

“The underlying part of any comprehensive immigration bill is family unity and I am here today because I think we need to speak more clearly, more articulately, and more frequently that the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, and same-sex couples and their binational relationships, are part of families,” Rep. Gutierrez said.

He emphasized the difficulty that thousands of lesbian and gay bi-national couples face.

“Right now, too many same-sex, bi-national couples face an impossible choice: to live apart or to break the law to be with their partners, families, and children. That’s not good for them and it is not good for the rest of us, either. That’s why I think the provisions of [the Uniting American Families Act] must be part of any comprehensive immigration reform bill.”

I was invited to share my own story as the foreign-born half of a bi-national couple. After the event, John Henrehan, a reporter for Fox 5 WTTG interviewed me. Over the weekend, his segment on immigration reform and same-sex couples was published online and played during local news broadcasts.

A few friends have seen the clip and have been very supportive. Many were unaware of the predicament my husband and I face. Although we have been together 12 years, registered domestic partners in New York City for six years, and now a married couple in the District, he is unable to sponsor me for permanent legal residence simply because we happen to be gay. Immigration is a federal matter and our union is not recognized by current U.S. immigration laws. If we were an opposite-sex couple, getting a green card would not be such a hurdle.

I have lived in the United States for two decades and this is home for me. This is home for both of us. Unfortunately, once I complete my doctorate and my student visa expires sometime during the next couple of years, we may need to leave the country — unless immigration reform which includes LGBT families is passed.

“I thought they did a great job with the story! Hopefully y’all won’t have to move!” posted a friend on my Facebook page.

“Excellent interview. I hope and pray that the laws will change,” wrote another.

Conversations about immigration and the plight of same-sex, bi-national couples are important. I appreciate the concern and well-wishes, but I also challenge my friends and allies to act.

Now that you are aware of this issue, talk to everyone about it: your neighbor, your colleagues, your friends and family, and especially your representatives and senators. Tell them you’d like immigration reform to be LGBT-inclusive and that you’d like immigration reform to happen this year in this Congress.

“You are not going anywhere. We are fighting for our full rights until the end,” vowed a gay friend.

I’m counting on that.

You can follow Erwin on Twitter at @ErwindeLeon.

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