White House Press Secretary Jay Carney suggested on Wednesday that President Obama isn’t open to issuing a moratorium to stop the deportations of LGBT foreign nationals in same-sex marriages who would be eligible for residency in the United States if not for the Defense of Marriage Act.
Under questioning from the Washington Blade, Carney noted that Obama articulated in his immigration speech on Tuesday that problems in the immigration code — whether they impact gay Americans and their foreign spouses or not — require a comprehensive legislative solution as opposed to executive action.
“The president, I think, made the point in his speech yesterday that he believes we have to take comprehensive action on immigration reform and that he can’t just wave a wand and change the law,” Carney said. “So, I’ll leave — I’ll leave it at that terms in of his views.”
Pressed on whether he believes the White House has the authority to issue such a moratorium, Carney replied, “It’s not for me to decide. I’m not a lawyer.”
Foreign nationals in same-sex relationships with Americans could be subject to deportation and separation from their loved ones upon expiration of their temporary visas that allow them to remain in the country. Even U.S. citizens in legally recognized same-sex marriages with foreign nationals cannot obtain marriage-based I-130 green cards for their spouses because of DOMA, which prohibits federal recognition of the unions.
While Obama has called for passage of comprehensive immigration reform legislation, the White House has yet to articulate support for LGBT inclusion as part of any larger package. Standalone legislation that would address this problem both for same-sex bi-national couples — married or otherwise — is known as the Uniting American Families Act.
Asked whether the president wants to see UAFA included as part of any comprehensive package, Carney reiterated the previously enumerated items that Obama wants to see in reform.
“That’s a level of specificity I don’t have,” Carney said. “The president’s committed to comprehensive immigration reform. He thinks that it’s got to contain the elements of the continued focus on law enforcement and border control. And it has to deal with changes to legal immigration and a way to deal with the 11 million illegal immigrants here that’s fair to both them and to businesses and to those who are here legally and going — and approaching this in a legal manner.”
During his speech on immigration on Tuesday, Obama never directly addressed how current immigration law affects gay Americans who are unable to sponsor their foreign partners for residency in the United States.
At one point, Obama more generally said immigration law should “respect families following the rules — reuniting them more quickly instead of splitting them apart.” However, the remark seemed directed toward immigrants who are permanent residents in the United States seeking to have their loved ones join them, and not aimed at problems faced by gay Americans and their foreign partners.
Asked why Obama didn’t address how the current immigration law directly impacts LGBT Americans, Carney replied, “He gave a pretty long, comprehensive speech.”