LGBT immigration advocates are pushing Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich to put his money where his mouth is on the “humane” immigration policy he espoused that would allow undocumented immigrants to remain in the United States.
Gingrich, the current GOP presidential front-runner, made the remarks Tuesday night near the end of the CNN Republican presidential debate on national security held in D.C.
The former U.S. House speaker said the GOP should embrace a policy allowing undocumented immigrants to remain in the country if they’ve resided in the United States a long time.
“If you’ve been here 25 years and you got three kids and two grandkids, you’ve been paying taxes and obeying the law, you belong to a local church, I don’t think we’re going to separate you from your family, uproot you forcefully and kick you out,” Gingrich said.
The candidate later continued, “I don’t see how the party that says it’s the party of the family is going to adopt an immigration policy which destroys families that have been here a quarter century. And I’m prepared to take the heat for saying, ‘Let’s be humane in enforcing the law without giving them citizenship but by finding a way to create legality so that they are not separated from their families.'”
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Gingrich — most likely unknowingly — hit on an issue that’s important to LGBT advocates because of the inequities in the immigration system affecting gay Americans seeking to stay together in the United States with same-sex partners who are foreign nationals.
Under current immigration code, gay Americans can’t sponsor their foreign partners for residency in the United States because same-sex marriage isn’t legal in many places and because the Defense of Marriage Act prohibits federal recognition of those unions. Consequently, foreign nationals who are in committed relationships with gay Americans may have to leave the United States or face deportation.
Steve Ralls, spokesperson for Immigration Equality, called for Gingrich to follow up on his remarks by endorsing comprehensive immigration reform and family reunification legislation that has language for gay bi-national couples:
“The former Speaker’s comments on Tuesday highlight a growing truth: There are few Americans whose lives are not touched, in some way, by the millions of immigrants — both documented and undocumented — who call our country home. As Gingrich pointed out, the immigrant community includes our family members, friends, neighbors and co-workers. Of the 400,000 individuals forcibly removed from the United States last year, most had no criminal record and many have loved ones who are American citizens. Of course, some of those were also lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender and were separated from spouses, partners and children. One of those is Jair Izquierdo, who was deported just weeks before Christmas last year and whose partner, Richard Dennis, continues to work for his safe return home. Given his past record on issues important to LGBT families, I worry that Gingrich’s comments were not intended to include families like Richard and Jair, but I also hope I am wrong.”
“Gingrich’s remarks last night, and the recent guidelines for discretion issued by the Obama Administration, underscore the need to be explicit that, in the United States, we include every family member – gay or straight – when we talk about keeping families together. It is past time for both parties to come together and pass comprehensive, inclusive immigration reform. Gingrich’s vision of a compassionate immigration policy mirrors the principles put forth by Senator Robert Menendez in his reform bill, and by Congressman Mike Honda in the Reuniting Families Act. We would welcome the former Speaker’s support in pressing for passage of both bills, which include all families and which would help bring couples like Richard and Jair back together again.”
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Lavi Soloway, founder of Stop the Deportations, said Gingrich should denounce DOMA, which enables the separation of bi-national gay couples, in addition to calling on President Obama to issue a moratorium on DOMA deportations:
“Gingrich clearly wanted the audience to believe that, if elected President, he would pursue immigration reform that keeps families together, rather than allow families to be torn apart. In a general sense, what Gingrich said reflects the bedrock principle of U.S. immigration law: family unification. However, those words are cold comfort coming from Mr. Gingrich, who has stood solidly against LGBT families throughout his political career. If Newt Gingrich really believes that we should fashion an inclusive immigration policy that protects all families, he should immediately denounce the Defense of Marriage Act which currently excludes more than 40,000 lesbian and gay binational couples from our existing immigration system. He should urge the President to put a moratorium on “DOMA deportations.”
“But Mr. Gingrich will not do that because he not only helped lead passage of DOMA as Speaker of the House in 1996, he continues to actively oppose equality for LGBT families today. All candidates for public office, regardless of party, must address the humanitarian crisis faced by lesbian and gay binational couples because of DOMA and support concrete solutions for the protection of all families.”
Despite calls among LGBT advocates encouraging Gingrich to step up his pledge on a “humane” immigration policy, political observers are saying the candidate’s remarks on likely hurt him among GOP primary voters.
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In the debate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney pounced on Gingrich and called the candidate’s idea a form of “amnesty” that would bring more undocumented immigrants into the United States.
Romney lated added past programs in the country “have said that if people who come here illegally are going to get to stay illegally for the rest of their life, that’s going to only encourage more people to come here illegally.”
The Gingrich campaign couldn’t be reached to comment on the calls from LGBT advocates for an inclusive immigration policy.