By CHAD GRIFFIN
For the LGBT community, equality in immigration is one of the many struggles that have driven our movement since its earliest days. For much of the 20th century, in the days before Stonewall, immigrants to the United States that were deemed to be sexual or gender minorities were labeled “deviants” or “psychopaths” and turned away—often sent back home to even more unfriendly shores.
It seems like we’ve come a long way since then, and in many ways we have. But as conversations around comprehensive immigration reform heat up, the American people shouldn’t overlook the discrimination that is still on the books to this day.
Because of DOMA, bi-national same-sex couples are treated like strangers by the federal government in immigration cases, even if the couple has a valid, state-granted marriage license. LGBT asylum seekers, often from countries with violently anti-gay environments, are denied a safe place to call home because of an arbitrary one-year filing deadline. And undocumented LGBT youth eligible for the DREAM Act are still waiting for Congress to give them a shot at a hopeful future.
Too many families have been torn apart by legal discrimination based on nothing but animus. Too many committed and loving couples have had to make the truly painful choice between the person they love and the country they love. And too many good, upstanding people are denied a chance for a better life because of who they are or who they love.
It is time to take action to right these wrongs. Today, comprehensive immigration reform is back on the table. The American people, members of Congress in both parties and President Obama all agree that it’s time to take lasting and decisive action. These opportunities don’t come along every day. The last major immigration reform bill was signed into law in 1986. It takes an alignment of the political stars to get it done.
But a lot has changed since 1986. It’s no longer an acceptable option to simply sweep LGBT immigrants and their needs on the back burner. That’s why last week the Human Rights Campaign released our declaration of principles on immigration reform—including nine key reforms that must be included in a truly inclusive and comprehensive bill.
Simply put, a “comprehensive” bill must live up to its name. Any legislation that is signed into law must acknowledge that no matter who you are—LGBT or non-LGBT—if you’ve worked hard and paid your dues, you’ve earned a fair and equal shot at the American Dream. This country has a proud history of rolling back laws that treat people differently for no good reason, and immigration reform must continue that proud heritage.
After all, we’re at a historic moment of national consensus. Today, the American people agree on at least two things: treating LGBT people fairly and reforming our broken immigration system. Now it’s time for our laws to catch up to our national values. As a matter of basic justice for all, it’s time for truly inclusive comprehensive immigration reform.
Chad Griffin is president of the Human Rights Campaign. Reach him via hrc.org.