The caucus on Capitol Hill for lawmakers of Hispanic descent has unveiled a set of principles for what it wants to see as part of comprehensive immigration reform and included protections for bi-national same-sex couples as the No. 2 item on its list.
The Congressional Hispanic Caucus made public on Wednesday a nine-item list of principles for comprehensive legislation titled, “One Nation: Principles on Immigration Reform & Our Commitment to the American Dream.” The second item on the list makes a direct reference to same-sex couples, saying the caucus is committed to reform that:
2. Protects the unity and sanctity of the family, including the families of bi-national, same-sex couples, by reducing the family backlogs and keeping spouses, parents, and children together;
Bi-national same-sex couples face potential separation under current immigration law. Unlike straight Americans with foreign-born spouses, gay Americans are unable to sponsor their foreign partners for residency in the United States. Standalone legislation that would address this issue is known as the Uniting American Families Act.
The Obama administration has taken steps to address this issue, but nothing has been codified into law. Just last month, the Department of Homeland Security issued guidance stipulating immigration officers should consider “long-term, same-sex partners” as families when considering whether to exercise prosecutorial discretion in the potential deportation of an undocumented immigrant.
Other items on the list from the caucus include requiring the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country to register with the U.S. government, learn English and pay taxes as well as providing a path to citizenship to young, undocumented immigrations pursuing a college education or military service such as those who would eligible under the DREAM Act.
“Our immigration laws ought to reflect both our interests and our values as Americans and we believe these principles are consistent with our nation’s commitment to fairness and equality,” the document concludes. “We commit to adhering to the above principles as we negotiate on behalf of all Americans in good faith with both parties and all stakeholders in the immigration reform debate.”
Rachel Tiven, executive director of Immigration Equality, said the inclusion of same-sex couples in these principles is important because CHC will be instrumental in crafting immigration reform.
“The Congressional Hispanic Caucus’s commitment to lesbian and gay families sets the baseline for what comprehensive immigration reform must include,” Tiven said. “The LGBT community will bring our energy and our power at the ballot box to the fight for fair and inclusive reform. We salute Congressman Luis Gutierrez, Senator Robert Menendez and the entire Hispanic Caucus for their leadership in outlining an inclusive vision of what that reform will look like.”
Gutierrez, an advocate for immigration community, has previously endorsed the idea of including bi-national couples in immigration reform. Menendez included a provision for gay couples in versions of reform that he previously introduced in the Senate during the 111th and 112th Congresses.
Talks have renewed on Capitol Hill about being able to come to an agreement on comprehensive immigration reform in the wake of Election Day results. It remains to be seen whether any version of immigration reform — LGBT-inclusive or otherwise — will be able to pass the Republican-controlled House in the 113th Congress.
UPDATE: A White House official provided a statement via email in response to the CHC’s inclusion of same-sex couples in its principles for comprehensive immigration reform.
“The President has long believed that Americans with same-sex partners from other countries should not be faced with the painful choice between staying with the person they love or staying in the country they love, and he welcomes changes that would help keep families together,” the official said.