Comprehensive Immigration Reform Must Include Everyone


We are in the last few weeks before we see an immigration reform bill introduced in the Senate. In fact, according to a report in the Los Angeles Times, a deal has already been hammered out among the Senate’s so-called Gang of Eight senators working on reform covering the pathway to citizenship for the undocumented.

What we are not hearing are any encouraging words on the inclusion of same sex couples in the in family-based immigration. Current immigration law bars same-sex marriage partners from applying for immigration benefits. In other words, even though a couple may be married under the laws of New York, if they are both of the same gender they must live apart in different countries, a senseless cruelty.

A new study from the Williams Institute at UCLA illustrates the magnitude of the suffering of LGBT families. According to the study:

● There are an estimated 113,300 foreign born individuals (naturalized citizens and non-citizens) who are part of a same-sex couple. An estimated 54,600 of these individuals are not US citizens.

● An estimated 32,300 same-sex couples are binational (one US citizen and one non-citizen) along with 11,700 same-sex couples comprised of two non-citizens.

There are tens of thousands of couples, many of whom were legally married in the United States, whose family status is derogated by our immigration laws. For these couples, the Defense of Marriage Act (dreamed up by Newt Gingrich and signed by Bill Clinton) is not some abstract form of discrimination, it is an impediment to love. They are not allowed to live in the same country together because of it.

According to a study by the Williams Institute at UCLA in California, there are some 267,000 undocumented immigrants who identify as LGBT in the U.S., and more than 48,000 of those are in a same-sex couple where one or both spouses or partners are not citizens.

Congress has a unique opportunity to right this wrong when it revamps our outdated immigration laws this year.

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Patrick Young blogs daily for Long Island Wins. He is the Downstate Advocacy Director of the New York Immigration Coalition and Special Professor of Immigration Law at Hofstra School of Law. He served as the Director of Legal Services and Program at Central American Refugee Center (CARECEN) for three decades before retiring in 2019. Pat is also a student of immigration history and the author of The Immigrants' Civil War.

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