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60 members of Congress seek LGBT-inclusive immigration reform

Sixty members of Congress, led by U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisc., have issued a letter calling on President Obama and congressional leaders to pass legislation to end discrimination against LGBT immigrant families.

The statement, which comes from members of the LGBT Equality Caucus, urges passage of the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) and for inclusion of “LGBT binational families in comprehensive immigration reform.” Under current immigration law, lesbian and gay Americans are unable to sponsor their partners for residency in the United States, resulting in many such families living separately, or facing imminent separation, from their loved ones.

Below is the full text of the congressional sign-on letter:

Dear President Obama, Majority Leader Reid, Speaker Pelosi, Chairman Schumer, and Chairwoman Lofgren:

As members of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus, we are writing to express our strong support for a comprehensive immigration reform bill which would end discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) binational families. We urge Congress to include the Uniting American Families Act (HR 1024/S. 424) in any comprehensive immigration reform legislation.

Currently, U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents may sponsor their spouses (and other immediate family members) for immigration purposes. But, same-sex partners committed to spending their lives together are not recognized as “families” under U.S. immigration law and thus do not have this same right. As a result, tens of thousands of binational families are either already living separately, face imminent separation, or have left the U.S. entirely in order to remain together. This is unacceptable, and we believe comprehensive immigration reform legislation must include a strong family reunification component inclusive of LGBT families.

According to 2000 Census data compiled by the Williams Institute, an estimated 36,000 LGBT binational families are impacted by the inability to sponsor their partners for residency, and nearly half of those (47 percent) are raising children. Our existing, discriminatory immigration laws hurt not only those individuals, but their extended families, communities, and employers, as well. Not only would an inclusive family reunification provision strengthen American families, it would bolster the competitiveness of businesses in the U.S. by allowing corporations to attract, employ, and retain the very best talent from across the globe. Indeed, the U.S. lags behind 19 countries that already recognize same-sex couples for immigration purposes, including the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, France, and Germany.

In truth, no immigration reform bill can be called “comprehensive” unless it includes all Americans, including those who are LGBT. This is recognized in the Reuniting Families Act (HR 2709), which includes LGBT families in addressing the broader immigration problem of family unification.

We urge you to include LGBT binational families in comprehensive immigration reform legislation. No one should be forced to choose between the person they love and the country they call home. It is time that our immigration laws kept families together instead of tearing them apart.