(Editor's note: This statement is attributed to the National Center for Lesbian Rights, GLAAD, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, United We Dream and Queer Undocumented Immigrant Project, GetEQUAL, National Center for Transgender Equality, Equality Federation and National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance.)
“This week, the Senate is considering several amendments to the immigration reform bill that make draconian demands for excessive and unfair enforcement provisions and border armament. This is reckless and insulting to lawmakers trying to negotiate in good faith and to everyone who is committed to providing a roadmap to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants, including 267,000 LGBT immigrants. These amendments are nothing more than poison pills that threaten the entire legislation.
“The Senate bill already contains very strict enforcement provisions that reflect a compromise. Harsher enforcement mechanisms for immigrants will have a disproportionately very negative impact on LGBT immigrants, whom studies have shown receive harsher punishments than their non-LGBT peers — especially in the case of LGBT people of color. The fact is the border is more secure now than it has ever been. We spend more than $17 billion every year on immigration and border enforcement and another $1.2 billion last year on deportation and detention of undocumented immigrants. That money could be much better spent on other priorities, including health care for children and families.
“Instead, we will fight to defeat an amendment that would continue to deny health benefits to immigrants five years after they become legal residents. Even though they could be eligible for citizenship after 13 years, they wouldn’t be able to get certain health care subsidies for at least 15 years and possibly longer. Many LGBT people are unable to get health benefits for their partners and children because of a lack of family recognition. Morevoer, because LGBT people are more likely to live below the poverty line, access to affordable health care is especially important to the community. These factors make access to the benefits of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and Medicaid particularly crucial for the LGBT community. The 13-year roadmap to citizenship is too long as it is; these punitive provisions make that road even more difficult.
“We will also fight to defeat amendments that would require undocumented immigrants to pay back taxes and limit their access to Social Security retirement benefits. These punitive amendments go against the moral imperative of compassionate immigration reform. What’s more, LGBT immigrants and families – especially those of color – would be even more adversely affected by these harsh measures, as they experience unemployment and poverty at higher rates than their non-LGBT peers.
“Some lawmakers who oppose opportunity and dignity for aspiring citizens are trying to move the goal post and go back on the compromises already made by the Gang of Eight. Their willingness to let the bill fall apart is irresponsible and calls into question their commitment to reform.
“And it goes against the will of the American people. A bipartisan poll conducted by Hart Research and Public Opinion Strategies found 80 percent of Americans support reform that includes citizenship for undocumented immigrants. Most polls show citizenship favored by a 2-1 margin, with support even from Republicans. Latino Decisions polling shows that Latino voters are watching the debate closely and want results.
“It is unconscionable that these senators are playing politics when the lives of 11 million people, including 267,000 LGBT immigrants, are at stake. Millions of families have been torn apart because we have a patchwork of failed and mismanaged immigration policies. We must pass humane immigration reform that provides a clear and direct path to citizenship and does not throw up unnecessary roadblocks.”