How Comprehensive Is The Blueprint For Immigration Reform?
On Monday, Senators Dick Durbin (D-Ill), John McCain (R-Ariz.), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) by way of a statement passed to McCain, presented a plan for comprehensive immigration reform to the nation. Their plan included four distinct principles: “tough but fair” pathway to citizenship, increased border security, and an effective employment verification system. A summary of the plan can be found here. While it is exciting to see real change to our broken immigration system proposed in the Senate, the results of this bipartisan plan might inadvertently leave people other marginalized members of the immigrant community behind.
This morning McCain told CBS including language that would include protections for binational LGBT couples, where one partner is a U.S. citizen and the other undocumented, was "not of paramount importance."
ThinkProgress reported that Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) told LGBT advocacy groups on Sunday afternoon that inclusive LGBT language was excluded due to Republican opposition, but added that Senate Judiciary Committee Patrick Leahy (D-VT) “will offer an amendment in his committee to protect gay couples.”
But Schumer's remarks Monday acknowledged the the bipartisan compromise, and expressed confidence in its success. President Obama, who was reportedly pleased by the bipartisan collaboration, is slated to speak about comprehensive immigration reform this afternoon.
Immigrant and LGBT rights organizations have already responded to Monday's events, voicing support and concern about the plan. GetEQUAL, who responded with a press release, inquired about the inclusion of LGBT individuals and families in the pathway to citizenship, employment verification and family unification.
Felipe Sousa-Rodriguez, an organizer with GetEQUAL, told Campus Progress that a pathway to citizenship is also an LGBT issue, and both communities must come together to support an inclusive plan for reform as well as push to fill the gaps in the current plan. He said undocumented people seeking family unification are prohibited from doing so if they are part of an LGBT family with parents who can not legally marry in most states.
Sousa-Rodriguez cited the 2011 Uniting American Families Act as a positive piece of legislation that protected the rights of committed partners seeking family unification. Monday’s proposal did not make such a provision, but one could be added back in when the bill is brought before Congress. He also added that so-called “e-verification” adds yet another barrier to employment for LGBT people because of the already existing employment discrimination laws in 34 states.
Sousa-Rodriguez said he was confident that the LGBT and immigrant rights movements could work together to ensure true comprehensive immigration reform. “As we continue to achieve synergy between both movements we will achieve a path that is humane, and will include all our families,” he said.
Emma Weinstein Levey is a reporter at Campus Progress.Follow her on Twitter @ebwlevey.