The Senate Judiciary Committee on March 27th passed a guest
worker program granting an estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants
a path to U.S. citizenship. While binational same-sex couples will
continue to face discrimination under the Senate-proposed program, it
stands in stark contrast to last year's House-passed measure that would
criminalize harboring undocumented immigrants, including same-sex
partners with expired visas.
"The Judiciary Committee's bill is good news for America," said
Immigration Equality Executive Director Rachel B. Tiven, "but lesbian
and gay families are still cruelly discriminated against under
immigration law, despite Congress' promise to value families."
"Nobody should be forced to choose between the person they love and
breaking the law," said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese.
"The House version would force a same-sex partner to turn in their loved
one or risk criminal penalties. American families are being torn apart
under the current structure and there is absolutely no reason to
increase their burden."
The version passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee includes an
amendment protecting groups and individuals from being prosecuted for
knowingly or unknowingly offering humanitarian assistance to illegal
Under the Senate's Judiciary Committee bill, participants would receive
a valid visa status that would enable them to work for up to six years.
After the six-year work period, an individual under this program would
pay a fine and then become eligible to apply for permanent residency.
The Senate Judiciary bill goes a long way toward addressing many
problems within the U.S. immigration regime but it is neither
comprehensive nor fair. The bill fails to address the second-class
nature of same-sex relationships despite the guiding principle of family
unity within the Senate bill and within the larger immigration system.
Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender immigrants, as well as their U.S.
citizen partners continue to be devalued as their relationships go
Additionally, several troublesome measures aimed at increasing border
security and increasing the government's power of indefinite detention
of individuals, expedited removal and deportation, now go to the full
Senate for debate.
"Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender immigrants and their families
are uniquely vulnerable," added Tiven. "Detaining more immigrants, with
less judicial review, will put the lives of innocent people at risk."
Immigration Equality addresses the widespread discriminatory impact of
U.S. immigration laws on the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual,
transgender, and HIV-positive immigrants, their families and loved ones.
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