LGBT advocates, members of Congress and others spoke to media this morning in Washington, D.C. Their message: Pass LGBT-inclusive immigration reform.

And, lest you think this is an issue that doesn’t affect your Carolinas LGBT community, think again.

From Family Equality:

Congressional leaders today called on their colleagues to support comprehensive immigration reform legislation that includes lesbian and gay families. Representatives from the Hispanic, Black, and Asian-Pacific congressional caucuses, among others, agree that the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) must be part of any future immigration reform effort.

“We are pleased to see such broad support in Congress for inclusion of lesbian and gay families in immigration reform,” said Jennifer Chrisler, executive director of Family Equality Council, which works on behalf of the one million lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender families raising two million children in the U.S. “Comprehensive reform isn’t truly comprehensive if our families are left out. Family unification must remain the guide for any immigration reform effort.”

More than 36,000 U.S. citizens have a same-sex immigrant partner. Nearly half of these couples are raising an estimated 17,000 children, who are American citizens.

“Because current immigration law doesn’t allow gay Americans to sponsor their partners for immigration, tens of thousands of children face the very real threat of either losing one parent or losing their home,” said Chrisler.

Together with Immigration Equality, Family Equality co-chairs a working group of LGBT, immigration, faith, and civil rights organizations working to pass LGBT-inclusive comprehensive immigration reform this year.

“We need to see a sense of urgency from lawmakers. We urge this Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform, inclusive of lesbian and gay families, this year,” said Emily Hecht-McGowan, senior legislative counsel for Family Equality. “Inaction could well mean that kids will be separated from their parents. This is certainly not the American way.”

Today’s congressional coalition supporting UAFA included key representatives from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus; Congressional Black Caucus; Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus; Congressional Progressive Caucus and Congressional Equality Caucus. We are especially grateful to the bills’ sponsors– Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) in the House and Sen. Patrick Leahy (VT) in the Senate– as well as Reps. Mike Honda (D-CA), Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), Nydia Velazquez (D-NY), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Jared Polis (D-CO), and Mike Quigley (D-IL).

From The Task Force’s executive director, Rea Carey:

“U.S. immigration policy is supposed to be based on the principle of bringing and keeping families together, but the system is broken. Instead of unification, the policy often results in painful separation of loved ones. This must change. The U.S. has 12 million undocumented immigrants, including at least half a million lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. Thousands of binational same-sex couples and their families have been kept separated or forced to live abroad. This discriminatory practice is unfair and inhumane. No one should ever have to choose between their partner and their country or be denied the freedom to be with their families. UAFA is consistent with U.S. immigration law’s existing policy of keeping families intact. We thank the members of Congress standing for equality today and for supporting the inclusion of LGBT families in all future comprehensive immigration reform efforts.”

And, from HRC’s Joe Solmonese:

“Our nation should bring families together, not tear them apart, yet same-sex, bi-national couples are too often forced to separate because the government views them as strangers under the law. For far too long, leaders have ignored the devastating real-life consequences for these couples imposed by our current immigration policies. Family reunification is a primary goal of our immigration system but our government fails to accomplish this basic objective for thousands of loving same-sex couples.”

Matt Comer

Matt Comer previously served as editor from October 2007 through August 2015 and as a staff writer afterward in 2016.