(Photo of Aurelio Tolentino and Roi Whaley)
Steve Ralls of Immigration Equality writes:
Thousands of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender citizens in relationships with partners from abroad will be forced to spend Thanksgiving alone... or packing their bags so they can keep their families together.
Under current U.S. immigration laws, lesbian and gay Americans do not have the right to sponsor their foreign national partners for residency, as their straight neighbors do. Instead, immigration laws force these couples -- about 17,000 of whom are raising young children who are American citizens -- to separate or leave the country, forced into exile because their families are not recognized under federal law. This painful reality is forcing many American citizens, and their families, to flee their own country, exacting a heavy cost on our economy, communities and on the countless people who constitute their extended families, too....
More than 36,000 couples ... are being forced into such heart-wrenching decisions, according to research from The Williams Institute at the University of California-Los Angeles. As they leave the country, they take not only their talent and skills, but also their contributions to local economies, communities and families.
In October, Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) included the Uniting American Families Act -- a bill to recognize lesbian and gay families within federal immigration laws -- in his Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2010. UAFA, which is sponsored in the House by Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and in the Senate by Patrick Leahy (D-VT), has also been included in the Reuniting Families Act, a family unification bill sponsored by Democratic Congressman Mike Honda of California.
Last week, Senator Menendez indicated he would like to see his comprehensive, LGBT-inclusive, bill considered in the lame duck Congress. The Immigration Equality Action Fund -- which represents LGBT binational families and lobbies on their behalf on Capitol Hill -- launched a national action campaign to support Menendez's lame duck push....
As Rachel Tiven, executive director of the Action Fund, said last week, "Whether your family is binational or not, legislation to extend immigration rights is an important first step in securing broader recognition, and rights, for every LGBT family." That, she said, is why "it is imperative that everyone who believes in federal equality for our families stand with Senator Menendez -- who courageously included LGBT families in his bill -- by mobilizing grassroots support for its consideration in this Congress."
To take action and help ensure that this Thanksgiving is the last one in which LGBT families are forced into separation and exile, visit the Immigration Equality Action Fund online.
As a member of a binational couple myself, I am thankful that our love endures despite our separation, and look forward to Patrick's next visit. But change requires concerted action. Please help Immigration Equality.