The Senate Judiciary Committee today failed to consider protections for same-sex binational couples as part of the comprehensive immigration reform bill. The bill S. 744 was passed out of committee today by a 13-5 vote.
The following statement can be attributed to the National Center for Lesbian Rights, GLAAD, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, United We Dream and Queer Undocumented Immigrant Project, Lambda Legal, Equality Federation and the National Center for Transgender Equality:
We remain steadfast in our commitment to passing compassionate, comprehensive immigration reform that will provide a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented men, women and children living in our country, including at least 267,000 LGBT undocumented immigrants.
We are disappointed that certain senators threatened the entire immigration reform bill simply because it affords 28,500 same-sex binational couples equal immigration rights. At the same time, we thank Senator Leahy for standing up for these families. A majority of Americans – 53 percent – believe that all consenting adults should have the right to get married and that gender should not play a role in who is considered family.
It is unconscionable that lawmakers committed to equality and commonsense, humane immigration policy were forced to make a false choice between protecting the rights of same-sex binational couples and keeping a tenuous coalition together. This take-it-or-leave-it stance with regard to same-sex binational couples is not helpful when we all share the same goal of passing comprehensive immigration reform that provides a path to citizenship.
Beyond the issue of same-sex binational couples, the bill addresses many issues that will particularly benefit LGBT people, such as eliminating the one-year bar on applying for asylum, providing protections for DREAMers, and improving conditions for people held in detention facilities. These include important protections limiting the use of solitary confinement and explicitly prohibiting the use of this practice based solely on a detainee’s sexual orientation or gender identity. We will continue to work to improve the legislation as we fight for its passage because this bill is a historic step forward for all immigrants and the LGBT community.
Our primary goal is to pass a commonsense, compassionate immigration reform bill that puts our nation’s undocumented men, women and children on a pathway to citizenship.
We desperately need to reform our broken immigration system immediately because it dehumanizes, scapegoats and vilifies all immigrants, including LGBT immigrants. We will continue to advocate and support changes to the bill that will create the most accessible pathway to citizenship possible and allow all undocumented immigrants the opportunity to become citizens, and we will continue to ardently oppose draconian amendments that would make immigrants permanent second-class citizens and create undue hardships along a pathway to citizenship.
Every day we fail to reform our system, 1,100 families are torn apart. As a nation, we pride ourselves on keeping families united, and our immigration policies should reflect our commitment to keep families together – all families.
We stand firmly that the following principles must be included if we are to truly have comprehensive immigration reform legislation:
- Provide a pathway to citizenship;
- Ensure that family unity is at the heart of immigration law and policy;
- End unjust detentions and deportations;
- Uphold labor and employment standards, and ensure that the enforcement of immigration law does not undermine labor and employment rights;
- Promote a dignified quality of life for border communities by ensuring border agencies uphold basic civil and human rights protections; and
- Ensure immigrant members of our community are not relegated to second-class status with fewer rights and benefits.
Task Force expresses disappointment in Senate Judiciary Committee’s failure to consider protections for same-sex binational couples in immigration reform bill
The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force expressed deep disappointment in the Senate Judiciary Committee’s failure to consider protections for same-sex binational couples as part of the comprehensive immigration reform bill. The bill S. 744 was passed out of committee today by a 13-5 vote.
Statement by Rea Carey, executive director, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force:
We remain steadfast in our commitment to passing immigration reform that provides a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented men, women and children living in our country, including at least 267,000 LGBT undocumented immigrants.
We are deeply disappointed that the Senate Judiciary Committee has chosen not to consider protections for same-sex binational couples as part of the comprehensive immigration reform bill. In a nation where the majority of Americans supports the freedom to marry, we are outraged by statements made by certain senators who voiced their concerns about including same-sex binational couples as part of the overall reform effort. Their disdain for a provision that would include more American families in immigration reform is out of step with the values held by people across this country.
The bill does currently address issues that will particularly benefit LGBT people, such as providing protections for undocumented youth including DREAMers, eliminating the one-year bar on applying for asylum, improving conditions for people held in detention facilities, protections limiting the use of solitary confinement and explicitly prohibiting the use of this practice based solely on detainees’ sexual orientation or gender identity.
As the legislative process moves forward, we must collectively strengthen our resolve to push for the best bill possible for LGBT undocumented immigrants and their families. Comprehensive, compassionate immigration reform is an urgent priority for our nation and the LGBT community, and our immigration policies should reflect our nation’s commitment to keeping families together — all families.
LGBT rights are advancing in Puerto Rico as a consequence of decades of activism and a change in government last November. This week will be crucial and historic, with the House set to vote on a sweeping nondiscrimination measure and a bill for same sex-couples to be protected under the domestic violence law.
Last week in a 15-11 vote, the Puerto Rican Senate approved the nondiscrimination bill that protects LGBT people in employment, housing, public accommodations, governmental services and private entities. The House is slated to take up the bill on Thursday.
Also, a bill to amend the domestic violence law in Puerto Rico to include protections based on sexual orientation, gender identity and marital status will also be voted on by the House and the Senate this week. Gov. Alejandro García Padilla has vowed to sign both into laws.
In Puerto Rico, the LGBT community has come a long way. From having more than 40 LGBT people murdered in the past 10 years to the passage in the Senate last week of the nondiscrimination bill. From the Puerto Rican Supreme Court denying adoption to same-sex couples to a Senate hearing last Friday on a bill that will allow it. From an ugly and massive opposition from the fundamentalists religious groups to the overwhelming support of the Puerto Rican people (80 percent of the testimonies in the hearings were pro-LGBT and 70 percent of Puerto Ricans favor equal rights for LGBT people according to the latest poll), including a march in which thousands filled the San Juan streets.
The Task Force has been at the forefront of this struggle for the past seven years, including speaking out against hate crimes and anti-LGBT violence; standing in solidarity with the Puerto Rican LGBT community; meeting with Congressman Luis Gutierrez to ask for support in this struggle against anti-LGBT violence; and the Task Force’s National Religious Leadership Roundtable convening in Puerto Rico to express support.
The truth is that the Task Force has been involved in the struggle in Puerto Rico for the past seven years and we will continue to be there until we achieve full equality for the Puerto Rican LGBT community. We’re on the brink of making history.
The Williams Institute recently released a study highlighting the high cost that discrimination against transgender New Yorkers has for the state each year. As with a similar study conducted for Massachusetts in 2011, this report highlights the urgent need to pass legislation protecting all New Yorkers from employment and housing discrimination. Currently, only 59% of transgender New Yorkers are protected by local anti-discrimination ordinances.
According to the Williams Institute study, banning discrimination in housing and employment against the remaining 23,800 transgender New Yorkers could reduce the following costs related to discrimination:
- Employment discrimination costs the State of New York more than $1million annually in Medicaid expenditures.
- Housing discrimination in the State of New York may cost from $475,000 to $5.9 million annually in federal and state housing program expenditures and other costs related to homelessness.
- Transgender workers in New York could generate millions more dollars in income tax revenues for the State if employment discrimination was reduced or eliminated.
In other words, employment and housing discrimination against transgender New Yorkers may cost from $1.5 to $7 million in Medicaid and housing program expenditures, not including additional millions in state income tax revenues that could be generated if employment discrimination was reduced.
The study estimates that if transgender residents of New York had incomes similar to the general population, this group of workers could generate over $2.7 million in additional income tax revenue per year.
The Task Force believes that all New Yorkers should have the right to seek and keep employment and housing without being turned away due to bias. Legislation to protect and all residents from discrimination based on gender identity in New York has introduced in the form of the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA). Last October, Task Force Field Organizer Causten Wollerman testified on the need for the New York Senate to finally pass GENDA.
In addition to passing GENDA, the Williams Institute study highlights the need to pass the federal Employment Nondiscrimination Act (ENDA). Just as protections against discrimination vary throughout New York, protections against discrimination nationally vary across states and municipalities.
Right now it is legal to fire someone in 29 states because they are lesbian, gay or bisexual; in 34 states, like New York, it is legal to fire someone solely for being transgender. Join the Task Force in urging Congress to pass ENDA, which we expect action on later this summer.
In response to the killing of Mark Carson on Friday night, and the recent spate of other public anti-LGBTQ hate violence, the New York City Anti-Violence Project (AVP) and other community groups and elected officials will gather at the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center on Monday, May 20, at 5:30 p.m., and march to West 8th Street and 6th Avenue. The Center is located at 208 West 13th Street in Manhattan. More details here.
A rally and a speak-out will immediately follow the march, where community members, elected officials, LGBTQ community leaders and allies will denounce hate violence, call for community safety and mourn the death of Mark Carson. AVP will continue to work to create safety in all communities across New York City through its Friday Community Safety Nights that will begin on this Friday, May 24, and run through the end of June.
LGBT groups push Senate Judiciary Committee to improve immigration bill’s detention standards & asylum provisions
The Task Force and other groups responded today to amendments to the Title III provisions of the immigration bill that the Senate Judiciary Committee is debating this week and Monday.
The statement below can be attributed to the National Center for Lesbian Rights, GLAAD, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, United We Dream and Queer Undocumented Immigrant Project, National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance, Lambda Legal and Equality Federation.
Immigration reform is a critical issue for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. That’s why we are fighting hard to support amendments that will strengthen the immigration bill and oppose amendments that will create additional barriers and hardships for all immigrants.
This week, the Senate Judiciary Committee is debating amendments to the proposed immigration reform legislation that will determine the asylum process, detention standards, E-Verify and due process for all 11 million undocumented immigrants. These aspects of our current immigration policies have created barriers and extreme hardships for all immigrants, including the 267,000 immigrants who are also LGBT.
The proposed legislation goes a long way to improve detention standards for all immigrants, increasing oversight of detention facilities and expanding the use of secure alternatives to detention. We must keep these provisions strong to end the brutal and inhumane conditions of confinement to which millions of immigrants have been subjected. Vulnerable populations, like LGBT people, often experience higher rates of discrimination, mistreatment, and abuse from other detainees, facility staff and officials.
This is especially true for transgender detainees, who are at extremely high risk of abuse. Bamby Salcedo, a transgender woman, was detained by immigration authorities, sexually assaulted and denied adequate access to HIV medication and hormone treatment. No one deserves to suffer the abuse, mistreatment or dehumanization that Bamby faced.
The LGBT community stands firmly against amendments that would restrict the use of secure alternatives to detention, increase mandatory detention without requiring individualized determinations and set bond rates for immigrants in detention at an inaccessibly high rate.
We strongly support provisions that streamline the asylum process, making family unification easier and eliminating the current requirement that people who suffered persecution in their home countries must file for asylum within one year of entering the United States. LGBT asylum seekers often miss the one-year deadline because they either do not know they can seek asylum for sexual orientation or gender-based persecution, or because they do not feel safe disclosing their LGBT status to U.S. government officials. Michel Mendy is a gay immigrant from Senegal, where it is illegal to be LGBT. If he returns to the country, he could face arrest or even violence.
Michel is in detention, facing imminent removal. Under current law, he could qualify for asylum, but the immigration system has instead relegated him to legal limbo. We must fix our immigration policies to make it easier to help people like Michel.
The Senate Judiciary Committee will also debate amendments about E-Verify, the system that allows employers to check whether an employee is undocumented. Verification methods must respect the safety and privacy of all immigrants, including transgender immigrants, and provide mechanisms to monitor the accuracy of this system rather than risk requiring employers to use a faulty program. Provisions that, for example, require transgender immigrants to disclose biographical information that then ‘outs’ them as transgender to employers and puts them at risk of discrimination or harassment cannot be included in the legislation. The LGBT community strongly believes that Congress must not permit the use of E-verify as a tool to intimidate existing employees by allowing employers to use the system selectively against employees who have already been hired. The risk of undermining workers’ rights through the use of this system is simply too great.
At all costs, we must retain our nation’s commitment to due process. Government statistics show that only 17 percent of people detained on charges of deportation receive the benefit of counsel. Most don’t understand the charges against them or the ways to fight them. Often, these immigrants are separated from their families and their communities and placed in detention centers far from their homes. This is especially harmful for LGBT immigrants, as studies have shown that they often receive harsher punishments than their non-LGBT peers. This goes against our most fundamental principles of justice and fairness.
Above all, everyone who is detained by immigration enforcement deserves the right to legal counsel.
Immigration reform should not impose excessive criminal punishment for the simple act of migrating to seek a better life.
As the Senate Judiciary Committee debates these critical amendments, we urge them to consider the amendments that will protect immigrants, treat them with dignity and give them a chance to pursue their dreams.