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U.S. Reps Push for LGBT Recognition by DHS

U.S. Reps Push for LGBT Recgonition by DHS

Windy City Times

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Aug. 1, Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution and lead sponsor of the United American Families Act, and Congressman Mike Honda (D-CA), Chair Emeritus of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus and lead sponsor of the Reuniting Families Act, were joined by 81 additional Members of Congress in pushing to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) families from continued and tragic separations in the immigration system.

The 84 Members sent a letter again to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano to recognize, explicitly and in writing, the ties of a same-sex partner or spouse as a positive factor for discretionary relief in immigration enforcement deportation cases.

On August 2011, the Obama Administration and DHS announced a new effort to focus immigration enforcement on the priorities established in the June 2011 memo from United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director John Morton. During the August announcement, high-ranking DHS and White House officials stated, for purposes of exercising prosecutorial discretion, ICE would include LGBT relationships—specifically the relationships of immigrants in same-sex marriages and partnerships with U.S. citizens—in the definition of “family relationships.” On September 27, 2011, 69 Members of the Congress signed a letter to Secretary Napolitano asking for LGBT immigration policy to be put in writing. To date, this language has never been written.

“Keeping loving families together, particularly in cases in which one partner or spouse is a U.S. citizen, should be a priority for immigration enforcement,” Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said. “The Department of Homeland Security has stated that their policy will positively factor in family ties, including those of LGBT couples, but we have now asked them to put this in writing to provide a measure of clarity to those enforcing our laws and confidence to families facing separation.”

“Our public policy should have as a clear goal to keep all American families — LGBT or straight — together,” said Rep. Nadler. “It serves absolutely no one and is gratuitously cruel to separate committed families. These LGBT families are critical parts of their communities, neighborhoods, and workforces. To keep them intact, it is critical that the Administration put in writing its policy of providing prosecutorial discretion with deference to family ties among LGBT persons, and we again urge it to do so as quickly as possible.”

“Our current immigration system has not been updated in over 20 years—keeping spouses, siblings, children, and their parents separated for years, even up to 23 years. Such laws are literally tearing families apart and separating American citizens from their loved ones. We need an immigration system that is comprehensive, humane, and inclusive—one that protects families—all families. No one should have to choose between their loved ones and their country. No family should be left out of the immigration system. Together with the 36,000 same-sex bi-national couples that seek to sponsor their spouses to come to the U.S., and alongside the 83 colleagues of Congress, I emphatically urge DHS to issue an explicit and unequivocal written policy to protect LGBT families from unnecessary and inhumane separations.”