Senate Judiciary Chairman Leahy Supports Gay Immigrant Rights

By June 27, 2013Audits, News & Press

Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy has pushed an amendment to grant full immigrations rights to LGTB couples.

Leahy told the news site, Politico, in a recent interview that at least one dozen U.S. states now legally recognize same-sax marriage. It does not make sense, Leahy said, for the federal government to help one married couple with immigration issues, but not another, simply based on their same-gender marriage.

One of the amendments backed by Leahy includes green cards for a foreign-born partner of a gay or lesbian U.S. citizen. Another amendment would give green cards only to a foreign-born partner if the couple is married.

Leahy stated that his goal is a fair and transparent process when it comes to the changes to immigration law, and for all people for whom it is important to get their say about those changes. In addition to the LGTB amendments, Leahy stated that the “trigger” issues are a number of border security benchmarks which must be agreed upon prior to allowing the more than 11 million undocumented immigrants apply for legal status. But critics are concerned that the compromise crafted by the Gang of Eight does not adequately address real border security issues and have countered with much tougher amendments.

The trigger encompasses extensive, new border fences; an agreed-upon, operational border security plan; the E-Verify system which would allow employers to check on the citizenship status of existing and potential employees; and a tracking system for both entry and exits at seaports and airports. Leahy said that he hopes any controversy is not enough to derail the important bill. Though the issues are serious, he said, they really should not be bones of contention. If the Senate truly wants an immigration bill, they will agree upon amendments to improve it and vote on them. Only people who really do not want a workable immigration bill, he said, will raise amendments with the intention of stalling it.

Currently, for married heterosexual couples, the spouse of a U.S. citizen can get immigration benefits, but the noncitizen of a same-sex couple cannot get the same benefit. This is due to DOMA, the Defense Of Marriage Act, a federal law which defines legal marriages as between one man and one woman. DOMA is currently under review in front of the Supreme Court. Will the majority of Justices strike down DOMA or will LGTB equality come into the country through the federal “side door” – immigration rights for same sex couples? We will know soon enough.

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