Yesterday, the Senate passed a bill with the potential to transform the lives of 11 million immigrants, including 267,000 LGBT immigrants.
We are one step closer to reforming our immigration policies and keeping more families together. The Senate’s action follows on the heels of the Supreme Court’s historic ruling to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act, which provides an estimated 28,500 same-sex, binational couples with an easier road to citizenship.
This legislation includes many provisions that will particularly benefit LGBT immigrants, such as eliminating the one-year bar on applying for asylum, providing protections for DREAMers and improving conditions for people held in detention facilities. The Senate’s bill limits the use of solitary confinement and explicitly prohibits the use of this practice based solely on a detainees’ sexual orientation or gender identity.
For all the good in the legislation, there are several hard pills to swallow. In exchange for its passage, the Senate pledged $40 billion for ‘border security.’ Our border communities will pay a heavy price for this mistaken political calculus. We believe the Senate made the wrong deal. This reckless and injudicious spending will have a harmful impact on border communities, particularly LGBT immigrants living on the border, and undermine the principles of humane enforcement.
The Senate also failed to include several amendments that would have strengthened the legislation for aspiring citizens and addressed the root causes of our patchwork of failed and mismanaged immigration policies. As the legislative process continues, we will advocate for provisions that protect workers, reunite families and allow young children to access the path to citizenship expeditiously. We will also advocate for tax-paying immigrants to receive their fair share of benefits and access to health care.
Now it’s time for the House to act. No more compromises, no more piecemeal provisions, no more extremist amendments. It’s time for the House of Representatives to introduce serious legislation that reflects the will of the country: to give 11 million men, women and children the chance to come out of the shadows and have a clear and direct path to citizenship.