WASHINGTON, DC – Following months of threats and pressure by some Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) announced today he is withholding amendments to the immigration bill that would end discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) immigrant families. In recent weeks, GOP Senators Lindsey Graham, Jeff Flake, Marco Rubio, and John McCain have sought to scapegoat LGBT families, promising to abandon immigration reform entirely if it was amended to include LGBT protections.
“Despite the leadership of Chairman Leahy, Judiciary Committee Democrats have caved to bullying by their Republican colleagues,” said Rachel B. Tiven, executive director of Immigration Equality Action Fund. “There should be shame on both sides of the political aisle today for lawmakers who worked to deny LGBT immigrant families a vote. Despite widespread support from business, labor, faith, Latino and Asian-American advocates, Senators abandoned LGBT families without a vote.”
Senator Chuck Schumer, an architect of the immigration bill, had long promised LGBT constituents that the package would include their families. “From the beginning we told Senator Schumer that it would only get harder to add LGBT families to the bill,” said Tiven. “We are disappointed that Senator Schumer and his ‘Gang of 8’ colleagues accepted a false choice between LGBT families and immigration reform, when the truth is that including LGBT families from the outset would have strengthened the bill.”
Republican senators looking for a reason to walk away from the bill scapegoated LGBT families. “Republicans came after LGBT families, and Democrats didn’t stand up,” Tiven said. “Who will be in the GOP’s sights next?”
“Senators have lined up in recent months to proclaim their support for marriage equality and LGBT rights,” Tiven added. “Yet, given the first opportunity to put their vote where their talking point is, they failed. Our families need deeds, not words.”
An estimated 36,000 couples who are raising more than 25,000 children within the United States (and countless others already living in exile) are impacted by the inability to sponsor their spouse or partner for residency under current immigration law. Senator Leahy’s proposed amendments would have allowed all of those families an opportunity to remain permanently together in the United States.
As former Republican Congressman Jim Kolbe of Arizona noted in his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, “Including this provision would place virtually no additional burden on our immigration system. For those families and their children, however, UAFA’s inclusion in the…bill would make all the difference in the world.”
For more information, visit ImmigrationEquality.org and ImEqActionFund.org