Comprehensive immigration reform is long overdue

When DOMA was repealed, Carlos Padilla was overjoyed that his love for his partner could finally be recognized legally; no longer did he feel like a second-class member of the community.

That’s when reality set in; on his wedding day, his parents won’t be able to attend. Carlos is gay but also an immigrant. Recently, he received a legal reprieve from deportation under the Deferred Action for Children of Arrivals (DACA) but his father lives in the U.S. without legal status. Carlos lives in fear that than any day he could be detained and deported.

In 2008, Carlos’ mother had to go back to Mexico because of a death in the family and was forced to live apart from her family for five years. On June 11, Carlos briefly reunited with her on the border between Arizona and Mexico; however, a fence still separated them.

Our nation is committed to American family values and family unity and that’s why the fight for marriage equality was so strong. Yet, our broken immigration system continues to deny thousands of families like Carlos’ the opportunity to be united.

The LGBTQ community is standing side-by-side with our immigrant rights allies to pass comprehensive reform because as a nation, we pride ourselves on keeping families united, and our immigration policies should reflect our commitment to keep families together — all families. Too many LGBTQ immigrants are forced into two closets, one because of their sexual orientation and the other because of their immigration status. It’s time for all immigrants, including at least 267,000 LGBTQ immigrants, to be able to come out of the shadows.

Comprehensive, compassionate immigration reform is an urgent priority for our nation. Every day, 11 million undocumented immigrants are forced to live as second-class members of society, and 1,100 families are torn apart. Here in Washington, this broken system is devastating our neighbors and friends.

The Senate recently passed — by a wide 68-32 margin — a bipartisan immigration reform bill that goes a long way in supporting these aspiring citizens. Now it’s time for the House of Representatives to act. America deserves a vote on immigration reform with a road map to citizenship.

The Senate’s bill includes many provisions that will particularly benefit LGBTQ immigrants, such as eliminating the one-year bar on applying for asylum; improving the conditions for people who are held in detention facilities; limiting the use of solitary confinement; and prohibiting the use of this practice based solely on a detainee’s sexual orientation or gender identity. While the Senate’s bill is not perfect and includes needlessly harsh border security provisions, it’s the best chance in our generation to provide a road map to citizenship for these 11 million men, women and children.

Americans overwhelmingly support comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship. Poll after poll demonstrates that regardless of party affiliation, demographics, or geography, Americans want their elected officials to fix the country’s broken immigration system.

The House GOP stands between 11 million immigrants and their chance at citizenship and the American Dream. We must hold our members of Congress accountable and tell the House that now is the time to act. No more posturing, no more piecemeal provisions, no more extremist amendments that aim to undermine all the progress that both parties have made.

We will continue our work to ensure the final legislation is in the best interest of all immigrants and the LGBTQ community. We stand together in our fight for comprehensive reform for immigrants like Carlos, who wants nothing more than for his parents to be able to celebrate with him on his wedding day.

For Carlos and the millions like him, we urge Congress to return from its recess break and reform our immigration system now.

Doug Hamilton is operations manager of Equal Rights Washington. Rich Stolz is executive director of One America, Washington’s largest immigrant advocacy organization.

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