For Immediate Release: January 29, 2013
Ben de Guzman
NQAPIA Co-Director for Programs
This week, the debate on comprehensive immigration reform took real shape with the Senate introducing a bipartisan framework on principles on Monday, and the President making a statement on Tuesday.
The National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance (NQAPIA) commends the Senate and the President on taking this initial first, bipartisan step. Immigrants’ rights and the need for comprehensive immigration reform is a top priority for Asian American, South Asian, Southeast Asian and Pacific Islander (AAPI) lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) immigrant communities.
Of course, we will continue to work more closely as details emerge and legislation is introduced. While there are some questions we have about what has been put forth thus far, we recognize that there are some important building blocks in the Senate’s and the President’s proposals. We’re committed to working on them to support legislation that will benefit not only the AAPI LGBT communities we work with, but will, on balance, move towards a more comprehensive solution for the entire country.
The inclusion of a path to citizenship and relief for the over 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country is a key component of both proposals. We estimate that 750,000 of those undocumented immigrants are LGBT, and we call for reform that will help ALL of them. Young undocumented activists who worked on the DREAM Act and who are queer have, by making the connection between coming out of the closet and out of the shadows, changed the political landscape, are also included, is encouraging. The AAPI immigrant families we work with, both LGBT and straight members alike, can also take heart in the provisions to reduce the family petition backlogs, which both proposals include.
But there are discrepancies between the proposals, and the policies that are of concern to our communities and must be addressed. Provisions around enforcement and detention must not be onerous on our communities.
One of the main discrepancies between the Senate’s and the President’s proposals directly concerns LGBT families. The Senate’s framework and the discussion of reforming the family-based immigration system did not include same-sex couples, where the President’s statement, on the other hand, states clearly that it will give “U.S. citizens and lawful residents the ability to seek a visa on the basis of a permanent relationship with a same-sex partner.” It is clearly one of the more specific instances where the President’s proposal differs from the Senate’s framework. We will build on that as a starting point to move the conversation forward. This means that LGBT communities will be a key constituency to weigh in on comprehensive immigration reform, and we call for a broader reform that supports not only same-sex couples but ALL LGBT immigrants who desperately need reform to the currently broken system.
NQAPIA has always centered the unique perspectives and needs of LGBT immigrants in its work on immigrants’ rights and comprehensive immigration reform. The LGBT Immigration Forums we have done around the country for the last three years has built a solid foundation for the work we now begin. This past weekend at the 2013 Creating Change Conference in Atlanta, GA, we collected approximately 4,000 postcards calling on the Congress and the President to act on comprehensive immigration reform now. As the debate moves forward, we are committed to educating and mobilizing our communities on this important issue. I hope you’ll join us in this important effort.