Reform to focus on same-sex immigrant couples

by Hannah Beausang

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Paige Nelson, Photo Editor

A push for the inclusion of same-sex couples in the new immigration reform brings equality issues to light.

There are approximately 11 million illegal immigrants in the U.S. Currently, heterosexual Americans with foreign-born spouses are able to obtain resident visas or green cards to prevent their spouses from deportation. However, current laws don’t grant same-sex couples the right to obtain green cards for their foreign-born permanent partners or spouses.

In early February, President Barack Obama endorsed the inclusion of gay couples in immigration reform, creating a sense of equality that has never been seen before in U.S. history. The administration is pushing to provide equal citizenship rights for illegal immigrants with a same-sex American permanent partner or spouse.

In his recent speech about immigration reform, Obama critiqued current policies.

“We all know that, today, we have an immigration system that’s out of date and badly broken; a system that’s holding us back instead of helping us grow our economy and strengthen our middle class,” Obama said.

Several Republicans have spoken out about the issue; including Sen. Lindsey Graham, who said the inclusion of gay rights would be a mistake.

The Latino community, however, seems supportive. San Diego State professor of Chicana and Chicano studies Isidro Ortiz said Latinos understand the need for equality.

“Within the Latino population, there is a push for their inclusion; the notion being that reform without including them would be incomplete,” Ortiz said.  “Since there are Latinos, they are part of our population and merit the same rights as others.”

A 2005 poll from the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force showed 54 percent of Latino same-sex female couples and 41 percent of Latino same-sex male couples are raising children, showing the personal investment for rights within the community.

SDSU women’s studies graduate assistant Damien Sutton is involved with SDSU’s LGBT community. Sutton said the inclusion of gay rights in the legislation would help to amend the “tiered citizenship” system currently in place.

“This is building toward a larger cultural movement that will help increase the dialogue in that manner,” Sutton said. “I would say that were this to pass with that particular amendment, it would generally help gay rights across the board.”

Amos Lim is the Community Outreach Director for Out4Immigration, a grassroots organization that examines discrimination against same-sex binational couples in current U.S. laws.

“It’s a simple issue of family renunciation and not tearing families apart. We want to make sure people know that LGBT families are families too,” Lim said. “This is a chance for us to make sure we get the immigration rights that we deserve, just like a straight couple.”

Lim said overall acceptance for same-sex couples has been on the rise in current years. A recent survey conducted by NBC News and the Wall Street Journal indicated 51 percent of Americans were in favor of same-sex marriage and a Field Poll by The Sacramento Bee showed 61 percent of Californians approve of same-sex marriage.

Although there is uncertainty about the fate of the immigration reform at this point, the potential inclusion of gay rights has sparked conversation.

This month, the Supreme Court will also be reexamining the legality of the Defense of Marriage Act, making this a potentially groundbreaking year for gay rights.