Thursday, May 16, 2013

CALL for ACTION: Equal Immigration Rights

by The Rev. Dr. Caroline Hall

When I immigrated, a little over twenty years ago, I was well-educated, white and had a British accent. Even with those advantages it was hard for me to get a green card. I lined up early one morning at the Arlington INS office in order to be one of the few people who would even get an interview. There was a couple ahead of me – they were there so that a non-American wife could get to live here with her husband. I was there alone. Even if we had been legally married, the INS would not have accepted our lesbian marriage as valid for immigration purposes.

We all know there’s an immigration bill in the Senate Judiciary Committee right now. We also know that it’s not fully comprehensive – it leaves out a very specific segment of the population – gay or lesbian families. Family reunification has always been an important plank of this country’s immigration policy, but once again we are being told that our families are less important, our families are not “real” – we don’t count.

It is estimated that there are 32,300 bi-national, same-sex couples residing in the United States today, more than 45% of whom are raising children. We believe that these families share the same right to dignity and fair treatment as other families, and therefore deserve to have their status as a family recognized and protected by our nation’s immigration laws. That is why Integrity worked hard at last year’s General Convention to help pass D011 “Reform Unequal Immigration Law” through which the Church pledged to support legislation that would expand our nation’s definition of family under immigration law to include the same-sex permanent partners and spouses of U.S. citizens and permanent residents.
This resolution also committed our dioceses and congregations to renewed advocacy on behalf of families and individuals of all sexual orientations who are facing unwanted moves, deportation or separation due to our nation’s immigration laws. We know from experience that getting a resolution passed by General Convention is only the first step – in order for it to have teeth, we have to do the hard work in our dioceses and congregations to make it valid on the ground.

The Episcopal Church’s Office of Government Relations is working on our behalf to support two amendments proposed by Senator Leahy. The first would allow Americans in same-sex relationships to sponsor green cards for their foreign-born partners. The second would provide the same protection to legally married bi-national same-sex couples that is afforded to others under existing immigration law. We can do our bit by asking our Senators (or members of the Senate Judiciary Committee) to “support the inclusion of same-sex partners and spouses in comprehensive immigration reform by supporting Leahy amendments 6 and 7.”

Please make the call or send an email today.

You can get more information about the Immigration Bill at

Caroline Hall is President of Integrity USA and serves as priest-in-charge at St. Benedict's Episcopal Church in Los Osos, CA.

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