Moving Beyond Attacks on Latinas, Politicians Call for Immigration Solutions

The National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health (NLIRH) applauds the introduction of the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) in both the House and Senate and we are encouraged by the record level of support for these measures.

UAFA, which would finally treat LGBT partners the same as heterosexual partners in immigration law, was reintroduced in the House and Senate by long-time equal rights advocates Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY-8) and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT). The legislation is backed by 98 co-sponsors in the House and 18 in the Senate, a record for the bill on reintroduction.

What does the bill do?

The major component of the bill is to add three words to current immigration law – “or permanent partner” – wherever the word “spouse” appears. This will ensure that the law treats Latinas in LGBT relationships in the same manner as those in heterosexual relationships.

In addition to the legislation, Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA-16) and 48 House members asked the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) to stop denying LGBT green card applications and stop separating LGBT binational families. This letter is similar to one sent by the Senate last week that requested the same immediate remedy. 

In February President Obama sent a directive to all federal agencies clarifying that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), a discriminatory law that denies recognition of same sex partnerships in federal law, is unconstitutional and he directed federal agencies to stop defending the law. Under this direction, federal agencies should stop punishing queer Latinas for their sexual orientation and should treat them equally in immigration proceedings.

Why do LGBT issues matter for Latinas?

Yes. Immigration is extremely complex and affects the lives of all Latinas, including queer Latinas and transgender Latina(o)s. Historically, queer Latinas have been forced into exile or had their families torn apart by immigration laws regardless of legal marriage, civil unions or domestic partnerships. These Latinas are treated as “legal strangers” and along with other Latina immigrants face cruel consequences of a harsh immigration system.

These steps by law makers rise above current political rhetoric to solve problems for real families. They go beyond enforcement-only mandates by taking a balanced, comprehensive approach that acknowledges the central role immigrant women play in their families and communities. These measures will not only benefit queer Latinas, but also set a tone for immigration changes that respect the dignity of all families.