Erik & Ranesh Ramanathan: A Family Commitment
By Christopher Edwards on 06/03/2011 @ 03:49 PM
Erik & Ranesh Ramanathan are a binational couple living near Boston. This is the story of their over 20 year relationship and their struggle to remain together despite immigration discrimination against LGBT couples.
Watch to see how they remained together against all odds and why they work with and for Immigration Equality. Then take action and share your story at ImEqActionFund.org\share
President Obama Reiterates Support for Binational Families on New White House LGBT Site
By Steve Ralls on 06/02/2011 @ 07:05 PM
President Obama has gone on-the-record in support of LGBT binational families.
A new White House website dedicated to showcasing the President's support for LGBT equality makes specific note of the commander-in-chief's support for ending the separation of our families.
The new site, titled Winning the Future, includes a fact sheet about the President's position on various LGBT issues. Under the header "Supporting LGBT Progress," the Administration notes that, "President Obama believes that . . . Americans with partners from other countries should not be faced with a painful choice between staying with their partner or staying in their country."
The website, launched in conjunction with the White House's proclamation observing LGBT Pride Month, is a first for any Presidential Administration. A statement posted on the site notes that, "The President and his Administration are dedicated to eliminating barriers to equality, fighting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and engaging LGBT communities across the country."
Image via Wikipedia.
Senator Gillibrand on LGBT Immigration Reform & Being in a Binational Marriage
By Steve Ralls on 05/18/2011 @ 10:35 AM
In a wide-ranging new interview with reporter Andrew Harmon at The Advocate, United States Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) talks about the future of LGBT-inclusive immigration reform, as well as her own experiences as the American half of a binational marriage.
Gillibrand - who has been a staunch supporter of LGBT equality - recently joined eleven other Senate colleagues in calling on the Obama Administration to halt the deportation of LGBT spouses.
From her interview with The Advocate:
Last week, White House spokesman Jay Carney indicated that the administration does not intend to put a moratorium on deportations involving gay binational couples who are legally married. Yet last month you and 11 senate colleagues wrote a letter to both Attorney General Eric Holder and Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano urging as much. Are you disappointed?
It’s disappointing. But this is just the beginning of the debate. The more we highlight the effect this has on real lives, on real families, families with children — people will begin to realize that this policy is the wrong policy.
Should the administration know this already?
Immigration reform has been very difficult, for this administration, the previous administration — this is a very volatile issue nationwide. And as a consequence, it may take the administration longer to get this done than I would like, because I really want comprehensive immigration reform, and I want reforms for the ability for spouses and loved ones to sponsor their partners. But that’s the nature of all these political battles. That you have to build your support, you need to make it a broad-based grassroots support, you need to create the intensity that comes with personal stories and the effects on real people — and that is work that we’re going to do over the next six months.
Has the administration responded to the letter that you and your Senate colleagues sent?
I don’t think we’ve had a response yet.
You’re in a binational relationship — your husband [Jonathan Gillibrand] is from the U.K. How has your marriage influenced your perspective in this issue?
When we got engaged, when we got married, we couldn’t go outside the country to have a honeymoon because Jonathan’s status was pending. We had to be very careful about our travel. It must be an awful feeling for any loving couple to have to worry that your spouse or your loved one is going to be deported at any moment. I can’t think of a more awful, destabilizing, unfair policy. At all. And so we have to do better. And we have to protect these marriages, and these partnerships. Because these are loving couples, and they may well have children, and we should protect those children.
To read Senator Gillibrand's full interview with Harmon, click here.
Image via Wikipedia
Join Immigration Equality for DC Pride!
By Steve Ralls on 05/17/2011 @ 12:54 PM
If you live in - or will be visiting - Washington, D.C. for this year's Capital Pride . . . Immigration Equality wants to hear from you!
We are looking for a few good volunteers to help staff our informational booth on Sunday, June 12th. Help us spread the word about our advocacy work on behalf of the LGBT immigrant community. Meet new friends . . . meet our staff . . . and earn a free Immigration Equality t-shirt!
We need volunteers to help staff our Capital Pride booth, and to help collect signatures from the crowd during the festival. Volunteers will be scheduled in 2-hour blocks, so you can help out and enjoy the festivities, too.
For more information, or to sign up as a volunteer, email Maria Booth at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We look forward to seeing our DC supporters on the 12th! (And, for our New York supporters, look for information on our parade contingent here on the blog soon.)
Important News if You Entered the 2012 Diversity Visa Lottery!
By Victoria Neilson on 05/16/2011 @ 02:26 PM
Last week the Department of State announced that it made an error when it determined the winners of the 2012 Diversity Visa lottery. As a result, if you checked on line and saw that you won, unfortunately, you have not actually won yet.
DOS realized that there was some sort of computer glitch through which 90% of the winners were drawn from those who registered in the first two days. So DOS now plans to redo the whole lottery and make the new notifications available on or around July 15.
The bottom line is, everyone – winner or loser – who entered the lottery last year needs to check the DOS website again in July. Obviously, if you’d thought you’d won and now you’ve learned that you have not, this is truly terrible news. Unfortunately, it is unlikely that there will be any legal resource for false winners since winning the lottery is not a guarantee of getting a visa anyway.
Image via Wikipedia
The Washington Post Calls for an End to Deportations of LGBT Partners
By Steve Ralls on 05/16/2011 @ 11:41 AM
This morning's Washington Post includes an editorial calling on the Obama Administration to halt thee deportation of LGBT immigrants who are in relationships with American citizens.
Writing in response to Attorney General Holder's recent action to vacate a decision which would have separated a New Jersey couple in a recognized civil union, the Post editorial board writes that, "DOMA has been an impediment to the rights of gay men and lesbians since its inception in 1996. It withholds from same-sex couples the legal protections, obligations and privileges enjoyed by their heterosexual counterparts. Repeal appears out of reach, but Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. announced in February that the Justice Department would no longer defend DOMA in court, after concluding that it is unconstitutional."
"Mr. Holder should erase any confusion by declaring a moratorium on removal of foreign nationals in state-recognized same-sex unions until federal courts determine DOMA’s constitutionality," the paper concludes. "He should ensure that the government is not focusing on breaking up otherwise law-abiding families."
To read the full editorial in this morning's Post, click here.
Image via Flickr
In a New Op-Ed, Rep. Honda Calls for Inclusive Reform
By Steve Ralls on 05/13/2011 @ 10:12 AM
In a new op-ed appearing in this morning's San Jose Mercury-News, California Congressman Mike Honda calls on his colleagues in Congress to pass immigration reform legislation that includes LGBT families.
Congressman Honda, who is lead sponsor of the LGBT-inclusive Reuniting Families Act, makes a personal appeal for an inclusive reform package that would end the obstacles immigrant families - including LGBT families - face under current immigration laws.
"People who have their families by their side are happier, healthier and more able to succeed than those living apart from loved ones for years on end," Honda writes. "By pooling resources, families can do together what they can't do alone--start family businesses, create American jobs and contribute more to the general welfare. The healthier the community, the more expendable income is available and the lower the burden on social services."
"In my home district of San Jose, one family is making heart-wrenching decisions in order to remain together," he continues. "Judy Rickard recently took early retirement from her job in the California State University system to live abroad six months each year to be with her wife, Karin, who is British. Under current U.S. law, Judy's marriage is not recognized. Why? Because she and Karin are a lesbian couple. Karin can visit Judy in the U.S. only on a tourist visa, which provides her entry to the U.S. for only a portion of each year. Now, Judy is faced with the prospect of having to leave her home in California and go into exile abroad--all to keep her family together."
[The RFA], he notes, "would expand the definition of families to include couples like Judy and Karin. In doing so, it ensures our country has the ability to attract new workers to fuel the U.S. economy, and gives employers, like Judy's, a valuable tool to keep talented Americans on the job, rather than forcing them to leave their employers in order to keep their families together."
"Stories like Judy's," the Congressman writes, "are increasingly the rule, not the exception, when it comes to family unification. Federal laws are literally tearing families apart and separating American citizens from their loved ones. This is wrong, and it is time that American lawmakers do something to protect and preserve the American family."
To read Honda's full op-ed, click here.
Photo via Flickr.
A D.C. Legal Forum on LGBT Immigration Issues
Posted on 05/11/2011 @ 07:29 PM
On June 8th, Immigration Equality's staff attorney, Rosalba Davis, will be a panelist on the June Immigration Community Forum, hosted by the law firm of Maggio + Kattar.
The June forum, titled "Legal Strategies and Advocacy Efforts: Representing Member of the GLBT and HIV-Positive Community," will be held from 9 - 11am at the firm's Washington office, located at 11 Dupont Circle, N.W..
The forum will address the representation of members of GLBT and HIV positive communities by identifying current legal strategies available to assist GLBT and HIV positive clients and as well as on‐going legislative immigration initiatives. Panelists will also discuss the effect of the Administration’s announcement that it will not defend the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).
The panel will specifically address:
Current legislative immigration initiatives that would impact the GLBT community;
What is being done to push these initiatives forward;
What can be done by our community to help advocate for the enactment of these initiatives;
The Administration’s position on DOMA and its potential consequences for the GLBT communities; and,
Current immigration options for members of the GLBT and HIV communities and the use of expert statements regarding country conditions.
Rosalba will be joined by Graeme Reid, Incoming Director of Human Rights Watch’s Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Rights Program,; and James Alexander, Maggio + Kattar, Managing Shareholder.
RSVP to events@maggio‐kattar.com.
A White House Commitment to Immigration Reform
By Rachel Tiven on 05/11/2011 @ 09:59 AM
Yesterday, President Obama delivered a much-anticipated address to kick off a renewed White House campaign for comprehensive immigration reform. The President delivered his address in Texas, and outlined his vision for a comprehensive reform package that includes a strong commitment to immigrant families.
In his remarks, the President called for immigration laws that will reunite families “more quickly, rather than splitting them apart,” adding that, “I don’t believe the United States should be in the business of separating families. That’s not right.”
We are disappointed that the President didn’t refer to LGBT families directly, and we will keep up the pressure on the White House to make sure that any immigration reform effort does include all families.
We’re glad to see the President stepping up efforts to fix our broken immigration system. We’re glad to hear him talk about an end to family separation. Now, we look forward to working with him, and other leaders, on a concrete plan that includes our families, too. It’s time for everyone to get into the business of reforming our laws in a way that unites, rather than separates, loved ones. That’s the right thing to do, and the goal we remain committed to.
White House Photo, Lawrence Jackson, 5/10/11
In the Matter of Dorman: What Does it Mean?
By Victoria Neilson on 05/06/2011 @ 08:06 PM
Yesterday the Attorney General (pictured) took an unusual step in vacating (setting aside) the removal (deportation) order against a gay man who is in a long-term partnership and civil union with an American citizen. The case has received wide press coverage because this is the first time the administration has set aside a removal order for a gay couple and because it is only the second public statement about DOMA by the attorney general since he announced in February that the Department of Justice will no longer defend DOMA challenges in court.
Does this case mean that foreign nationals in civil unions or marriages can’t be deported?
Unfortunately, at least in the short term, no. The Attorney General (AG) is the head of the Department of Justice (DOJ) and he has the authority to set aside decisions by the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) as he did in this case. The BIA hears appeals from immigration court. In this case, the AG didn’t actually decide anything regarding DOMA, civil unions, and removal proceedings. Instead, he set aside the BIA’s prior decision and asked the BIA to answer questions about whether civil unions are the equivalent or marriage under NJ law; whether without DOMA, a NJ civil union would be the equivalent of a marriage under immigration law; when the couple entered their civil union; and whether they met the legal hardship standard for cancellation of removal.
What is cancellation of removal?
Cancellation of removal is a form of relief that an immigration judge can give to a foreign national who is in removal proceedings. The foreign national can win lawful permanent residence if he can show that he has been in the U.S. for more than ten years, has been a person of good moral character, and his removal from the U.S. would result in extreme, and exceptionally unusual hardship to his U.S. citizen or green card holding spouse, parent or child. Unless a foreign national has a qualifying American relative, he cannot apply for cancellation.
What happened in this case?
In this case the immigration judge found that Mr. Dorman did not have a qualifying relative and the BIA upheld that decision. The AG has now set aside the BIA decision and sent the case back to the BIA.
What will happen in this case?
It’s not clear. The BIA could issue a decision answering the AG’s questions at some point in the next few months, or it could remand the case to the immigration judge for further fact-finding. In the short-term, it’s great news for this couple because it means while the case is being fought further, Mr. Dorman can remain in the U.S. with his partner.
What does this decision mean for other cases?
It remains to be seen what effect this decision will have on other cases pending for foreign nationals in legally recognized relationships with Americans. It is certainly a positive sign that the AG is asking these questions and continuing to think about how DOMA applies or doesn’t apply in the immigration context.
Why did the AG make this decision?
Again, the answer is not clear, but it may have been as a result of pressure that U.S. Senators, led by John Kerry and Patrick Leahy, and Representatives, led by Zoe Lofgren, have put on the Administration to stop deporting the partners of Americans while the Courts and Congress grapple with the constitutionality of DOMA.
To read the full (two paragraph) decision, click here.
277 Tickets for our Safe Haven Awards. Do you have yours yet?
By Staff on 05/06/2011 @ 05:00 PM
Thanks to a slew of recent successes, Safe Haven tickets are selling faster than ever. The Uniting American Families Act is back in Congress with more Day One support than ever before. A separate bill, the LGBT-inclusive Reuniting Families Act, was reintroduced earlier today. We won asylum for 22 people this spring with the help of our amazing pro bono teams, continuing our 100% win-rate. And our DOMA-challenge litigation for binational families is pending.
While we have not won yet, we have much to be proud of. We hope you will join us, and the entire Immigration Equality family, as we celebrate this progress at the Safe Haven Awards on Tuesday May 31st at TheTimesCenter in Manhattan.
As co-chairs of this year's gala, we've joined with Immigration Equality's staff, legal fellows, and board chair to offer a $15,000 match called the Safe Haven Challenge. We pooled our donations together to encourage new people to join us for our biggest celebration of the year, as well as to deepen the support of our loyal and longtime patrons.
Here's how the Safe Haven Challenge works. Every new Host Committee sponsor counts towards the match. Former Host Committee members that renew their sponsorship at an increased level also qualify for $15,000 challenge. Since we announced the Safe Haven Challenge we've raised nearly $11,000 in new $589 sponsors.
On the cases we've worked on, including two asylum wins last week for gay men from Jamaica, as well as safe haven for someone in the midst of deportation proceedings to a country where he had been brutalized for his sexual orientation, Immigration Equality was behind us every step of the way.
If you've already reserved your tickets, thank you. We are so grateful to the generous sponsors listed below who have helped ensure the success of the 2011 Safe Haven Awards by joining this year's Host Committee. We couldn't do this without you.
We're so close to our match. Please buy your tickets today and join the Host Committee to help us reach our goal. If you join the Host Committee by next Friday, May 13th, you will be listed in the program booklet.
Thanks again. We hope to see you for the big event on May 31st.
Joe & Heidi Co-chairs, Safe Haven Awards
P.S. You are also invited to join us this coming Monday at Immigration Equality's Wall Street office for our annual Safe Haven Awards phone bank from 6-9 PM. It's a fun, productive way to meet staff and supporters, check out the home base, and contribute to the success of the event. Please RSVP to Win at email@example.com by Monday so we can plan accordingly.
Show your Committment: Join Immigration Equality at AIDS Walk New York
By Elisa Casinader on 04/29/2011 @ 05:36 PM
Take a Sunday Morning walk in Central Park for AIDS Walk New York as part of the Immigration Equality AIDS Walk Team.
Wake up New York!
HIV and AIDS is a global epidemic that refuses dismissal. Our state alone has more than 107,000 New Yorkers living with HIV and an additional thousand infected that don’t even know it. HIV is the 3rd leading cause of death for New York City residents aged 35 to 54, according to the NY Health Department.
In 2010, Immigration Equality was one of the many organizations successful in helping to end the HIV Ban, the discriminatory law that prevented HIV-positive immigrants from entering the United States. Last year alone, Immigration Equality won asylum or other related forms of relief for a total of 38 people who now no longer have to live in fear of being returned to a country where they will face mistreatment on the basis of their HIV status.
Why does Immigration Equality walk?
One way we show that we are committed to supporting families living with HIV/AIDS is by participating in AIDS Walk New York. Show your support by walking with the Immigration Equality AIDS Walk Team on Sunday, May 15, 2011.
Register here at the New York AIDS Walk site If 25 people register before May 4th we qualify for our own Team meeting station in Central Park!
If you are unable to make it to the walk you can show your support by donating to our Team’s Page.
All proceeds from the AIDS Walk will benefit GMHC [Founded in 1982, GMHC is a not-for-profit, volunteer-supported and community-based organization committed to national leadership in the fight against AIDS] and other AIDS organizations.
Will you join us for this Year’s Walk?
Date: May 15, 2011
Location: Central Park (click here to download map)
Time: Sign in 8:30
Join Immigration Equality AIDS Walk Team: http://tinyurl.com/IE-AIDSWalkpage
Donate to our Team’s Page: http://tinyurl.com/IE-AIDSWalkpage
Additional Questions Email IE Team Leader Elisa: firstname.lastname@example.org
AIDS Walk NY Website: http://www.aidswalk.net/newyork/
I look forward to meeting all of you and walking with you!
Help Stop HIV. Help Fight against AIDS.
Our Washington, D.C. Experience
By Guest on 04/28/2011 @ 02:27 PM
This guest blog is from Joriene and Jashley Mercado, the twin sons of Shirley Tan and her partner, Jay Mercado. Earlier this month, Joriene and Jashley accompanied their parents, and Immigration Equality, to Capitol Hill. The family - who made headlines when Shirley was faced with possible deportation - joined our policy team to rally support for reintroduction of the Uniting American Families Act.
From April 12-15, our family was invited by Immigration Equality to help lobby for the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) and to speak in the press conference for the reintroduction of UAFA. We were very much honored to meet several staffers of the Members of Congress and to speak in the press conference with nine House Representatives. It was truly a rewarding experience to be able to do what we did because an average teenager usually does not have the chance to do what we had done. Our family was very fortunate to go to Washington DC because all the work Immigration Equality and us had done in the past week helped UAFA to move forward.
As you know, the passing of UAFA will be very beneficial to our family and the more than 36,000 binational couples out there. Although our mom received a private bill from Senator Feinstein which stayed her deportation, it is not permanent, unlike what UAFA would do for my mom, but we are extremely thankful to Senator Feinstein for the private bill.
The heartbreaking situation our family had faced in 2009 was devastating. One morning in January, ICE officers came to our house early in the morning to give my mom a deportation notice. She was taken in a van and handcuffed like a criminal. This was so surreal and unimaginable. I couldn’t picture anything like this happening to our family. During that day and the couple of weeks after, we were unaware of what was happening to our mom. She had an ankle monitoring bracelet that she hid from us for a long time. Then, our parents decided to tell us the whole story because they said in order for us to receive help, we must have our story in the press. We were in tears when they told us what happened. Our mom is one of the most caring and loving people in the world and this should not have happened to her. Luckily for our family, my mom’s deportation was stayed due to the help of Senator Feinstein, Congresswoman Speier, Immigration Equality, Melanie Nathan and numerous other people.
That experience was probably one of the biggest obstacles our families has faced so far. We thought that this case only happened to our family, but we discovered that there are over 36,000 other families in the same situation as ours. That really opened our eyes and alarmed us that there's a need for a big change. That is why we enjoy lobbying for UAFA because we know that we will make a difference in this country if UAFA passes.
We enjoyed speaking to the staff from the different offices in the House of Representatives and the Senate offices, telling them our story, thanking or asking for their support of UAFA. Our meetings with most of the staffers were very productive and the outcome of our meetings were great! It definitely put a smile on our faces to hear that the staffers were very intrigued by our story and that they would bring up UAFA with their bosses.
Our experience speaking in the press conference for the reintroduction of UAFA was probably the greatest part of our trip. It was definitely an honor to be speaking at a podium with Congressmen and women. We were definitely nervous before speaking, but it was fun speaking in front of the many people who showed up in support of UAFA. After speaking, we felt as if we were experts at public speaking and felt like we're junior Congressmen.
Our trip to Washington DC was such a great experience for us and definitely gave us some insight on our future careers. We ask you to please contact your local congressperson or senator to support the Uniting American Families Act. It would mean so much to us and the 36,000 others who need help.
Photo: The Tan-Mercado family in the office of Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH), enjoying "Made in Ohio" lollipops.
Is Your Laptop Being Searched?
By Victoria Neilson on 04/25/2011 @ 02:53 PM
On Saturday, the New York Times featured an editorial criticizing the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals for allowing airport inspectors to seize laptops, hold them, sometimes for weeks, and search their contents.
Unfortunately, this is a practice we've heard about from some binational couples. It is very disturbing to think that Courts have upheld these warrantless searches.
If you're in a binational couple, you should be cautious about traveling with a laptop or even a blackberry or smart phone; an inspector could confiscate it and use what he or she finds to determine that you have immigrant intent.
Help Us Make History Again
By Julie Kruse on 04/20/2011 @ 04:55 PM
Help us make history again.
Over the past several weeks, we asked you to stand with us and call on your lawmakers to co-sponsor the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA). Thanks to your incredible response, we reintroduced UAFA with a record number of original co-sponsors.
Your calls make a real difference, and we have another opportunity to build on the amazing momentum our families now have on Capitol Hill.
Please take a moment and ask your Representative to sign on as a co-sponsor of the Reuniting Families Act.
In just a few weeks, Congressman Mike Honda — one of the most outspoken champions of our families — will reintroduce the Reuniting Families Act (RFA), too. The RFA, which includes UAFA, is a comprehensive family immigration bill that will help keep all families, gay and straight, together. It will end the backlog that keeps so many families apart, and provide an opportunity for LGBT Americans to sponsor their spouses and partners for residency in the United States.
Call your Representative now at (202) 224-3121. Ask the operator to connect you with your Representative; if you don't know who your Representative is, the operator can tell you.
Once you reach the office, all you have to say is:
"Hi, my name is _________, I live at (your street address and city) and I am your constituent. I am calling to ask Representative ____________ to co-sponsor the Reuniting Families Act, a bill that would allow all families, including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender families, to stay together."
Please take a moment and call today ... and ask your family and friends to call as well.
Let's make history ... again.
UAFA and LGBT Immigration on MSNBC
Posted on 04/18/2011 @ 04:08 PM
Immigration Equality advocate, author, and one-half of a binational couple Judy Rickard took to MSNBC with her partner Karin to discuss the fight for immigration rights for our families and their immigration battles and how the Uniting American Families Act would help.
Thank you to Judy and Karin for their continued outreach for our families.
How a Bill (Like UAFA) Becomes a Law
By Steve Ralls on 04/18/2011 @ 02:39 PM
With last week's reintroduction of the Uniting American Families Act in both the House and Senate, we know that many of you have questions about what happens next, how we score a Congressional win and what we need to do to move UAFA forward.
Over the past week, some of our supporters have posted questions about the Congressional process via Facebook and Twitter, and we want to take an opportunity to clarify what has happened, will happen and needs to happen with the legislation.
First, its important to note that co-sponsors are incredibly important, but co-sponsors are not votes. When a lawmaker co-sponsors legislation, they are, essentially, endorsing the bill and signaling to leaders in Congress that they support the bill. Many lawmakers, however, ultimately vote for bills they do not co-sponsor . . . and, on rare occasions, do not vote for bills they do co-sponsor. The co-sponsor number, however, is an important message to party, and Congressional, leaders about the level of support a bill enjoys.
Building co-sponsors now is imperative for when we have a vote on UAFA in the future. Some supporters have noted, in recent days, that co-sponsorship may just be symbolic. The reality, however, is that when we have Congressional leadership ready to move the bill, it will be the number of co-sponsors that leaders look at first. If we sign up an impressive number of lawmakers as co-sponsors of UAFA, when the moment arrives to bring the bill to a vote, we'll have the ammunition we need to do so.
Moving UAFA to a vote in Congress is a multi-step process. Bills do not move directly to a full Congressional vote. Instead, they must first clear several key hurdles. Initially, a bill must be voted out of the sub-committee (in this case, the Judiciary's Immigration Subcommittee) of jurisdiction. To advance from a sub-committee, a majority of lawmakers on that sub-committee must vote in favor of moving the bill. When they do so, it then advances to the full committee of jurisdiction, which in the case of UAFA is the Judiciary Committee. Similar to the sub-committee process, the full committee must have a majority vote in favor of moving the legislation to the full House or Senate for an up or down vote.
Once a bill has passed both a sub-committee and committee vote, it is then sent to the Speaker of the House, and the Senate Majority Leader, for a vote in those respective chambers. In the House, another majority vote (218 Members) is needed to pass the legislation. Because of various rules - most notably the Senate filibuster rules - legislation often needs a "super-majority" vote of 60 Senators to be approved in that Chamber. (There are some exceptions to that rule, including in cases where a smaller bill is added to a larger bill, in which case a majority vote is needed to keep it intact, if there is a move to remove it from the larger bill.)
In every step of the process, it is a bill's co-sponsors that champion moving it forward to the next level, and that give that forward momentum the fuel it needs to see a bill across the finish line.
UAFA has strong support, via co-sponsors, every step of the way. In the Senate, our lead champion - Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont - chairs the full Judiciary Committee. In the House, Congressman Jerrold Nadler (UAFA's sponsor) sits on the Judiciary Committee, and our outspoken advocate, Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren, is the ranking member of the Immigration Sub-Committee. Lining up additional co-sponsors to stand with them, however - and building the number we need to move to a vote when the moment is right in both chambers - is key to winning.
All of this is to say, of course, that nothing is simple on Capitol Hill. But, because of the work all of you have done with us, we are inching closer to the finish line.
(For a simple, catchy version of "How a Bill Becomes a Law," there's the timeless Schoolhouse Rocks take on the matter, which you can also find via YouTube, here.)
Image from Schoolhouse Rocks.
100 Co-Sponsors . . . and a Sunburn!
By Rachel Tiven on 04/15/2011 @ 01:25 PM
I just got back, last night, from Washington, where the Uniting American Families Act was reintroduced in front of the Capitol building, in the bright sunshine (where I also got a bright red sunburn). There was such an amazing crowd there cheering us on, and I couldn't help remember when UAFA reintroduction was Congressman Nadler, our staffer Adam Francoeur, and a binational couple or two. No one else was interested.
Today, Congressman Nadler was joined by Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren, ranking member of the immigration subcommittee; Congressman Mike Honda, past chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus and a key immigration player; Congressman Luis Gutierrez, the most vocal House leader on immigration reform; Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee; Congresswoman Jackie Speier; and LGBT Equality Caucus co-chairs Congressman Jarred Polis, Congressman David Cicciline, and Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin.
Many Members spoke about a couple they knew in their district - in every case a couple we had introduced to them or shepherded to action over the years. Shirley Tan and Jay Mercado and their sons spoke beautifully on behalf of LGBT immigrant families, and are in Washington lobbying the rest of the week. Joe Solmonese, the president of HRC, and Rea Carey, the head of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, joined us and spoke eloquently as well.
The Uniting American Families Act was reintroduced in the House with 100 co-sponsors and in the Senate with 18 - more than any previous reintroduction, in both absolute and percentage terms.
The enthusiasm with which Congressional leaders on immigration reform have embraced LGBT families is such a credit to the hard work of Immigration Equality Action Fund and its partner organizations and activists. Not only did they turn out to support the bill today, they are pressing the administration to immediately stop deporting our families.
IIn what The Advocate called "a two-pronged offensive" for LGBT immigrants, today Congresswoman Lofgren and 47 other members of Congress sent a letter to Janet Napolitano and Eric Holder demanding that their agencies stop deporting LGBT immigrant families. This follows the letter Senator Kerry and 11 of his colleagues sent with the same message last week. Our amazing legislative team - led by Julie Kruse, Connie Utada, and Alex Moore and our terrific policy interns, Takahiro Nakamura and Stephanie Harig - worked hard, with the lead of Congresswoman Lofgren, her amazing staff and our allies in Congress, to help secure these impressive numbers on both the letters and UAFA, and in both Houses.
Of course, the critical key to our success in lining up so much support has been the amazing response of you - everyone in our grassroots network - who called, emailed and visited your lawmakers. Nearly 1,000 of you sent emails through our online Action Center, and even more called Congress in the days leading up to reintroduction. All of us at Immigration Equality are constantly amazed by your dedication and commitment . . . and we cannot thank you enough.
(As Congresswoman Lofgren told us on the Hill yesterday, in referring to all of the families impacted by this issue, "These are my friends." We couldn't agree more, and we're honored to count you all as part of the Immigration Equality family, too.)
As the demise of DOMA draws closer, demonstrating our power on the Hill is more important than ever. UAFA is the only immediate solution for all binational couples around the country and in exile. Our ability to expand the bill's base of support helps fuel our efforts with the White House and in the courts, and adds heft to the movement for comprehensive immigration reform for all families.
Make It Count
By Rachel Tiven on 04/14/2011 @ 10:58 AM
Later today, I’ll join Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and one of our most dedicated families — Shirley Tan, Jay Mercado and their twin sons — on Capitol Hill for reintroduction of the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA). At the very same time, our lead Senate champion, Patrick Leahy of Vermont, will reintroduce UAFA in that chamber of Congress, too.
If you can't join us in person, you can still be part of this incredible day. Make a donation in support of UAFA and send a clear message to lawmakers: stop deporting our families. We'll put your gift to immediate use in our work to educate every Member of Congress about why UAFA matters.
Together, we’ve come a long way. Five years ago, ending discrimination against our families was barely a blip on the national radar. Today, it is the central focus of a national debate that shows record public support for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) families. Our families’ stories have become the rallying cry for the movement to gain federal recognition for LGBT couples and topple the unconstitutional Defense of Marriage Act.
We could not have gotten this far without you ... and I’m writing today to ask that you stand with the Tan-Mercado family, Congressman Nadler and Senator Leahy by making a donation in support of our work on Capitol Hill.
As we have expanded our fight for equality to the courts and the White House, advancing this legislation in Congress has never been more important. Passing UAFA is an immediate, nationwide solution for binational couples in the US and those living in exile.
A quick glance at the news of the past few weeks shows just how much momentum we have: ABC News, Associated Press, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Miami Herald, The New York Daily News ... the list goes on.
The Advocate may have put it best, though, calling us “easily the most visible issue in the current fight against DOMA.”
Despite that visibility, however, the federal government continues separating our families and deporting the spouses of LGBT Americans. That’s unconscionable, and we will not rest until it stops.
Immigration Equality is fighting harder than ever, and we need your help to sustain our stepped-up campaign for binational families. Please make the most generous donation you can in support of the Action Fund’s work in Washington.
All eyes are on our movement. This is our moment. Help us make it count.
We need your help — RIGHT NOW
By Julie Kruse on 04/12/2011 @ 02:59 PM
We need your help — RIGHT NOW — to pass the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA).
On Thursday afternoon, Congressman Nadler will be reintroducing UAFA in the House of Representatives.
This critically important bill will immediately end the discrimination our families face under current immigration laws and positively impact every family, regardless of where they live.
To pass UAFA, however, your Representative and Senators need to hear from you. The phone number to call is: (202) 225-3121.
Please ask your family and friends to call as well; it will only take a few minutes to say:
“Hi, my name is ___________, I live at (street address and city) and I am your constituent.
"I am calling to ask Represenative/Senator ______ to cosponsor the Uniting American Families Act because it allows gay and lesbian families to stay together. No American should have to choose between the person they love and our country.”
Call three times: ask once for your Representative and then for your two Senators. They need to hear from as many people as possible. The phone number to call is: (202) 225-3121. Ask the switchboard operator to connect you with your Representative and then your two Senators; the operator can tell you who they are if you don’t know.
Then, if you are in the Washington, D.C. area, join Immigration Equality and Congressman Nadler for a special reintroduction event on Thursday at 1pm. Our executive director, Rachel Tiven, will join Congressman Nadler and other House leaders on the House Triangle at 1pm ... with our very special guests, Shirley Tan, Jay Mercado and their twin sons. The Triangle is on the southeast side of the U.S. Capitol, accessible via Independence Avenue.
Now, please take just a few minutes of your time and call your Representatives and Senators
These calls — your calls — could help make all the difference for our families.
Thank you for all that you do!