House must act on compassionate, comprehensive immigration reform

Yet even as they celebrated this historic moment, Felipe knew so many of his undocumented friends and family are still waiting, in limbo, for a roadmap to citizenship of their own.

They are waiting for the House of Representatives to act. We can no longer afford to hold millions of lives hostage while our elected leaders waste time posturing, offering piecemeal provisions and extremist amendments. Although the end of DOMA means the estimated 28,500 same-sex, binational couples living in the United States have a roadmap to citizenship ahead, 11 million men, women and children, including 267,000 LGBT immigrants, are awaiting their own the chance to come out of the shadows.

The LGBT community is in this for the long fight. We are tired of seeing LGBT immigrants and their and our friends and family members struggling just to live and work and contribute to our society. And we are tired of seeing how this broken immigration system slows our country's growth. Immigration reform is not just good for individuals and communities, it's good for our country--which is why this should be a no-brainer and a nonpartisan issue.

The LGBT community will not sit idly by as politicians engage in power play.  We are counting on progressive allies in the House to hold true to their values when debating the bill, and for the House to hold leadership’s feet to the fire in demanding the chamber produce serious legislation that reflects the will of the country-- to pass commonsense, comprehensive immigration reform. The LGBT community will not compromise on a fair, compassionate path to citizenship.

The Senate has done its job, passing a bipartisan bill by a wide 68-32 margin. The Senate vote is emblematic of American’s overwhelming support for comprehensive immigration reform – poll after poll shows that across political, geographic and demographic lines. Americans want their elected officials to fix our county’s broken immigration system.

The Senate bill is far from perfect. Militarizing the border is a wasteful and unnecessary mistake. The bill does, however, include many provisions that House Democrats must strive to protect and build on. From family reunification provisions that would reunite families torn apart by deportations to the strongest DREAM Act ever written and first-time ever immigrant worker protections, the Senate bill breaks new ground for our country.

The legislation also includes many provisions that will particularly benefit LGBT immigrants, including eliminating the one-year bar on applying for asylum, improving conditions for people held in detention facilities and limiting the use of solitary confinement and prohibiting the use of this practice based solely on a detainees’ sexual orientation or gender identity.

Now it’s the House’s turn to step up.

Felipe may have found his roadmap for citizenship but we must continue to fight for his friends and family.

Every day we fail to reform our broken immigration system, 1,100 families are torn apart. The LGBT community is watching to ensure House Democrats work with their chamber’s leadership to update our antiquated immigration policies to reflect our county’s commitment to keep families together.

Montez is acting president of GLAAD.

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