Two Dramatic Developments Involving Immigration

This week saw two developments involving immigration which could potentially mark historical turning points.  First, as a result of this week’s Supreme Court decision in the case of United States v. Windsor, overturning the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the federal government will henceforth recognize same-sex marriages as valid for immigration purposes.  Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote on behalf of the majority:

“DOMA is unconstitutional as a deprivation of the equal liberty of persons that is protected by the Fifth Amendment… [it] forces same-sex couples to live as married for the purpose of state law but unmarried for the purpose of federal law, thus diminishing the stability and predictability of basic personal relations the State has found it proper to acknowledge and protect.”

This will affect many thousands of married couples who until now were facing the prospect of separation and removal of their same-sex spouses.  It signifies an important advancement in our country toward greater social justice, and it is the culmination of many years of hard fought advocacy by and on behalf of the LGBT community.  It will be our privilege to assist those LGBT spouses who will now be able to apply for lawful permanent resident status in the U.S.

Photo Credit: Celebration Chapel of Kingston NY
Pro-marriage equality demonstrators in the NY Capitol Building in Albany. Photo Credit: Celebration Chapel of Kingston NY

The other development this week concerns the U.S. Senate’s passing of the immigration reform bill (S. 744) by a vote of 68 in favor and 32 opposed.  A very impressive accomplishment indeed.  However, this completes only a first step in the long and hard legislative process ahead.  The prospects for the bill’s passage in the U.S. House of Representatives are highly uncertain.  In fact, it appears that only through intense and dramatic public demonstrations and massive media coverage can it be hoped for house leaders to promptly put the bill up for consideration and debate.  Otherwise, the proposed legislation is likely to fall into a black hole of deliberate neglect and obfuscation by those house members who want to see its demise.
The other possibility is that alternative bills are brought up for consideration that deal with only partial reforms, such as those concerned with employment and business visas.  These measures would be less controversial, yes, but the opportunity to reform the entire immigration system and to assist those millions of people who have made their lives in this country but have no legal status would be lost.  This will hurt many thousands of families and the United States itself because this large community will be forced to continue living in the shadows, deprived of the opportunity to fully contribute to our society.  During this time of change and support for social justice in this country, we hope that the House of Representatives will take the step towards immigration reform that this country needs.
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