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Obama includes same-sex, binational couples in immigration reform plan

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

LAS VEGAS — Declaring “now is the time” to fix broken immigration laws, President Barack Obama on Tuesday unveiled his plan for putting millions of illegal immigrants on a pathway to citizenship, including allowing U.S. citizens and permanent residents to sponsor a visa for a same-sex partner.

But already, potential roadblocks have emerged over how to structure the road to citizenship and whether a Senate bill introduced Monday would eventually include same-sex, binational couples.

President Barack Obama waves as he arrives to speak about immigration at Del Sol High School, Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2013, in Las Vegas.
Photo: Carolyn Kaster, Associated Press

Obama, in the heart of the heavily Hispanic Southwest, said Congress is showing “a genuine desire to get this done soon.” But mindful of previous immigrations efforts that have failed, Obama warned that the debate would become more difficult as it gets closer to a conclusion.

The separate White House and Senate proposals focus on the same principles: providing a way for most of the estimated 11 million people already in the U.S. illegally to become citizens, strengthening border security, cracking down on employers who hire illegal immigrants and streamlining the legal immigration system.

But a key difference between the White House and Senate proposals is the administration’s plan to allow same-sex partners to seek visas under the same rules that govern other family immigration:

From a fact sheet released by the White House:

Keep Families Together.

The proposal seeks to eliminate existing backlogs in the family-sponsored immigration system by recapturing unused visas and temporarily increasing annual visa numbers. The proposal also raises existing annual country caps from 7 percent to 15 percent for the family-sponsored immigration system. It also treats same-sex families as families by giving U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents the ability to seek a visa on the basis of a permanent relationship with a same-sex partner. The proposal also revises current unlawful presence bars and provides broader discretion to waive bars in cases of hardship.

The Senate principles do not recognize same-sex partners, though Democratic lawmakers have told gay rights groups that they could seek to include that in a final bill.

“The president has long believed that Americans with same-sex partners from other countries should not be faced with the painful choice between staying with the person they love or staying in the country they love,” said White House spokesman Jay Carney, earlier today.

But Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) called the issue a “red flag” in an interview Tuesday on “CBS This Morning.” McCain said he didn’t think the issue was of “paramount importance at this time.”


Washington last took up immigration changes in a serious way in 2007, when then-President George W. Bush pressed for an overhaul. The initial efforts had bipartisan support but eventually collapsed in the Senate because of a lack of GOP support.

Associated Press contributed to this report.
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15 more reader comments:

  1. YES! YES! YES!

    Posted on Tuesday, January 29, 2013 at 2:39pm
  2. He did it? Oh my! Can’t wait to see what he said!!!

    Posted on Tuesday, January 29, 2013 at 2:47pm
  3. didnt say it, its written

    Posted on Tuesday, January 29, 2013 at 2:55pm
  4. That’s our President! Proud, again!

    Posted on Tuesday, January 29, 2013 at 3:08pm
  5. That explains why CNN is not showing anythinh (it’s written).

    Posted on Tuesday, January 29, 2013 at 3:17pm
  6. I agree with this but… What about US gay couples? Should we not protect them first?

    Posted on Tuesday, January 29, 2013 at 3:23pm
  7. This is BULLSHIT!!! Obama just got done saying marriage equality is a state, not federal issue. Yet he wants the FEDERAL government to recognize same-sex partnerships of non- US citizens???? So, the relationship of 15 years with my soul mate doesn’t exist in the eyes of our government because we’re United States citizens. Sorry, this is just plain WRONG.

    Posted on Tuesday, January 29, 2013 at 3:43pm
  8. @James: Why can’t we fight for the rights of both at the same time. Does it always have to be Us vs. Them?!

    Posted on Tuesday, January 29, 2013 at 3:44pm
  9. @James, US gay couples are not subject to deportation. @Rachel, you are way too literal. There is a big difference in “recognition” when it comes to marriage equality, and letting binational partners stay in the country. Agreed, we still have a lot of work to do, but we need to fight for all our rights at the same time — not one at a time — if we are going to experience real change within our lifetime.

    Posted on Tuesday, January 29, 2013 at 4:07pm
  10. @Rachel: Are you and your partner forced to be apart, in separate countries, for 11 months out of the year? No, I didn’t think so.

    Posted on Tuesday, January 29, 2013 at 4:08pm
  11. If you’re already a US citizen, you and your loved ones don’t have to worry about being shipped out of the country. If these people were straight, their families would already have this protection, and they should have it. There’s no need to be selfish about who gets there first. It’s all headed in the same direction.

    Posted on Tuesday, January 29, 2013 at 4:19pm

    Posted on Tuesday, January 29, 2013 at 4:33pm
  13. Isn’t it like putting the cart before the horse? I’m not sure I agree with this. I can’t marry my partner but a foreigner can hop, skip, and prance over here with their “partner”. No way. Not going to cut it.

    Posted on Tuesday, January 29, 2013 at 6:11pm
  14. Yeah, thats real mature April. You can’t get married so lets keep other same-sex couples from being in the same country together.

    Posted on Tuesday, January 29, 2013 at 6:27pm
  15. Unbelievable how totally fucking selfish people can be with human rights. Does it really elevate you and your own personal cause to have the smug satisfaction of knowing that someone else has less rights than you do, and they’re being ‘kept in their place’ until you’ve been served at the table. Your relationship has more legitimacy and urgency than another’s? Did you choose to be gay? NO. Did I choose to fall in love with someone who isn’t American? NO. Are you forcibly being kept apart? NO. Are some Americans forcibly kept apart from their lovers of 5, 10, 15, years? YES.

    Posted on Tuesday, January 29, 2013 at 6:29pm