Task Force board member joins Keeping Families Together Campaign for immigration reform

For many of us, reaching out to hold our loved ones is as simple as walking through the front door of our home and opening our arms. For the 36,000-plus LGBT immigrant and binational couples and families currently residing in the United States, being in a relationship with someone from a different country poses a serious threat that the government may forcibly break apart families.

Today, the Center for Community Change hosted an event to focus on the lives of immigrant families from the Keeping Families Together campaign, a storytelling network of families that have been affected by the nation’s broken immigration system. As the culminating event for a national bus tour that reaches 20 states, 90 cities and 100 congressional districts, the Keeping Families Together campaign is geared toward ensuring that members of Congress hear these families’ personal stories.

Task Force board member Ken Thompson and his partner Otts Bolissay shared their immigration story at the event from their perspective as a binational same-sex couple. Ken and Otts met over twelve years ago, and lived in the same country until Otts’ visa expired. The couple was forced to separate when Otts had to return to the Bahamas, his country of origin. In an attempt to keep their family together, Ken took an extended leave of absence and moved to the Bahamas until Otts could secure an additional work visa. Now, time is running out again and with Otts’s current visa set to expire in 2014, they will soon be faced with the prospect of another forced separation. This is the harsh reality of living under current immigration laws and the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

Because current immigration policies require marriage as a means of obtaining an international partner’s United States’ citizenship, LGBT binational couples have no means of ensuring permanent citizenship for their partners abroad. In January 2013, President Obama voiced his support for inclusive immigration policies that would ensure that LGBT binational couples and families would be able to remain together, saying that he plans to treat “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 Task Force stands in support of Ken and his partner as well as all other LGBT binational and immigrant couples who should have the right to obtain a visa for their long-term partners. Everyone should be able to hold their partner and their family close without fear of being separated by international borders. The Task Force is advocating for comprehensive immigration reform and equal treatment for all, which should include a clear path to citizenship; humane detention standards; asylum for those persecuted because of their sexual orientation or gender identity; family unification; respectful and appropriate treatment of transgender and HIV-positive immigrants; and a policy that addresses enforcement needs in a manner that is consistent with existing due process and civil rights laws. For more information about the Task Force’s position on comprehensive immigration reform, read the Task Force’s press release about inclusive immigration policies here. Also check out a newly released infographic on LGBT immigration.