Obama Does Not Mention Same-Sex Bi-National Couples in Extensive Immigration Speech

Posted by Chris Geidner
May 10, 2011 4:10 PM |

Today, in an extensive speech addressing his aims for comprehensive immigration reform, President Barack Obama spoke to a crowd in El Paso, Texas, about his aims. Nowhere in the speech, however, did he address the issue of same-sex bi-national couples.

Such couples have had green card applications denied in the past because of Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act -- a law the president has said he believes is unconstitutional. Several different pieces of legislation -- including, most specifically, the Uniting American Families Act -- aim to rectify that.

Just this past week, Attorney General Eric Holder pulled a case back from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit by remanding it to the Board of Immigration Appeals for consideration of four questions relating to recognition of same-sex couples.

On Monday, May 9, White House press secretary Jay Carney had promoted today's speech as one that would "reflect [Obama's] continued commitment to comprehensive immigration reform."

In a paragraph of the prepared remarks discussing families, Obama addresses husbands and wives separated by the immigration system but not same-sex families.

"Our laws should respect families following the rules – reuniting them more quickly instead of splitting them apart. Today, the immigration system not only tolerates those who break the rules, it punishes the folks who follow the rules," the president was to say. "While applicants wait for approval, for example, they're often forbidden from visiting the United States. Even husbands and wives may have to spend years apart. Parents can't see their children. I don't believe the United States of America should be in the business of separating families. That's not right. That's not who we are."

UPDATE @ 4:35 PM: Attorney Lavi Soloway responds to today's speech, writing, "I applaud the President's commitment to reform so that we can finally achieve a system that is fair, transparent and efficient. However, the legislative process will be a long, uphill battle and the administration has both a responsibility and an opportunity to use its broad executive power in this area now to ensure that this country is not tearing families apart."

He continues, "The administration has not yet delivered fully on its goal to protect all families from deportation, where possible, by application of existing prosecutorial discretion guidelines. President Obama must act immediately to guarantee that the concern for keeping families together extends to all American families, including those who are currently shut-out of the existing immigration system because of the Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, a discriminatory law that he believes is unconstitutional and which he has ceased to defend in federal court. This administration can act now to ensure that no LGBT families are torn apart by instituting a moratorium on deportations of all spouses of lesbian and gay Americans until all married couples are treated equally under our immigration laws."

UPDATE @ 5 PM: White House spokesman Shin Inouye, however, writes, "The President delivered this speech because he wants a constructive and civil debate on the need to fix the broken immigration system so that it meets Americas economic and security needs for the 21st century. It is fundamental for America to win the future. His remarks are not meant to be a laundry list of all the issues that immigration reform should address."

In the prepared remarks, Obama was to say, "So what would comprehensive reform look like?"

He then presented a numbered list.

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