Last night, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved a sweeping immigration reform bill in a bipartisan vote of 13 to 5. The bill, drafted by the so-called "Gang of Eight," includes a path to citizenship for the 11 million people currently in the United States who do not have legal status. It also includes measures to strengthen boarder security, and new programs for highly skilled workers.
President Obama issued a statement supporting the advancement, saying the bill was "largely consistent with the principles of commonsense reform I have proposed and meets the challenge of fixing our broken immigration system." He continued, "None of the committee members got everything they wanted, and neither did I, but in the end, we all owe it to the American people to get the best possible result over the finish line. I encourage the full Senate to bring this bipartisan bill to the floor at the at the earliest possible opportunity and remain hopeful that the amendment process will lead to further improvements."
Despite wide support, many LGBT advocacy groups are outraged after an amendment to extend protections to same-sex couples was dropped by Democrats. The amendment would give same-sex partners the ability to sponsor their significant other for citizenship, however conservative members of the Committee and the Gang of Eight threatened to pull their support for the bill if the amendment was included. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) told the committee "So, with a heavy heart, and as a result of my conclusion that Republicans will kill this vital legislation if this anti-discrimination amendment is added, I will withhold calling for a vote on it at this time. But I will continue to fight for equality."
Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin said in a statement "It is deplorable that a small number of Senators have been able to stand in the way of progress for lesbian and gay couples torn apart by discriminatory laws. We are extremely disappointed that our allies did not put their anti-LGBT colleagues on the spot and force a vote on the measure that remains popular with the American people."
Media Resources: New York Daily News 5/22/2013; Washington Post 5/22/2013; ABC News 5/21/2013; Associated Press 5/21/2013
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SisterReach, a grassroots organization focused on "empowering, organizing, and mobilizing women and girls in the community around their reproductive and sexual health to make informed decisions about themselves," organized the press conference "to call attention to the unique concerns Black and poor communities throughout Shelby County and across the state of Tennessee face on a daily basis" and to emphasize how the upcoming election "could further limit [black women's] reproductive, economic, political, and social autonomy."
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