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Gay immigrants are immigrants too

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Now here’s something you don’t see every day:

“Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), the sole Republican co-sponsor of a bill to give binational same-sex couples equal rights to petition for immigrant visas, said Tuesday that she remains committed to getting the legislation passed, either on its own or as part of comprehensive immigration reform.

Collins told HuffPost that her first preference would be to move the bill, called the Uniting American Families Act, on its own. But if that can’t happen, she said the measures should be included in a comprehensive immigration reform bill next year. …

Because of the Defense of Marriage Act, even legally-married same-sex couples are unable to petition for legal status for a foreign-born member. That can lead to partners being separated by deportation or inability to obtain visas, with couples at times living apart for long stretches or leaving the United States entirely. The Williams Institute at UCLA estimated in 2011 that there were about 40,000 couples who were ineligible to receive the same treatment on immigration as heterosexual couples. Nearly 25,000 children had parents who fit into that category, according to the institute.”

A female Republican senator who’s pro-gay and pro-immigrant — talk about a triple threat.

Collins is used to sailing against the wind, however. You might remember her as the main Republican sponsor of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act of 2010.

I’ve previously written a bit more on the hurdles facing the gay and undocumented in this country. Last month, the leaders of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus voiced their support of recognizing same-sex couples in the nation’s immigration policy. The movements for immigrant rights and gay rights are similar enough as it is, and they even overlap in many cases — 40,000 cases in 2011, to be exact.

For many undocumented Americans — I call them “Americans” because this is the only country they’ve ever known — marrying the person they love also provides the easiest and fastest path to a legal status. It’s unconscionable that an immigrant married to an American citizen would be denied a green card just because they both belong to the same sex. Love is love. Commitment is commitment. Who’s the federal government to say that theirs isn’t a real love, a real commitment, a real marriage?

The movements for gay rights and immigrant rights are similar in another, more pertinent way: there is now a swelling wave of support for each washing over the United States.

I commend Senator Collins for being on the right side of history and, more important, on the right side of justice.

About Hector Luis Alamo, Jr.

Hector Luis Alamo, Jr., is the associate editor at Being Latino and a native son of Chicago's Humboldt Park neighborhood. He received a B.A. in history at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where his concentration was on ethnic relations in the United States. While at UIC, he worked first as a staff writer for the Chicago Flame and later became the newspaper's Opinions editor. He contributes to various Chicago-area publications, most notably, the RedEye and Gozamos. He's also a cultural critic for 'LLERO magazine. He has maintained a personal blog since 2007, YoungObservers.blogspot.com, where he discusses topics ranging from political history and philosophy to culture and music.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and should not be understood to be shared by Being Latino, Inc.

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