By Contributor on June 06, 2013

The current immigration bill too narrowly defines the "American family." It does a disservice to many families -- lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) and straight alike.

The Senate bill delivers a two-part blow to immigrant families by restricting siblings and married adult children from family sponsorship categories, and by not giving LGBT couples the option to sponsor each other as family members.

Adding insult to injury, the rights of LGBT couples were intentionally used as a wedge issue during the recent debate by some Republican members of the Gang of Eight as an excuse to walk away from immigration reform entirely.

While the bill does eliminate the decades-long backlogs of family petitions that keep apart many families, especially Asian-American and Pacific Islander families, the proposed system creates additional burdens that dismantle the core idea of family.

LGBT immigrant families especially know what's at stake with such an overly constrained definition of family.

Take, for example, Erwin and John, who have spent 15 years together. Erwin, born in the Philippines, is on a student visa that will expire once he finishes his current course of study. John, who is a U.S. citizen, wants to sponsor Erwin through the family immigration process.

The story of Satyam and Tonja, who have been married since 2011, presents a similar situation. Satyam is on an H-1B visa, but cannot be sponsored for a permanent visa even though Tonja is a U.S. citizen.

Sadly, the bill now making its way through the Senate would exclude LGBT binational couples such as John and Erwin and Satyam and Tonja from availing themselves of benefits that heterosexual couples already have. As a result, Erwin and Satyam will face potential separation from their spouses once their current visas expire.

Defining a family unit in the narrowest of ways -- married heterosexual adults raising children, for example -- does not reflect the modern configurations of many American families. We shouldn't let Congress exclude LGBT couples, brothers and sisters, and married sons and daughters from the definition of a family unit.

As both houses of Congress take up immigration reform, it is important to keep fighting for an inclusive definition of family that protects our rights, captures the true makeup of our lives, and enables all immigrants to thrive.

Ben de Guzman is co-director for programs at the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance, a member of National Council of Asian Pacific Americans (NCAPA). Deepa Iyer is the executive director of South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) and the chair of the National Council of Asian Pacific Americans (NCAPA). The authors can be reached at pmproj@progressive.org.

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Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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