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Leahy Says Immigration Law Should Apply To Gay Couples

Senator Patrick Leahy says he plans to introduce an amendment to the immigration overhaul bill that would provide new rights for same-sex couples.

Leahy is the chairman of the Senate Judiciary committee, and he expects his panel will consider hundreds of amendments to the immigration bill.

The legislation would create a path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million people who are in this country illegally.  It’s a process that could take more than 10 years to complete and the bill links the process to the implementation of stronger security measures along the Mexican border.

Leahy thinks many groups now understand that they’re not going to get everything they want in the bill.

“Now they realize that everybody’s got to give some. Business has to give some, labor has to give some, and that’s made a huge, huge difference,” said Leahy. “The bill we get will be a lot better than what we have today. It will not be perfect but if we keep trying for an absolute perfect bill we’ll get nothing.”

Leahy plans to offer an amendment that would permit American citizens in same-sex marriages to sponsor their foreign partner for a green card. He says it’s a process that’s currently available for heterosexual married couples.

“It’s a fairness thing,” said Leahy. “Right now you’ve got this case where people have to choose between love of their country or love of their life. And it shouldn’t be that way. People should be treated the same.”

Some senators have indicated that they will vote against the bill if Leahy’s amendment is in the final version.  Leahy isn’t concerned about these threats.

“If people disagree with this amendment, vote against it. That’s simple enough,” said Leahy. “We’re going to have votes on everything and vote yes, vote no. Don’t go running off and saying ‘Oh I can’t vote for something I wasn’t going to vote for anyway because I don’t like some part of it.’”

The Obama administration has proposed that the bill include a fee for anyone who crosses the border with Canada. Leahy says the proposal is “one of the dumbest ideas” he’s seen during his nearly 40-year career in the Senate.

“When the administration came up with the idea of having a fee to cross the northern border, well, I had a couple of things I said about it which we can’t say over the radio because you might lose your license,” said Leahy. “But I said this is a half-baked idea and I did not expect it to see the light of day.”

The committee will begin its review of the proposed amendments on Thursday. It’s a process that’s expected to take several weeks to complete.

Bob Kinzel has been covering the Vermont Statehouse since 1981 — longer than any continuously serving member of the Legislature. With his wealth of institutional knowledge, he answers your questions on our series, "Ask Bob."
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