Friday, June 22, 2018
News Roundup

Immigration debate critical for same-sex couples

TAMPA — On their first date, the new couple left the restaurant holding hands.

A man riding by on a bicycle cursed at them.

Juan Rodriguez and Felipe Matos did not let go.

"When that happened, I felt that confirmation," Juan said. "This is the relationship that I want to be in. I want to fight against this type of bigotry."

Juan and Felipe, now married and living in Tampa, were among 11 million undocumented immigrants who welcomed the prospect of immigration reform. The proposal presented to Congress in April offers many a pathway to citizenship.

But it provides little hope for same-sex couples such as Juan and Felipe, who are trapped between the controversial issues of immigration and gay marriage.

More than 200,000 undocumented immigrants nationwide identify themselves as gay or transgender, according to the Center for American Progress, a liberal research institute.

The current bill would not allow U.S. citizens and permanent residents to sponsor their domestic partners and that's not likely to change. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., met fierce resistance in trying to add that provision and Tuesday evening, he withdrew his amendment, conceding it would imperil any chance of immigration reform.

Republicans said if Democrats added the Uniting American Families Act, they would walk away, upending fragile compromises that led to the bill.

"They've said it publicly, they've told me privately," said Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, who like the other Democrats on the Judiciary Committee expressed support for same-sex couples but also worry about upending the bill.

Leahy referred to Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who helped craft the bill, when he said: "When I read news stories of a Republican not on this committee threaten that my antidiscrimination amendment would kill the bill, I hoped it was just partisan rhetoric on talk radio but now I understand that even the supportive Republicans on this committee will also walk away from this comprehensive bill if we address this flaw in our immigration system."

A while later Tuesday, the committee approved the bill 13-5, with three Republicans joining Democrats. The Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act now goes to the full Senate.

The debate is being carefully watched by couples such as Juan and Felipe, who came here as undocumented immigrants.

At age 6, Juan and his family fled the violence in Colombia and moved to Homestead. Within a year, Juan learned English, but watched as his dad and other relatives labored in low-paying jobs.

As a high school senior looking toward college, universities wanted documents proving he lived in the country. His father told him the truth: Their family was undocumented.

"I got really depressed," said Juan, 23. "I felt ashamed.''

At age 14, Felipe left a Brazilian slum near Rio de Janeiro.

His mother, who raised him by herself, put her only son on a plane with a tourist visa and sent him to Miami to live with his older sister in 2001. Within a few months, the visa expired.

While attending Miami Dade College, Juan and Felipe met in 2008 at an immigration reform meeting for undocumented youths. The couple continued rallying for immigration reform through the years.

In May 2012, they married in Massachusetts, where same-sex marriage is legal, becoming Juan and Felipe Sousa-Rodriguez.

Juan is an organizer for the Florida Immigrant Coalition. Felipe, 27, is co-director of Get­EQUAL, a national organization supporting gay and transgender rights.

Juan, who has a green card, hopes to obtain his citizenship this year.

In December, Felipe obtained his approval for deferred action, a program that allows undocumented immigrants to remain here for two years.

But in less than two years, Felipe must reapply, with no guarantees of a second approval.

If the current bill becomes law, Felipe would have a chance to become a citizen within five years. But if the uniting families provision is added, Juan could sponsor him and shorten the five-year wait to less than six months.

"The whole concept of what a family is and what marriage is defined as is changing very rapidly for everyone across the country," Juan said, adding that gay and transgendered families are "constantly being thrown under the bus."

"They are not a priority."

Times staff writer Alex Leary contributed to this report. Laura C. Morel can be reached at [email protected] or (813)226-3386.

Comments
Derrick Brooks won’t pursue USF’s AD job

Derrick Brooks won’t pursue USF’s AD job

The local favorite for USF's athletic director job said Friday that he is not a candidate.In a three-paragraph statement, Pro Football Hall of Famer Derrick Brooks said his commitments to Brooks DeBartolo Collegiate High School, his charities and fam...
Updated: 9 minutes ago
Former Tampa police corporal qualifies as Democrat to run for Hillsborough sheriff

Former Tampa police corporal qualifies as Democrat to run for Hillsborough sheriff

TAMPA — A Democrat has officially joined the race for Hillsborough County sheriff.Gary Pruitt, a 50-year-old former Tampa police corporal who now works as director of security at a local mall, qualified Friday to challenge Republican Sheriff Chad Chr...
Updated: 11 minutes ago
With Winston suspension, how might Bucs split QB reps in preseason?

With Winston suspension, how might Bucs split QB reps in preseason?

With news that Jameis Winston will be suspended for the first three games of 2018, Bucs coach Dirk Koetter has an interesting decision to make for training camp and especially in preseason games: How does he split reps between Winston and backup Ryan...
Updated: 23 minutes ago
Writer resigns from ‘New Yorker’ after twitter flap over Pasco Marine’s tattoo

Writer resigns from ‘New Yorker’ after twitter flap over Pasco Marine’s tattoo

Talia Lavin, whose tweet about a Pasco veteran’s tattoo implied he was a Nazi, has apologized to him and resigned from her position as a fact-checker at the New Yorker magazine.But in another tweet, Thursday evening, Lavin also lashed out at the fede...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Health care IT company CareSync shuts down, laying off 292

Health care IT company CareSync shuts down, laying off 292

TAMPA — CareSync, a Tampa health care information technology company that raised millions from private investors in recent years, has shut down. The company ceased operations on Thursday, laying off nearly 300 people, according to former employees an...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Carlton: That snake-like thing living under your refrigerator? It’s a skink. Welcome to Florida

Carlton: That snake-like thing living under your refrigerator? It’s a skink. Welcome to Florida

At first I thought it was a snake.Because wouldn’t it be typically Florida to come home and find a snake poking its nose out from under your stove? Which wouldn’t be a problem or anything. I would just have to move out is all.But no, the creature th...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Support growing for Tom Jurich to become Bulls’ next AD

Support growing for Tom Jurich to become Bulls’ next AD

This dispatch comes at you from a remote south Georgia lake shore, where the waters remain far more pristine than the waves being made in USF athletics circles.Which is to say, a number of prominent folks are clamoring for Tom Jurich to become the Bu...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Updated: 1 hour ago
Top 5 at noon: Uncertainty looms for migrant families at the border; the aftermath of Jameis Winston’s suspension; and more

Top 5 at noon: Uncertainty looms for migrant families at the border; the aftermath of Jameis Winston’s suspension; and more

Here are the latest headlines and updates on tampabay.com.AT A MEXICAN SHELTER, MIGRANTS WHO FLED DEATH THREATS PREPARE FOR ‘ZERO TOLERANCE’ AT THE BORDERShe fled Honduras with her son after gangs threatened to kill her. Will she reach the U.S.? In a...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Pride divided no more: St. Pete Pride comes back together

Pride divided no more: St. Pete Pride comes back together

ST. PETERSBURG — The 16th annual St. Pete Pride Parade is getting ready to march along the downtown waterfront the second straight year. But many hope to move past the division caused last year when the parade was uprooted from its original hom...
Updated: 2 hours ago