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May 05, 2013

Washington Week: Focus on Immigration Reform, Benghazi

by Michael Bowman

The U.S. Congress reconvenes after a week-long recess to continue work on immigration reform and to delve once again into last year’s terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

A push to overhaul U.S. immigration laws has been gaining momentum in the Senate, where a bipartisan reform bill was unveiled last month.  This week, senators could decide whether the bill extends equal protections to homosexual immigrants whose relationships are not recognized under current federal law.

Last week, President Barack Obama spoke in favor of gay-inclusive immigration reform. “The LGBT [lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgendered] community should be treated like everybody else.  To me, that is the essential core principle behind our founding documents - the idea that we are all created equal," he said.

The issue?  Gay Americans cannot sponsor a foreign spouse for U.S. residency and eventual citizenship.  Bi-national married gay couples, like American Heather Morgan and Spaniard Maria del Mar Verdugo, could be torn apart at any time.

“We have that complete uncertainty and the idea that at a moment’s notice, Maria could be forced to leave," she said.

But some Republican lawmakers warn against injecting gay rights into immigration reform, saying to do so would put the entire bill in jeopardy.  The Senate Judiciary Committee is expected to consider the issue when it meets later this week.

Meanwhile, the terrorist attack that killed four Americans - including the ambassador - in Benghazi, Libya will be examined once again by an oversight committee in the House of Representatives.  Republicans like Darrell Issa remain dissatisfied with the Obama administration’s explanations of its actions before and after the assault.

“We need to operate in a country like Libya erring on the side of security," he said.

Tuesday, President Obama will receive South Korean President Park Geun-hye at the White House.  The visit follows a period of dramatically-escalated tensions surrounding North Korea, and amid a reassessment of America’s security posture in the Asia-Pacific region.