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Is there a correlation between gay rights and immigration reform?

While gay rights and immigration may not initially seem like a logical pairing to most South Carolina residents, the two issues have more in common than one would initially think. The nation's view of immigration has changed over the years. Many more American's have a more positive outlook on the impact of immigration. Society's view of social reform in terms of gay rights and gay marriage has also seen a dramatic shift. As more and more laws are being passed with regards to social reform, the pathway is being made for immigration reform.

In 1986, only 49 percent of Americans supported a decrease in immigration with only 7 percent advocating for an increase. The remaining individuals opted to maintain the status quo. In a poll taken in July of last year, the shift was significant. A surprising 23 percent were in favor of increased immigration, while only 35 percent were in favor of decreased immigration. So, why the shift?

There are many answers to this question. It could be that there are approximately 40 million Americans who are foreign-born. It could also be that the majority of Americans live in areas where there is already a great immigration population, or where the population of immigrants is rapidly growing. Lastly, it could be a change in perception. In the poll, only 27 percent of individuals aged 18 to 29 agreed with the statement that "the U.S. stands above all other countries," while 50 percent of Americans age 65 and over agreed.

Although the public perception is shifting, as it is with gay rights, there are still many legal challenges that individuals face while the law is catching up to socials changes. Many immigrants are still facing the issue of obtaining legal permanent resident status in the United States. Applying for residency is a bit more straightforward when the individuals is already in the United States legally, but there are other exceptions to obtaining permanent status.

Some of these exceptions can fall under the Violence against Women Act or when circumstances would place an undue hardship on the individuals or their family members if they were removed. In these cases, the undocumented immigrant must have been in the United States for at least 10 years.

Source: Bloomberg News, "Gay Rights Can Unlock Immigration Reform," Feb. 11, 2014

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