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Uniting American Families Act

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  • Bradley D. Pattison
    Uniting American Families Act (formerly called Permanent Partners Immigration Act) The problem. Lesbian, gay and bisexual U.S. citizens are prohibited from
    Message 1 of 1 , May 4, 2007
      Uniting American Families Act
      (formerly called Permanent Partners Immigration Act)

      The problem. Lesbian, gay and bisexual U.S. citizens are prohibited from petitioning for their same-sex partners to immigrate, forcing thousands of couples to live apart or to emigrate to one of the 15 countries with immigration laws designed to keep families together.

      What is the Uniting American Families Act? Under the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act, U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents may sponsor their spouses (and other immediate family members) for immigration purposes. But same-sex partners of U.S. citizens and permanent residents are not considered "spouses" and their partners cannot sponsor them for family-based immigration. Consequently, many same-sex binational couples are kept apart or torn apart. And since immigration is regulated on a federal level, even binational couples who have entered into marriages, civil unions or other legally recognized relationships in their home states still cannot sponsor their spouses for immigration purposes. The Uniting American Families Act would help to remedy this injustice.

      Why should I support this bill?

      a.. Approximately 75 percent of the 1 million green cards or immigrant visas issued each year go to family members of U.S. citizens and permanent residents. However, the Immigration and Nationality Act's current definition of family does not include same-sex partners.
      b.. Current U.S. law forces thousands of same-sex couples to be separated or live in constant fear of being stopped by officials who demand to see documentation and threaten detention. In some cases, same-sex partners face prosecution by the Immigration and Naturalization Service - including hefty fines and deportations. U.S. citizens are sometimes left with no other choice but to emigrate with their partners to a country with more fair-minded immigration laws.
      c.. The United States lags behind the following 17 countries that recognize same-sex couples for immigration purposes: Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Israel, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom.
      d.. One of the fundamental principles of immigration law and policy is the notion of family unification, which allows U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents to sponsor their spouses (and other family members) for immigration purposes. Unfortunately, same-sex couples committed to spending their lives together are not recognized as "families" under current federal law, including the U.S. immigration law.
      How will the measure work? Once the measure is enacted, binational same-sex couples will have to meet the same requirements as binational, married couples. Some requirements include providing proof of the relationship - including affidavits from friends and family or evidence of financial support.

      The UAFA will apply the same standards to same-sex couples that the United States applies to opposite-sex couples where one member is seeking to bring a foreign partner into the country. As with current immigration laws for married couples, the UAFA would impose harsh penalties for fraud, including up to five years in prison and as much as $250,000 in fines. In addition, if the partnership is dissolved in less than two years, the legal immigrant status of the partner would be revoked.

      Under the measure, a permanent partner is any person 18 or older who is:

      1.. in a committed, intimate relationship with another adult 18 or older in which both parties intend a lifelong commitment;
      2.. financially interdependent with that other person;
      3.. not married to, or in a permanent partnership with, anyone other than that other person; and
      4.. unable to contract with that person a marriage cognizable under the Immigration and Nationality Act.
      What can I do if I am in a same-sex relationship and my partner is about to be deported? Visit Immigration Equality for help.

      What is the current status of the measure? This bill was introduced on June 21, 2005, by Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., and Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.

      Bill numbers: S. 1278, H.R. 3006.

      Federal legislation can be tracked using the THOMAS website, which is maintained by the Library of Congress and named after the third president of the United States, Thomas Jefferson.

      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
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