Legislation and Letter from Congress Increases Demand for Protection of Same-Sex Binational Couples, Families from Discriminatory Immigration Law
Washington, DC — April 14, 2011 — The Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) was reintroduced in the House and Senate today by long-time equal rights advocates Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY-8) and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT). The legislation is backed by 98 co-sponsors in the House and 18 in the Senate, a record for the bill on reintroduction. It has been introduced in every session of Congress since 2000.
The bill would add three words to existing US immigration law – “or permanent partner” – wherever the word spouse appears, facilitating the need for LGBT Americans to obtain green cards for their partners while they wait for repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).
“Thousands of committed same-sex couples are needlessly suffering because of unequal treatment under our immigration laws, and this is an outrage,” said Nadler. “Our Constitution guarantees that no class of people will be singled out for differential treatment — and LGBT Americans should not and must not be excluded from that guarantee.”
Adding a one-two punch to UAFA’s reintroduction is a letter from Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA-16), the ranking Democrat on the House Subcommittee on Immigration Policy and Enforcement, calling on the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Justice to stop denying LGBT green card applications and stop separating LGBT binational families. The letter was signed by 48 House members and adds weight to a similar letter sent last week by Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) and 11 of his colleagues requesting the same immediate remedy to what Rep. Nadler has repeatedly called “gratuitous cruelty.”
UAFA comes into the 112th Congress under a much different landscape than previous introductions of the bill. While Democrats no longer control the House and hold a slimmer majority in the Senate, support for same-sex binationals has grown since President Obama’s directive on February 23 that the federal government stop defending Section 3 of DOMA on the basis that the law – which prohibits federal recognition of same-sex marriages – is unconstitutional.
No group is harder hit by DOMA than same-sex binational couples and their families, many who have been forced into exile or literally torn apart by immigration law that adheres to the DOMA decree that marriage is defined as “one man and one woman.” As a result, these couples, regardless of legal marriages, civil unions or domestic partnerships are treated as “legal strangers”.
Deportation cases targeting the foreign partner in these relationships have been winning temporary stays of late, as judges are deferring to the Obama directive that DOMA is unconstitutional. This caused a major uproar last month when the United States Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) stated it would hold all such cases in abeyance until DOMA’s constitutionality was either formally upheld or overturned. Although USCIS reversed this decision within 36 hours, advocates for same-sex binationals, like Out4Immigration, are petitioning USCIS, the DHS and the White House to restore the abeyance policy, urging an administrative fix until judicial and legislative actions can occur.
With advocacy engines now firing on all three branches of government – relief in some form for the heartbreak and injustice an estimated 36,000 same-sex binationals and their families incur has never seemed more possible. Out4Immigration urges more couples to come forward and tell their stories to continue to build and sustain the momentum. The all-volunteer, grassroots group can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.