Today, Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, led a bipartisan coalition of congressional champions of immigration reform and civil rights in re-introducing the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA), including Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD), Richard Hanna (R-NY), Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), Charlie Dent (R-PA), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), John Conyers (D-MI), Jared Polis (D-CO), David Cicilline (D-RI), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Mark Pocan (D-WI), Mark Takano (D-CA), Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY), Mike Honda (D-CA), and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD).
UAFA would allow gay and lesbian Americans to sponsor their permanent partners for legal residency in the United States, a right currently enjoyed only by married heterosexuals under immigration law. Because the U.S. does not legally recognize gay and lesbian couples and their children as families, many same-sex bi-national couples are torn apart. As the push for comprehensive immigration reform increases in Congress, the original co-sponsors asserted that any legislative proposal for immigration reform must include UAFA and equality for LGBT families. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) also plans to introduce UAFA in the Senate.
"Today, 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 must not be excluded from that guarantee. Moreover, any serious legislative proposal for comprehensive immigration reform absolutely must include gay and lesbian couples and their families."
"We must continue to strike down the barriers of discrimination wherever they exist," said Leader Pelosi. "As we work toward comprehensive immigration reform, we must ensure that the value of all families is valued, respected and recognized in the eyes of the law."
"It is imperative that our immigration system recognizes and upholds the value of keeping all families together, said Whip Hoyer. "Discrimination of any kind, including against same-sex marriages, has no place in our nation. I am proud to stand with Representative Nadler as he reintroduces the Uniting American Families Act to ensure that our laws protect and treat committed bi-national same-sex couples with the respect they deserve."
"Our laws ought to reflect reality and the full diversity of what family means in the United States today," Gutierrez said. "I will fight for UAFA because it is the right thing to do and because it protects the interests of all families."
"Our immigration system has always recognized the value of keeping families together," said Conyers. "But when it comes to legally married same-sex couples and domestic partners our immigration law says those families don't count. I am pleased to join my colleagues today to stand against this discrimination and to protect the unity of all families."
"The Uniting American Families Act reflects our values as Americans, prioritizing the sanctity of the family unit," said Polis. "Instead of continuing to discriminate against same-sex couples, this important legislation would help reduce family backlogs, grow our economy and improve the effectiveness of the immigration process. This common-sense legislation is part of the solution to how to fix our broken immigration system."
"Today's bipartisan reintroduction reminds us that LGBT immigrant families live in Democratic and Republican districts," said Rachel B. Tiven, executive director of Immigration Equality. "Voters sent a clear message in November: they support treating everyone -- gay and straight, citizen and immigrant -- with dignity and respect. These are true American values. As Congress moves forward on long overdue immigration reform, lawmakers must include UAFA as part of that effort. Our immigration laws must reflect the diversity of our beautiful country and must protect families and family unity. We are grateful to Congressman Nadler for his decades-long leadership on this issue and to his House colleagues from both parties who have joined our efforts."
"Americans should never be forced to choose between love of family and love of country. Yet our nation's discriminatory immigration laws often require bi-national same-sex couples to uproot their lives and move abroad in order to keep their families together," said Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin. "Today we applaud the bi-partisan reintroduction of the Uniting American Families Act, which affirms that our nation's committed and loving bi-national same-sex couples deserve the same dignity, respect and opportunities as everyone else."
"U.S. immigration policy is supposed to be based on the principle of bringing and keeping families together, but the system is broken. Instead of unification, the policy often results in painful separation of loved ones," said Rea Carey, Executive Director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. "This must change. Thousands of binational same-sex couples and their families have been kept separated or forced to live abroad. This discriminatory practice is unfair and inhumane. No one should ever have to choose between their partner and their country or be denied the freedom to be with their families. The Uniting American Families Act will change this inequity."
UAFA would add the term "permanent partner" to sections of the Immigration and Naturalization Act that apply to married heterosexual couples. "Permanent partner" is described as an adult who is in a committed, intimate relationship with another adult in "which both parties intend a lifelong commitment." This legislation would afford equal immigration benefits to permanent partners as exist for married heterosexuals, and it would impose the same restrictions, enforcement standards and penalties as are currently in immigration law.
At least 31 countries currently allow residents to sponsor gay and lesbian permanent partners for legal immigration, including: Andorra, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Japan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.