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Uniting American Families Act reintroduced in Congress

WASHINGTON – The Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) was reintroduced today in Congress.

This legislation would allow Americans to sponsor their same-sex permanent partners for legal residency in the United States, a right currently enjoyed only by married opposite-sex couples under immigration law. Because the U.S. does not legally recognize same-sex couples and their children as families, many binational same-sex couples are torn apart.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, and Reps. John Conyers (D-Mich.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Jared Polis (D-Colo.), Mike Honda (D-Calif.), Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), and Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) announced the reintroduction in the House.

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) also introduced UAFA today 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,” Nadler said. “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.”

“It’s appalling that the United States government forces families to separate,” Lofgren said. “As a nation, we should be encouraging the cohesion of American families, not forcing the deportation of partners and parents. This is about discrimination, and in America we are all equal regardless of color, race, creed or sexual orientation.”

“There is simply no place for discrimination in America,” Baldwin said. “LGBT families are being torn apart by inequitable immigration laws that deny same-sex married couples and domestic partners the same rights and obligations as their married heterosexual neighbors. It’s imperative that we end discriminatory laws that hurt couples, their children and extended families, and their communities and employers.”

“I am proud to stand with Rep. Nadler and leaders from the LGBT, civil rights, religious and business communities in supporting the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA),” Honda said. “As an American who was uprooted from my extended family and community during World War II because of my Japanese heritage, I know first-hand the trauma that is caused when family members are forced to separate because of something so fundamental as who we are. We need to ensure that our immigration laws protect the civil rights of LGBT Americans by allowing them to reunite with their loved ones.”

“Immigration Equality Action Fund is proud to stand with Congressman Nadler, and our congressional champions, as they reintroduce the Uniting American Families Act,” said Rachel B. Tiven, the group’s executive director. “American families that are working hard, paying their taxes, raising their children and contributing to their communities should be celebrated and encouraged — not threatened with separation. Every day, Immigration Equality hears from families who are facing separation and exile because of our country’s broken and discriminatory immigration system. UAFA is the legislative solution for those families, and we are committed to building support for its passage as quickly as possible, before more families are torn apart.”

“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.”

“Our nation’s discriminatory immigration laws force binational same-sex families to decide between breaking up or living in exile. No American family should face this decision,” said Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign. “Binational same-sex partners must often leave family and friends, sell businesses, and abandon the community and country they love in order to keep their families together. We stand with and applaud Representative Nadler for reintroducing the Uniting American Families Act to remedy this injustice and ensure that our nation’s laws treat committed binational same-sex couples with dignity and respect.”

UAFA would add the term “permanent partner” to sections of the Immigration and Naturalization Act that apply to married opposite-sex 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 opposite-sex couples, and it would impose the same restrictions, enforcement standards and penalties as are currently in immigration law.

Joining the members today were Shirley Tan and Jay Mercado, a same-sex California couple, and their children Joriene and Jashley. The recent immigration plight of the Tan/Mercado family drew national attention and dramatically highlighted the urgency to pass UAFA.

At least 25 countries currently allow residents to sponsor same-sex permanent partners for legal immigration, including Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Israel, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.