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Immigration Equality

The Importance of Family Recognition

Under current immigration law, committed same-sex foreign partners of US citizens are unable to use the family immigration system – a system that accounts for a majority of the green cards and immigrant visas granted annually by the US.  According to the most recent census, approximately 35,000 bi-national, same-sex couples are living in the US. The Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) would ensure that the family connections valued under immigration law are extended to lesbian, gay and bisexual individuals.

UAFA would allow lesbian, gay and bisexual Americans and permanent residents to sponsor their foreign-born partners for legal residency in the US. The bill (H.R. 1024), introduced on February 16th, 2009 by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) in the Senate and by Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) in the House, would add "permanent partner" and "permanent partnership" after the words "spouse" and "marriage" in relevant sections of the Immigration and Nationality Act.

Under the proposal, a "permanent partnership" is defined as a "committed, intimate relationship" with another adult "in which both parties intend a lifelong commitment." The couple must be financially interdependent and not married to or in a permanent partnership with anyone else. And the partners can't be related. The benefit comes with the same immigration restrictions and enforcement standards that apply to heterosexual couples. Fraudulent permanent partnerships face the same penalties as fake marriages: up to five years in prison and up to a $250,000 fine.

To weigh in, and voice your support for “The Uniting American Families Act,” simply click here and send a message to your elected representative.  Be sure to identify yourself as a PFLAG member, and to specifically ask your elected representative to co-sponsor this legislation.   Then, ask your friends, neighbors and family members to email and express their support, too.  When you contact your Member of Congress, please remember to highlight some of these important points:

  • Discrimination is wrong.  Under current law, the US government discriminates against same-sex, bi-national couples because it does not allow them to sponsor their foreign-born life partners for immigration, unlike bi-national straight couples.
  • People shouldn’t have to choose between their country and their partners.  Bi-national lesbian and gay couples often have to make the terrible choice between choosing to separate from their life-partners or leave the country to live with the person they love.  It is un-American to have to choose between family and country.
  • Federal immigration policy must promote family unity.  We should honor the principle of family unity – a critical piece to federal immigration policy - by providing all Americans with the opportunity to be with their loved ones..
Since same-sex, bi-national couples are not legally recognized by the US, in certain circumstance, couples have resorted to illegal marriages where the foreign nationals marry US residents to get green cards that allow them to stay in the country permanently. In other cases, US residents have exiled themselves to be with their partners. Sixteen countries, including Australia, Brazil, Canada, Israel, South Africa and the United Kingdom, allow residents to sponsor same-sex permanent partners for legal immigration.  US lesbian, gay and bisexual people should not have to choose between their country and their partners.