Allied Organizations Stand Together for Inclusive Immigration Reform
Posted on 04/11/2013 @ 11:00 AM
Over 100 LGBT & Allied Organizations Stand Together to Call for Broad Immigration Reform that also Helps LGBT Immigrants
As the fight for immigrant justice in our nation heats up, the march to equality must be an inclusive one for all our families, which includes our immigrant LGBT brothers and sisters. Immigration Equality, in a letter to Members of Congress and the President, joins over 100 LGBT and allied organizations to call for immigration reform that helps the LGBT immigrant community in many ways, and to show that the LGBT and allied groups who signed stand ready to fight with all immigrants and our champions in Congress and the President for immigration reform.
If we are to fix our country’s broken immigration system, shaping it into a more humane and compassionate system based in the values of our country’s founding principles, we have to mend the cracks at all levels. This is the only way we can finally end the cycle of discrimination and inequality that has resulted in individuals being pushed into a second class membership of our society. These over 100 organizations are fully dedicated to immigrant justice to all individuals, not just a select few…because we are all a part of a society that whole-heartedly believes in the American Dream.
Currently, LGBT immigrants are disproportionately discriminated upon in U.S. immigration law, and if this were to remain, the cycle of individuals pushed into living in the closets and shadows of our society will continue. No reform is comprehensive if it does not address the discrimination of LGBT individuals, many who face the terrible choice of separating from their partner, or leaving the country and communities they love to live in exile.
The LGBT community will be a powerful force for immigration reform. We stand ready to mobilize our grassroots networks in support of comprehensive immigration reform that once-and-for-all ends the cycles of inequality at all levels and brings relief to all our families. Now is the time for congress to act and pass comprehensive immigration legislation that provides a timely, clear and humane pathway to citizenship for undocumented people; prioritizes family unity by preserving existing family categories, increases visas for family categories, reduces wait times for separated families, and ends the discrimination in immigration law that LGBT binational families face; ensures humane enforcement of immigration laws, includes due process rights and reforms to immigration detention; guarantees full workplace rights, including wage protections, mobility and the right to organize; and lifts the one-year filing deadline for asylum.
This is our once-in-a-generation opportunity and Immigration Equality and our allies are here to say, we will not let this opportunity, to finally bring the dignity, security, and justice ALL our families deserve, to pass us by.
Sign our petition!
Posted on 04/10/2013 @ 12:06 PM
Our immigration system is broken, and you have the opportunity to fix it. But you need to act now: Sign the petition to tell Congress and President Obama that LGBTQ immigant families are counting on them!
With talks around Comprehensive Immigration Reform heating up, your signature and outreach will help make your members of congress and the President understand this as an issue with a broad range of support – one that affects many people from all across our country. By signing, you are demonstrating your commitment to ending the discrimination our LGBT families, neighbors, and friends face in U.S. immigration law. By sharing, you are helping us educate our communities and strengthening our movement, so others can join us in our fight for equality.
Use your voice; sign the petition and help spread our message.
Queer&A: Meet our new Grassroots Organizer Marco
By Ameesha Sampat on 03/30/2013 @ 12:30 PM
As we redouble our efforts to organize our supporters and put pressure on lawmakers to pass an LGBT-inclusive immigration reform bill, Immigration Equality is growing to match the movement. Meet Marco, the newest member of the Immigration Equality family. Marco joins us as the national Grassroots Organizer to take full advantage of opportunities to advance immigration rights for LGBT people over the next year and beyond.
Name: Marco Antonio Quiroga
Position: Grassroots Organizer
How did you get involved in grassroots organizing?
I got started with grassroots organizing because of the necessity in my life to be able to talk to individuals about issues that affected me. Being undocumented, to just get the services and resources I needed, it was hard to get by without being able to fully express who I was. I needed to be able to speak to people in positions of power, like teachers and administration, and also be able to communicate with my own peers about issues in my life. That was beginning. I was organizing people around my issues even though I was not conscious of it.
What’s your interest in immigrant rights?
Growing up as an undocumented person of color who was also gay, I always felt as if I was a third class member of a society that rejected my family and who I was. My interest comes from my personal experience and my family’s struggle to make ends meet, when we were just trying to contribute and give back to our community.
When I was little, my mom was an inspirational person – she worked three jobs at a time as a domestic worker, cleaning homes, sweeping floors, at the airport, hotels. Anyone who says they don’t know an undocumented person, I tell them: they’re in your neighborhoods and classrooms, they’re your neighbors. And they’re not being given the same opportunities. I saw people around me excel, but when I was offered opportunities, I couldn’t take them because of my circumstance. It really fired me up – I wanted to fix that. Going to college was a big deal for me and I was so fortunate to be able to do so, but there are so many people in similar situations who can’t and won’t be able to go to college. Being able to open a path for those people and advance immigrant rights is really important to me.
I’ve also been separated from my little brother for over 8 years. He’s back in Lima, Peru, and he’s gay. He tells me stories of how he’s harassed in a country that has no LGBT protections. He lives in a country he’s afraid to be in, but can’t leave to be with his family. This is why family reunification, asylum, and a pathway to citizenship are so important to me, along with LGBT protections. This is a personal issue for me.
What are you hoping to accomplish at Immigration Equality?
My goal is to bring about broad immigration reform through really activating the community, showing what a desperate need there is throughout the country to bring these types of protections. In my role, I hope to make sure individuals understand Immigration Equality’s core values in wanting to empower individuals, connect families, protect individual rights, and create communities where people feel safe and included.
What’s the most surprising part of your job?
I think what surprises me most is the amount of work that Immigration Equality does that the general community isn't aware of, particularly the work that Immigration Equality does in regards to asylum and detention and reaching out to individual families, listening to their concerns, and really having a connection to individuals that are marginalized in our society.
What’s next on your list after achieving your goals related to LGBT and immigrant advocacy?
My vision for LGBT immigrants in the United States goes beyond marriage equality, it goes beyond comprehensive immigration reform. There’s a huge need within the queer immigrant community to address issues of education disparities, socioeconomic disparities, health disparities, religious disparities in regards to cultures that need to be challenged and changed, and achieve overall a fuller sense of inclusiveness in society. So I think my work will continue on past LGBT immigration.
They'll be there. Will you?
By Kathryn Baxter on 03/15/2013 @ 06:04 PM
Our Lobby Days are just over a month away, our supporter. Will you be there?
This year’s Lobby Days (April 23-24) are the first ever to bring together supporters and families from across the country — and around the globe — to meet with their Members of Congress here in DC. Sharing your story during in-person meetings with your Members of Congress is one of the most effective ways to push for comprehensive immigration reform that includes ALL families. But don’t just take it from me! Past and future Lobby Day participants wanted to tell you about their lobbying experiences and why they’re coming this year.
“Even from across the Atlantic, there is a palpable feeling that our moment is now. For couples like Benn and me, who were forced out of the US, we can't afford to miss this chance. It is imperative our lawmakers appreciate that immigration equality is neither an unimportant issue nor an issue affecting but a small number of people. We are coming to Washington next month because we refuse to let Congress sweep our cause under the rug.”
— Brandon and Benn, Lobby Days 2013 participants
“At first we were a little nervous about sharing our story and lobbying our Members of Congress. But Immigration Equality trained us in how to tell our story and how to be an effective advocate for our own family and the thousands of families just like us. We had a great meeting with our Congressman and had the chance to talk about what UAFA would mean for our own family. We were thrilled when — a little while later — we received a call from a Van Hollen staffer that he was signing on as a co-sponsor! We feel proud of the fact that our lobbying made a difference.”
— Kelly and Fabiola, former lobby day participants
“Meeting in person with members of both Houses of Congress was amazing! We reminded our representatives of how urgent the need to help our families is. Even those with an opposing viewpoint were able to lend a sympathetic ear. Until every representative can hear all of our stories, they will never truly understand the pain and suffering our families have endured.”
— Lenora, former lobby day participant
This is the time — more than ever before — to have your voice heard. Join Brandon, Ben, and the Immigration Equality team to meet with your Members of Congress in DC. If you have any questions, please contact email@example.com.
We’ll see you in DC soon!
Andrew Sullivan invites you to ...
By Andrew Sullivan on 03/11/2013 @ 12:31 PM
The U.S. may soon join the ranks of most civilized nations in not forcing American citizens to choose between their country and the person they love. No other major Western democracy treats gay couples as strangers to one another in immigration the way the US still does.
I sit on the board of this vital organization because my marriage license is regarded as toilet paper by the federal government.
If Aaron and I were to move to Britain, our relationship alone would give him "permanent leave to remain" in the lovely phrase of Britain's immigration services. Here? For years, before I got my green card last year, we were warned not even to travel together in entering America. A stable relationship with an American citizen will make you more likely to be subjected to scrutiny from border guards. We lived under a cloud of immense strain and heartache.
As an immigrant, I value accepting and adapting to the existing customs and traditions of my new home. I came here in part to start over. I came not to be an Anglo-American or a gay American, but just an American. And when that is the emphasis in immigration policy debates, immigrants will win - gay and straight. As, in America, they so often have.
Rally in Washington April 10th
By Rachel Tiven on 03/08/2013 @ 04:52 PM
Please join me and the Immigration Equality family for a rally at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, April 10th.
Immigration Equality supporters will join allies including the Center for Community Change and CASA de Maryland to call for fair, inclusive and compassionate immigration reform that helps all immigrants and their families. Along with faith leaders and immigration advocates from around the country, we’ll come together in support of reform that offers an achievable path to citizenship; the DREAM Act for undocumented young people; and an end to the separation and exile LGBT families face under current immigration law.
Marchers are invited to join us at Immigration Equality’s Washington, DC offices (at 1325 Massachusetts Avenue, NW) beginning at 1:30pm on the 10th. You’ll be able to meet our staff, and your fellow marchers, and pick up a free Immigration Equality t-shirt. Then, we’ll head to the West Lawn of the Capitol together for the 3:30 rally.
It is critical, as Congress begins work on immigration reform, that we have a strong, visible presence on Capitol Hill. This is our moment to ensure our families are not left behind.
Congressman Yarmuth Signs On as UAFA Co-Sponsor
By Julie Kruse on 03/01/2013 @ 12:00 PM
Yesterday, Congressman John Yarmuth (D-KY-03), signed on as a first time co-sponsor of the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA). The bill now has over sixty co-sponsors in the House of Representatives. Congressman Yarmuth has long been an advocate of LGBT rights and Immigration Equality is thrilled to see him join the ranks of Congressional supporters of UAFA.
Congressman Yarmuth today became the first ever UAFA co-sponsor from the state of Kentucky. This broadening of support is nothing but good news for the Uniting American Families Act. We want the broadest support possible for an LGBT-inclusive immigration reform bill and Congressman Yarmuth’s support helps get us there.
We would like to extend a personal thank you to Congressman Yarmuth for his support. Remember that you can contact your Member of Congress and ask him or her to sign on as well! With each co-sponsor, we are one step closer to UAFA-inclusive immigration reform legislation.
VAWA passes Congress with LGBT-inclusive protections
By Julie Kruse on 03/01/2013 @ 10:00 AM
Yesterday, Immigration Equality and advocates across the country celebrated the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). The version of VAWA that passed included greater protections for LGBT people, immigrants, and Native Americans.
The manner in which the bill was passed is a promising sign for LGBT inclusion in upcoming immigration reform. In a bi-partisan vote, the House of Representatives voted down a non-inclusive version of the bill so that it could take up and eventually pass the Senate version of the bill, which includes increased protections for these communities.
We are so grateful to the wonderful allied organizations who worked for the passage of a strong, inclusive VAWA, including the Anti-Violence Project, the National Center for Transgender Equality, the Human Rights Campaign, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, and many others. We look forward to harnessing this momentum to work together towards more LGBT-inclusive legislation – including comprehensive immigration reform.
Safe Haven Award Winners
By Rachel Tiven on 03/01/2013 @ 09:45 AM
I am delighted to announce the 2013 Safe Haven honorees. Our May 29th gala is co-chaired by board members Andrew Sullivan and Randy Feuerstein, and we will be joined by special guest Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg.
This year’s pro bono award winners were selected from among the 40 law firms that devote more than $15 million in legal services to Immigration Equality’s clients — winning a record 121 cases last year, a 99% success rate. The 2013 pro bono winners are Latham & Watkins; Paul, Weiss; Ropes & Gray; and Skadden.
We are also thrilled to honor two stellar members of our Business Coalition for the Uniting American Families Act: Intel and Marriott International. These companies have gone above and beyond in supporting inclusion of LGBT families in immigration reform.
We will present a Global Vision Award to activists Ray Fisher & Juan Carlos Palomino, a binational couple living in London. Ray has been an invaluable member of the Immigration Equality board since 2009. He and Juan Carlos have devoted themselves to Immigration Equality’s success, giving generously of their time, money, and insight. They look forward to the day when no one has to live in exile.
P.S. What does it mean to be on the Host Committee?
Host Committee members help ensure the financial success of the Safe Haven Awards in two key ways. First, they donate at the $1070 “Green Card” level or higher. Second, they sell tickets and recruit five or more friends to join them for this incredible evening. In exchange, host committee members are listed on event materials and are invited to a special invitation signing party on April 15th. To be listed on the print invitation, please join the Host Committee by Friday, March 15.
Lobby in DC!
By Julie Kruse on 02/27/2013 @ 04:55 PM
It’s been a busy few months here in DC, with bill introductions, hearings, press conferences, and more. Now, we’re inviting you, our supporter, to be a part of the action! Immigration reform will be moving forward in Congress this spring and summer, so on April 23-24, Immigration Equality will be hosting our DC Lobby Days. This is the first time we have held national Lobby Days for members and supporters from across the fifty United States (and across the world!), and we want you to be a part of it.
We make it easy — we’ll train you, we’ll set up your appointments, we’ll support you through the whole process. But it just won’t be a success without you here to tell your story.
Meeting with your Members of Congress is one of the most effective things you can do to push for comprehensive immigration reform that includes LGBT families. When a Member has a face-to-face meeting with a constituent affected by this issue (or their friends or family), they remember your faces, they remember your stories, and they want to fight for you.
Join us on Tuesday the 23rd for an afternoon of mandatory training to learn the latest on immigration reform and practice telling your story. Then, on Wednesday the 24th, we’ll take to Capitol Hill for a day of meeting with legislators and a Business and Family reception in the evening. Not only is this a great opportunity to push your elected officials to ensure LGBT families are a part of comprehensive immigration reform, but it’s also a chance to connect with families and friends from across the country and around the globe who care deeply about this issue.
If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to email Kathryn, our Legislative Assistant, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Looking forward to seeing you in DC soon!
Co-sponsors Old and New Sign on to UAFA
By Laura Hoch on 02/27/2013 @ 10:30 AM
On Wednesday, February 13th Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) reintroduced the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA), along with Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY), Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI). This week, they were joined by seven additional co-sponsors: Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Senator Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Senator William “Mo” Cowan (D-MA), Senator Al Franken (D-MN), and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI).
Immigration Equality would like to thank all thirteen Senate sponsors of the Uniting American Families Act for standing up for the rights of LGBT families and binational couples. We would like to especially recognize all of our new co-sponsors. Senator Klobuchar, a long time supporter of LGBT rights, is a first time co-sponsor of UAFA. Senator Hirono and Senator Baldwin were previous co-sponsors as members of the House of Representatives and have now signed on to the Senate version after making the move to the upper chamber of Congress. Senators Warren and Cowan (who was recently appointed as the replacement to Senator Kerry) of Massachusetts, both first time members of Congress, also signed on to the Uniting American Families Act on Monday.
If you do not see your Senators’ name, write them and tell them that you want binational couples and LGBT families included in immigration reform! Contact your Senator today and ask him or her to sign on as a co-sponsor of the Uniting American Families Act.
Activists on 3 Continents Host Valentine’s Day Parties to Support the Action Fund
By Kimberly Topel on 02/26/2013 @ 12:20 PM
From bar nights to film screenings, Immigration Equality’s activists hosted hundreds of supporters to celebrate Valentine’s Day and to look forward to the exciting year ahead. Fundraisers were held in Brooklyn, Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, Miami, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington DC, as well as in London and Rio de Janiero. We are especially grateful to our beverage sponsor, Diageo, an outstanding partner in our Business Coalition for UAFA. Each host who raised $1070 (the price of a green card) or more at their party will receive a delicious bottle of reserve from Diageo Chateau & Estate Wines!
In Chicago, supporters gathered at the Glenwood Bar for a night full of fun; including a silent auction, a raffle, and performances from Florence Nightinjail, Amy Kelly and Bill Andy, and Paloma Vidal. The party raised enough for five green card applications, was attended by more than 100 guests, and was spectacularly planned and executed by hosts Morris Floyd, Caz Glancy, and Wally Andersen.
Our activists in London attended a private viewing of the film Edie and Thea: A Very Long Engagement, described by host and board member Ray Fisher as a “very moving film about two women who spent 40+ years together finally getting married…to have the one sink slowly but gracefully into terminal illness.” Special shout-outs go to all of the hosts as well as to the filmmakers who participated in a special donor dinner the following evening which allowed them to speak more intimately with supporters.
In Brooklyn, Immigration Equality staff partnered with the crew of the documentary film Crossing Over for a night of empanadas, dancing, and activism. Before showing exclusive clips from her upcoming film, director Isabel Castro spoke of her experiences with the transgender Mexican women whose journeys inspired her to create the documentary. Guests also had the opportunity to hear from our very own Clem Lee, Immigration Equality’s detention attorney, who spoke about his passion in working with clients just like the women seen in the film. Thank you to the entire Crossing Over team for inviting us to share in a very fun evening!
Meanwhile, on the West Coast, all-star Valentine’s host Charlie Gu hosted his 4th consecutive fundraiser for us in Los Angeles. Local supporters came together over sunset cocktails in a beautiful home overlooking the Hollywood Hills.
The following weekend, three of our most passionate activists, collectively called ‘Team Asylum’, hosted another incredibly successful event for us at the Lookout Bar in San Francisco. We would also be remiss if we didn’t thank attorney Bryon Large for hosting our first ever event in Denver, Colorado! Bryon was also able to secure a matching gift challenge from his employer, the Joseph Law Firm, which made the evening even more exciting.
All of the Valentine’s Day fundraisers were hugely successful in amplifying our message of hope and acknowledging our resources for binational families and asylum seekers. Hosts were not only able to explain the mission of Immigration Equality, but they were able to share with their friends and family why they personally care or are affected by unfair immigration laws. Thank you to all of the hosts and to everyone involved in making this year’s Valentine’s Day season memorable for us all. Let’s hope this is the last Valentine’s that our families will have to spend apart. Onward!
Chairman and Champion
By Julie Kruse on 02/14/2013 @ 05:00 PM
Chairman Patrick Leahy of the Senate Judiciary made it crystal clear yesterday: LGBT families belong in Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR).
Chairman Leahy (D-VT) is the lead sponsor of the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA). Yesterday, he reintroduced UAFA with Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine. Then, in a hearing on comprehensive immigration reform, he made it crystal clear that UAFA belongs in it. Because the Judiciary Committee is the committee of jurisdiction for immigration bills, Chairman Leahy will shepherd any bill through committee.
The Chairman was clear at the hearing: Any legislation that comes before the Senate Judiciary Committee should recognize the rights of all Americans, who have just as much right to spousal immigration benefits as anybody else, straight or gay.
You can view Chairman Leahy’s comments here by clicking the "Webcast" link, at minute 5:45.
The Chairman made sure to ask Secretary Janet Napolitano, who leads the Department of Homeland Security which would process green card applications for LGBT spouses and partners of U.S. citizens, whether the Department could effectively implement the bill, avoiding any problems of fraud. The Secretary replied: "no, we don't see that as a barrier to achieving equality”
Judiciary committee members Senators Hirono (D-HI) and Coons (D-DE) called explicitly for LGBT inclusion in CIR.
And, witnesses Jose Antonio Vargas, a Pulitzer-prize winning gay undocumented reporter, and Janet Murguia, President and CEO of the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) also provided moving testimony in support of LGBT family inclusion. During his testimony, Vargas stated that, "In our American, there is no distinction... between the rights due to heterosexual couples and same-sex binational couples... we need to protect and honor relationships that keep families together."
An immigration bill should be introduced in the Judiciary committee in March, be voted on in committee, and then move to the Senate floor.
The Chairman has made it clear: “[it] should recognize the rights of all Americans…straight or gay.”
Rep Honda Introduces Immigration Legislation to Reunite Families
By Steve Ralls on 02/14/2013 @ 03:18 PM
Today, Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA) introduced the Reuniting Families Act in the House of Representatives. Rep Honda’s immigration bill helps ensure that visas are allocated efficiently, while alleviating lengthy wait times that keep legal immigrants, and their loved ones overseas, separated for years. The bill also eliminates discrimination in immigration law against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans and their foreign-born partners.
“Our family-based immigration system has not been updated in 20 years, separating spouses, children and their parents, who have played by the rules for years,” said Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA), chair emeritus of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus and chair of CAPAC’s immigration taskforce. “My proposed legislation is in line with American family values and with our need to grow our economy and save taxpayer money. American workers with families by their side are happier, healthier and more able to succeed than those distanced from loved ones for years on end. Our country deserves an immigration system that honors and supports key family values, like keeping families intact. The Reuniting Families Act represents a giant step forward in that commitment and provides a blueprint that respects families, strengthens our economy and fixes a badly broken system. I urge Congress to forge comprehensive immigration reform. For every day Congress delays, more families face separation.”
“As the largest group of new immigrants and the fastest growing racial group in the U.S., Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders must be heard during immigration reform,” said Rep Judy Chu (D-CA), chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus. “A solution that fails to address backlogs and continues to keep families separated is no solution at all. We must recapture unused visas being lost to bureaucratic red tape, we must set maximum waiting periods to no more than 10 years, and we must recognize the undue pain being caused every day that we do not act on these issues. As Chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, I am determined to ensure the needs of the AAPI community are met as we address this national imperative.”
“Family is the universal source of success and happiness for people of all faiths, nationalities, and sexual orientations,” said Rachel B. Tiven, executive director of Immigration Equality. “With family by your side, every American and every newcomer can work hard, study, and achieve. Congressman Honda’s common sense reforms would ensure that tens of thousands of LGBT couples, nearly half of whom are raising children, have the same legal recognition and protection that all families deserve. He was the first lawmaker to propose including LGBT families within a larger immigration reform framework, and he has been steadfast in his commitment to leaving no family behind. Immigration Equality is proud to support the Reuniting Families Act, and to stand alongside our many allies in the family immigration movement who have worked so hard, for so long, to keep all families together.”
“The American dream was created on the idea that families seeking opportunity could come to the United States and build better lives for their families,” said Mee Moua, executive director of Asian American Justice Center. “The family unit is the bedrock of our American society, but for too long our broken immigration system has hurt families by keeping loved ones apart for years, sometimes decades. Too many are living in limbo, waiting for a broken bureaucracy to allow close family members to join their American relatives. We need commonsense solutions like the ones included in Congressman Mike Honda’s Reuniting Families Act to improve and update our family immigration system. A robust family immigration system is good for our communities and our economy. We commend Congressman Honda for introducing this bill and championing family reunification.”
There are currently 4.3 million people in the family immigration backlog waiting to reunite with family members in the United States. The Reuniting Families Act reduces the backlog for families trying to reunite with their loved ones by classifying lawful permanent resident spouses and children as “immediate relatives” and exempting them from numerical caps on family immigration. This legislation sets the maximum wait period for a green card to 10 years, as well as increases per-country limits to 15% so that nations with a higher demand for workers can better equip the American economy with talent.
Leahy And Collins Introduce Bipartisan Uniting American Families Act
By Steve Ralls on 02/13/2013 @ 11:44 AM
WASHINGTON – Senator Patrick Leahy and Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) on Wednesday introduced bipartisan legislation to update U.S. immigration law to permit American citizens to sponsor same-sex “permanent partners” applying for legal residency in the United States.
The Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) would allow American citizens who are in long term committed relationships to sponsor their foreign partners for green cards under the family immigration system, just as heterosexual married couples are currently allowed to do under the law. Leahy has championed the proposal since 2003, when he first introduced legislation, and welcomed Collins as the first Republican cosponsor of UAFA last year. In the 113th Congress, Collins joins Leahy as an original cosponsor of the legislation.
“Preserving family unity is central to our immigration policy,” Leahy said. “President Obama understands that, which is why I was so pleased to see that he included UAFA as a core tenet of the immigration principles he outlined last month.” Leahy noted that existing Federal law “forces many Americans to choose between the country they love and being with the people they love.” By allowing qualifying binational couples to keep their families together the bipartisan UAFA bill would prevent American citizens from being faced with such a choice.
"This legislation would update our nation’s immigration laws to treat bi-national couples equally,” Collins said. “More than two dozen countries recognize same-sex couples for immigration purposes. This important civil rights legislation would help prevent committed, loving families from being forced to choose between leaving their family or leaving their country.”
Under the legislation, the same restrictions and penalties applied to heterosexual couples under the Immigration and Naturalization Act for cases of fraud and abuse would also apply to same-sex couples. Any individual found to have entered into a fraudulent, permanent partnership for the purposes of obtaining a visa for another individual would be subject to the same penalties: maximum five-year imprisonment, a $250,000 fine, or both. The legislation also requires binational couples to provide proof that they meet the definition of “permanent partners” as defined in the bill.
# # # # #
Statement of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) on The Introduction Of The Uniting American Families Act
February 13, 2013
Today I am reintroducing the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA), which grants same-sex bi-national couples the same immigration benefits heterosexual couples have long enjoyed. This is the sixth Congress in which I have introduced this legislation, and I am proud to be joined this year by Senator Collins, a strong champion for American families. She cosponsored this bill last Congress, and I thank her for her leadership as she joins me as an original cosponsor today.
Preserving family unity is central to our immigration policy. President Obama understands that, which is why I was so pleased to see that he included UAFA as a core tenet of the immigration principles he outlined last month.
Even as American attitudes are changing about the civil rights of gay and lesbian Americans, the so-called Defense of Marriage Act forces many Americans to choose between the country they love and being with the people they love. This destructive policy tears families apart and forces hardworking Americans to make the heart-wrenching choice no American should have to make. Families from Maine to California experience this hardship. In Vermont, I have seen firsthand the unfairness that couples have endured as a result of our current laws and have spoken at length on their struggles in this Chamber. I have heard from a number of Vermonters who have had to make the difficult decision to leave their work and homes in Vermont in order to be able to live with their spouses in more welcoming countries; some whose spouses are legally in the U.S. temporarily but worry daily when they will be required to leave the U.S.; and some who suffer the heartbreak of a long-distance marriage when their spouses are denied even a visitor visa to spend some time with their spouses in the U.S. The Senate Judiciary Committee heard directly from families like these as well.
Over the past decade, Americans have begun to reject the notion that U.S. citizens who are gay or lesbian should not have their committed relationships recognized by the law and the protections that provides. As of last month, the District of Columbia and nine states, including Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Washington, and my home state of Vermont, have legalized same-sex marriage. At the end of the 111th Congress, bipartisan votes in both the Senate and the House reversed the Military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, a 17-year-old stricture that barred gay and lesbian service men and women from openly serving in the military. Consistent with the repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, just last week the Pentagon signaled that it will begin providing benefits to the same-sex spouses of military personnel. As they have many times in our past and will continue in the future, prevailing American attitudes are progressing toward fairness and justice. The Supreme Court is poised to decide the fate of the Defense of Marriage Act and whether that law, which deprives same-sex couples of over 1,000 Federal benefits and responsibilities, is consistent with our constitutional values.
Many of our friends around the world have embraced immigration equality for same-sex families. Today at least 25 nations, including some of our closest allies, offer immigration benefits to same-sex couples. America should join Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greenland, Hungary, Iceland, Israel, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Romania, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom in leading on this issue of civil rights and respect for the dignity of all families. I hope that Senators who supported this important advancement in our military policy will join me in calling for similar fairness and equality in our immigration laws.
Some opponents of the Uniting American Families Act have argued that it would increase the potential for visa fraud. Of course I share the belief that all immigration applications should be screened for fraud, but I am confident that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will have no more difficulty identifying fraud in same-sex relationships than they do in heterosexual marriages. The penalties for fraud under this bill would be the same as the penalties for marriage fraud. These are very strict penalties: a sentence of up to five years in prison, $250,000 in fines for the U.S. citizen partner, and deportation for the foreign partner. In addition, in order to qualify as a bi-national couple under UAFA, petitioners must prove that they are at least 18 years of age and in a committed, lifelong relationship with another adult. The advancement of American ideals that respect human relationships and family bonds need not and should not be impeded by such fears.
Among developed countries with cultures of respect for human rights and fairness, the United States policy in this regard is not living up to our great traditions of equal treatment under the law. We can and should do better. I hope all Senators will agree that the United States should not have a policy that forces Americans to choose between their country and the ones they love, and I urge members of this body to join Senator Collins and me in this effort.
Live from the State of the Union
By Rachel Tiven on 02/12/2013 @ 09:00 AM
This evening, when President Obama delivers the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress, LGBT binational families will be there.
We are proud that Immigration Equality client Kelly Costello (pictured) will attend the speech as a guest of Congressman Jerrold Nadler, the lead House sponsor of the Uniting American Families Act. Kelly, who is expecting twins on July 4th with her wife Fabiola Morales, told The Washington Blade on Saturday: “This is something that we have been fighting for a long time. People before me have fought for it. We are living in an important historical moment where the President has already addressed providing equal rights for us, and I think it’s really come to forefront.”
Immigration Equality will be providing social media updates live from the White House between 7:30 and 11pm. Ameesha Sampat from our communications team was invited to the White House to update our followers throughout the evening.
I hope you’ll join Kelly, Ameesha, Congressman Nadler, and everyone demanding LGBT-inclusive immigration reform tonight.
I’ll see you online this evening.
I need you to pledge.
By Julie Kruse on 02/11/2013 @ 06:37 PM
The time to take action for our families is NOW. Immigration reform is moving in the Senate, the House of Representatives, and the White House. With so much happening, we’re counting on you, our committed supporters, to do everything you can to get us to the finish line and WIN for LGBT immigrant families.
We need your families visiting your Members of Congress and telling them your stories face-to-face. We need families writing to their hometown newspapers about why LGBT inclusion matters. We need families to come to Washington DC in April for Immigration Equality’s Lobby Day. We need you to commit to taking an “Action of the Week” to win for LGBT immigrants.
When you pledge to take an action, we’ll call on you when it really counts and we’ll be counting on you to follow through. It’s the only way we can win our families’ inclusion in this critical moment for immigration reform.
How Discriminatory Immigration Law Hurts Business
By Chris Fleming on 02/08/2013 @ 02:30 PM
We’re proud to release a new white paper, “The Cost of LGBT Exclusion: How Discriminatory Immigration Law Hurts Business,” detailing the negative business impact of American immigration law which excludes LGBT families.
We co-authored this report with Out On the Street to highlight the challenges and costs that American and global businesses face. From missed recruits to costly foreign postings, from less productive employees to early retirement, companies are paying the price for a challenge they did not create and cannot fix alone.
This report lays out steps companies can take to ensure that immigration reform includes LGBT families. Principle among those is joining the Business Coalition for the Uniting American Families Act. Immigration Equality Action Fund convenes the Business Coalition to marshal corporate support for the aforementioned bill in Congress.
Read the full white paper (embedded below), and contact me at email@example.com to learn more.
Across the table from the President
By Rachel Tiven on 02/06/2013 @ 12:42 PM
Yesterday in an email to our board, staff, and some close friends, our executive director wrote about her face-to-face meeting with President. I've been a part of Immigration Equality as volunteer and now on staff for over a decade. This is an incredibly exciting moment and wanted to share what Rachel said. Please find it below. -- Christopher
This morning I represented LGBT families at a meeting with President Obama. Sixteen core immigration groups were invited — including National Council of La Raza, Asian American Justice Center, Center for Community Change, United We Dream — and us.
I told the President that the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community is ready and eager to support immigration reform that includes all families. I said that we heard him loud and clear on Inauguration Day, and that "Seneca Falls to Selma to Stonewall" is a responsibility we take seriously. This is our first opportunity to flex our muscle since that amazing Election Day, and we will do it for the thing that matters most: keeping our families together.
At the very same time, Congressman Jerry Nadler reintroduced the Uniting American Families Act, UAFA, in the House. For the first time, the bill has Republican and Democrat original co-sponsors. In the last Congress the Uniting American Families Act had more support than any other immigration bill.
Crucially important right now is to insist that the "Gang of 8" Senators include UAFA in the base bill they are writing now. Please call Senators Schumer, Menendez, Durbin and Bennett and tell them how disappointed you are that we weren't in their principles, and that our community will push hard for immigration reform for all families.
Years ago I set out to give LGBT people a seat at the immigration table, and today we have one. Let's use it to win.
By Julie Kruse on 02/05/2013 @ 12:52 PM
This morning Congressman Nadler re-introduced the Uniting American Families Act in the 113th Congress.
"Our immigration system has always recognized the value of keeping families together. But when it comes to legally married same-sex couples and domestic partners our immigration law says those families don’t count." — Represenative John Conyers (Michigan) as quoted in The Hill
Congressman Nadler is familiar with the re-introduction process; he has been the lead sponsor of UAFA for over a decade. But this time, it's different. With immigration reform on the horizon, the support that we gather for UAFA in these next few months could make the difference for our families’ inclusion.
Last year, UAFA had the most co-sponsors of any immigration bill in the House or Senate. This record number of co-sponsors sends a message that LGBT immigrant families cannot be left out of immigration reform. Help us reach that same number of co-sponsors — and more — by writing to your Representative now.
Sending your letter is easy — we provide some starter text, you just include a few sentences about what UAFA means to you and your family.
We’ll keep you posted on our progress. And keep an eye out in the coming days for even more that you can do. Let’s ensure that this is Congressman Nadler’s last UAFA re-introduction.