The Uniting American Families Act
Under the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents may sponsor their spouses (and other immediate family members) for immigration purposes. But same-sex partners of U.S. citizens and permanent residents are not considered “spouses” and their partners cannot sponsor them for family-based immigration. Consequently, thousands of lesbian and gay bi-national couples are kept apart, torn apart, or forced to stay together illegally, with one partner in constant fear of deportation. The Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) would help to remedy this injustice.
What is the UAFA?
The UAFA would allow U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents to sponsor their same-sex partners for immigration to the United States.
How does the UAFA work?
The UAFA would amend the INA by simply adding the term “permanent partner” in sections where “spouse” appears, thus ensuring that a non-citizen permanent partner may receive the same immigration benefits that a non-citizen spouse now receives.
Under the UAFA, a person may qualify as the permanent partner of a U.S. citizen
or legal permanent resident if, among other things, he or she is:
- At least 18 years of age;
- In an intimate relationship with the sponsoring adult U.S. citizen
or legal permanent resident in which both parties intend a lifelong commitment;
- Financially interdependent with that person;
- Not married or in a permanent partnership with anyone other than that person; and
- Unable to contract with that person a marriage that is recognized
under the INA.
What about fraud?
Under the UAFA, same-sex couples would have the same burden of proof as any married couple to document that the relationship is bona fide. It will also apply the same restrictions and enforcement standards.
It also seems very unlikely that anyone, gay or straight, would officially declare him- or herself gay/lesbian for fraudulent purposes to qualify under the UAFA.
Keep in mind that under the UAFA he or she would only get ONE of the more than 1,000 federal rights that come with straight marriage, while the penalty in both cases would be exactly the same. Just ask yourself, if YOU were to commit fraud, which method would YOU pick?!
Are other countries providing immigration benefits for same-sex couples?
More than eighteen countries – including most of our key allies and trading partners – provide immigration benefits to same-sex couples: Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Israel, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.
What is the status of the UAFA?
The Uniting American Families Act was reintroduced in the house by Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and in the Senate by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) on February 12th, 2009.
Click here to see the Congressional Timeline of the UAFA