US immigration: update on emotional hearing for proposed UAFA bill

Published: 09/06/2009

The Uniting American Families Act saw an important development on 3rd June, 2009, as the Senate Judiciary Committee began its hearing to end the current discriminatory immigration policy for same-sex bi-national couples.

Currently, same-sex partnerships that have one non-American partner are unable to sponsor their loved one for US visa applications, unlike opposite-sex couples. With more than 36,000 bi-national same-sex couples affected by the law, an estimated 47 per cent of whom are raising children together, it is no surprise that this is an emotional and highly-charged issue.

The Uniting American Families Act, or UAFA, was introduced during the 111th Congress to the United States House of Representatives on 12th February 2009 and there are currently 111 co-sponsors of the bill. Primarily, it is a bill to amend the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) to ensure there is no discrimination of same-sex partnerships where one partner is a US citizen that wishes to sponsor their partner and to remove immigration fraud in relation to same-sex couples where their sexuality is the only difference than opposite-sex visa applications.

The latest development to the UAFA came when Californian Congressman Michael Honda introduced a further expanded bill to Congress on 3rd June 2009, which includes the request for the same rights to be given to the children or step-children of the foreign-born partner as are given to those of opposite-sex foreign-born partners. As part of the on-going focus on immigration reform and particularly family-based immigration reform in the US, the new legislation, if passed, will allow same-sex partners and their families’ faster entry in the US, where previously many felt unable to remain at all.

Indeed, the rise of ‘Love Exiles’, same-sex couples with a US citizen partner and a foreign-born partner, both with and without children, living outside of the US because they feel unable to live within the discriminatory confines of the present discriminatory same-sex immigration legislation, shows just how powerful this issue is to many people.

Congressman Michael Honda is appreciative of this fact, saying, “The benefits [of passing this Act] cannot be overstated. American workers with families by their side are happier, healthier and more able to succeed that those distanced from loved ones for years on end.”

Many same-sex couples queued to ensure their seat at the hearing, some travelling from as far a field as the Netherlands and the UK, with the emotional case studies of people separated from their long-term partners highlighting the importance of the issue and its discriminatory nature to all present, including a large number watching on live internet streaming.

Those Congress representatives that do not support the bill explained their concerns over the already-serious issue of immigration fraud, believing that changes to the bill will only increase the potential for abuse of the situation. However, critics have pointed out that this does not address the issue of discrimination. Further information on the progress of the bill will be updated on as the case continues.



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