THE UNITING AMERICAN FAMILIES ACT
Congress must act to fix a broken piece of the immigration system that is creating hardship for Americans and American businesses
Currently, American citizens who are gay or lesbian cannot sponsor their foreign born partners for immigration – no matter how long they have been together or how committed their relationship.
With no ability to sponsor their partners, Americans are being forced abroad, taking their tax base, their talent, and enterprise to a growing list of more than 25 countries that offer residency for lesbian and gay partners. America is losing valuable talent - and the driving force behind many small businesses - to foreign competitors.
Of the top ten largest trading partners with the United States, six of them offer this opportunity, as do 59% of OECD countries, our main international competitors.
Countless families are affected by this issue.
The median age for Americans in these families is 38 years old. These are mature, committed relationships who have established productive lives within the U.S. Over 75 % of these couples are in the labor force and the majority of them are employed full-time.
They are a valuable asset to the market and a resource that businesses want to retain. Many Fortune 500 companies have lost skilled Americans to foreign competitors.
Current law forces American citizens in bi-national relationships to make difficult decisions, such as deciding between caring for their aging parents’ health or remaining with their partner or advancing within their career. 46% of affected families are raising children in the home; these children face the prospect of losing one parent.
The Remedy: the Uniting American Families Act
The Uniting American Families Act addresses this problem by allowing Americans to sponsor their permanent partners for residency. It does not redefine marriage and it would not repeal the Defense of Marriage Act law.
This small, and immediately achievable, fix to our immigration
system will benefit both these American citizens and the companies which employ them. To qualify, permanent partners would need to prove their emotional and financial commitment through rigorous documentation and an extensive interview process.
These bi-national couples would also face high criminal penalties for fraud – imprisonment for up to five years and a $250,000 fine. Additionally, to ensure the foreign national does not become a public charge, the American partner would be required to sign an affidavit committing to supporting the foreign national partner for ten years, even if the partnership ends.
Source for the below from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The Uniting American Families Act (UAFA, H.R. 1024, S. 424) is a U.S. bill to amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to eliminate discrimination in the immigration laws by permitting permanent partners of United States citizens and lawful permanent residents to obtain lawful permanent resident status in the same manner as spouses of citizens and lawful permanent residents and to penalize immigration fraud in connection with permanent partnerships. Section 18 of the bill would be amended to include permanent partnerships as an illegal way to evade any provision of the immigration law and allow for the individual to be imprisoned for no more than five years, fined for up to $250,000 or both. Also, if the partnership ends within two years the sponsored partner’s legal immigrant status would come under review.
UAFA was introduced during the 111th Congress, to the United States House of Representatives on February 12, 2009, by New York Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY). The bill had 135 cosponsors in the United States House of Representatives as of November 16, 2010. Shirley Tan is a leading activist for the bill. After the bill was introduced it was referred to the Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security, and International Law on March 16, 2009, where it still resides.
The full text of UAFA, further expanded to provide rights to the children or stepchildren of the foreign-born partner, is included as Title II of the Reuniting Families Act (H.R. 2709), an immigration reform bill, introduced in the United States House of Representatives on June 4, 2009, by California Congressman Michael Honda (D-CA).
UAFA was introduced in the United States Senate on February 12, 2009, by Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT). There are currently 24 cosponsors of this bill in the United States Senate. After the bill was introduced, it was read twice and sent to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, where it still currently resides. 
There are an estimated 36,000 same-sex binational couples in 2000, according to the Census, who could benefit from this act. There is very little bipartisan support for this bill as most of the cosponsors are democrats.
UAFA defines Permanent Partner and Permanent Partnership as follows:
The term "permanent partner" means an individual 18 years of age or older who--
- (A) is in a committed, intimate relationship with another individual 18 years of age or older in which both parties intend a lifelong commitment;
- (B) is financially interdependent with that other individual;
- (C) is not married to or in a permanent partnership with anyone other than that other individual;
- (D) is unable to contract with that other individual a marriage cognizable under this Act; and
The term "permanent partnership" means the relationship that exists between two permanent partners.
- (E) is not a first, second, or third degree blood relation of that other individual.
|Congress||Short title||Bill number(s)||Date introduced||Sponsor||# of cosponsors (excluding sponsor)||Latest status|
|111th Congress||Uniting American Families Act of 2009||H.R. 1024||February 12, 2009||Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY)||135||Referred to House Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security, and International Law|
|S. 424||February 12, 2009||Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT)||25||Senate Judiciary Committee hearing held June 3, 2009|
|Reuniting Families Act
(Title II: Uniting American Families Act)
|H.R. 2709||June 4, 2009||Rep. Michael Honda (D-CA)||81||Referred to House Judiciary Committee|
|110th Congress||Uniting American Families Act of 2007||H.R. 2221||May 8, 2007||Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY)||118||Died in House Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security, and International Law|
|S. 1328||May 8, 2007||Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT)||18||Died in Senate Judiciary Committee|
|109th Congress||Permanent Partners Immigration Act
Uniting American Families Act
|H.R. 3006||June 21, 2005||Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY)||115||Died in House Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security, and Claims|
|S. 1278||June 21, 2005||Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT)||13||Died in Senate Judiciary Committee|
|108th Congress||Permanent Partners Immigration Act of 2003||H.R. 832||February 13, 2003||Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY)||129||Died in House Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security and Claims|
|S. 1510||July 31, 2003||Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT)||12||Died in Senate Judiciary Committee|
|107th Congress||Permanent Partners Immigration Act of 2001||H.R. 690||February 14, 2001||Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY)||106||Died in House Subcommittee on Immigration and Claims|
|106th Congress||Permanent Partners Immigration Act of 2000||H.R. 3650||February 14, 2000||Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY)||59||Died in House Subcommittee on Immigration and Claims|
In the House of Representatives the bill was referred to the United States House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security, and International Law. This subcommittee has sixteen members including the Chairman Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) and ranking member Representative Steve King (R-IA). The subcommittee consists of representatives from the states of California, Texas, Illinois, Utah, Iowa, Mississippi, New York and Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi(D) from Puerto Rico. The subcommittee has six Republicans and ten Democrats on board.
In the Senate the bill was referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary which consists of nineteen members which includes Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) who re-introduced the bill and Ranking Member Senator Jefferson Sessions (R-AL). The committee consists of seven Republican Senators and twelve Democratic Senators. The Representatives on the committee come from seventeen different states; this differs vastly from the subcommittee to which the House of Representatives bill has been referred to. Senator Patrick Leahy held a hearing on the bill on June 3, 2009. The hearing was the first-ever hearing on the Uniting American Families Act. In the opinion of the national organization, Immigration Equality, the hearing was a fundamental and important first step for bringing UAFA into comprehensive immigration reform.
On December 15, 2009, Congressman Luis Gutiérrez (D-IL) introduced his comprehensive immigration reform bill, H.R. 4321, the Comprehensive Immigration Reform for America's Security and Prosperity Act of 2009 (CIR ASAP Act). Initially, it did not include UAFA, which upset many gay rights activists. However, on July 15, 2010, Congressman Gutiérrez announced, "provisions of UAFA must be part of any comprehensive immigration reform bill." Senator Charles Schumer wrote a letter to his LGBT constituency in March of 2010 indicating that he is currently working with colleagues of both parties to work on comprehensive immigration reform. This comprehensive immigration reform, which in Senator Schumer’s mind is more effective than “piecemeal legislation”, will address the issue in the Uniting American Families Act. An important political issue with UAFA revolves around the principle of family reunification; many conservatives do not want to be seen as anti-family reunification, especially with the growing Latino voter base. Of note, is the fact that forty percent of LGBT binational couples in the United States include a Latino family member.
The support for the Uniting American Families Act has increased in the House of Representatives, but much less so in the Senate. Organizations such as the Human Rights Campaign and Immigration Equality, both supporters of gay rights legislation, support the bill. The Human Rights Campaign points out that the process for sponsoring a partner will have the same requirements that opposite-sex couples endure. HRC also comments that a number of countries, twenty-two, recognize same-sex couples under immigration law, such as France, Germany, Israel, and the United Kingdom among others. The American Civil Liberties Union wrote in a letter of support for UAFA to senators that the bill does not provide special benefits for same-sex couples, but provides equal sponsorship. The ACLU also mentions that the bill follows along with traditional family reunification principles in immigration law as well as the U.S.’s lag in passing this sort of bill, which is already commonplace in various countries around the world. The Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF) is also a supporter of UAFA and demands that comprehensive immigration reform include all immigrants, including lesbian and gay immigrants.
Several corporations and organizations, such as Intel Corporation and the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Union, have come out in support of the bill. The Immigration Equality website has a list of organizations, labor unions, civil rights groups, religious institutions, and businesses that support the bill including Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, League of United Latin American Citizens, American Bar Association, American Airlines and the American Jewish Committee amongst others.
Opponents believe that UAFA could open up the doors for Illegal immigration even though it would penalize those who attempt to evade immigration law. They believe that it will be hard for immigration officers to actually determine whether the partnership is long-term and permanent. The Center for Immigration Studies does not support the bill because, in their opinion, it does not provide a reliable measure for indicating who is in a long-term committed partnership.
While previously supporting family reunification legislation, such as H.R. 6638, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops does not support the inclusion of the Uniting American Families Act in a larger bill or standing on its own. National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference’s (NHCLC) leader Reverend Samuel Rodriguez predicts that the wide and strong support that the NHCLC has garnered for comprehensive immigration reform will be lost if same-sex couples are to benefit from the reform. Roy Beck, the founder and CEO of the non-profit organization NumbersUSA, which works for lower immigration levels, believes that increasing the number of green cards available, as the Uniting American Families Act would, is of profound environmental importance, connected to infrastructure debit and increases the amount of individuals competing for jobs in the market, which is not in the best interest for the national community. NumbersUSA is concerned that this is another type of piecemeal legislation that does not consider the increased number of green cards as a whole which is detrimental to the national community.