Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) today introduced H.R. 3006, the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA), landmark legislation that would allow same-sex couples to sponsor their “permanent partners” for legal residency in the United States. This right is currently afforded to opposite-sex couples under U.S. immigration law.
Because the U.S. does not legally recognize same-sex couples and their children as families, many same-sex bi-national couples are torn apart when one partner lives in the United States.
“This is a matter of basic fairness and compassion,” Congressman Nadler said. “Our immigration code recognizes that it’s excessively cruel to keep couples and families apart, and the Uniting American Families Act would simply extend that recognition to same-sex couples.”
Nadler was joined at an introduction press conference by representatives from the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBT political organization, and Immigration Equality, an organization dedicated to pursuing fairness in immigration laws. Also present at the event were Steven and Olivier, a bi-national same-sex couple faced with the constant threat that their family of four will be split up or forced to leave the United States.
“Keeping loving families separated is gratuitous cruelty that serves no constructive purpose,” Nadler said. “This bill only demands that those people in same‑sex permanent partnerships receive equal treatment as everyone else – not an iota more.”
The Uniting American Families Act would add the term “or permanent partner” to those sections of the Immigration and Naturalization Act that apply to legally married couples. For purposes of the bill, “permanent partner” is described as “an individual 18 years of age and over who: Is in a committed, intimate relationship with another individual 18 years of age and over in which both parties intend a lifelong commitment; Is financially interdependent with that other individual; Is not married or in a permanent partnership with anyone other than that other individual; Is unable to contract with that other individual a marriage cognizable under [the Immigration and Naturalization Act]; and Is not a first, second, or third degree blood relation of that other individual.”
UAFA will afford equal immigration benefits to permanent partnerships – but it will also apply the same restrictions and enforcement standards.
For example, if a person is found to have entered into a fraudulent permanent partnership for the purposes of obtaining a visa for another person, they will be subject to the same five year maximum imprisonment, or $250,000 maximum fine, or both, as a person who contracts a fraudulent marriage would. The bill also requires that bi‑national couples provide ample proof that they meet the definition of “permanent partners.”
The bill has drawn considerable bipartisan support in the House of Representatives, attracting 53 cosponsors at the time of its introduction. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), introduced a companion bill in the Senate today with nine cosponsors.
At least 16 countries currently allow residents to sponsor same-sex permanent partners for legal immigration, including Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Israel, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa, Sweden and the United Kingdom.