April 29, 2010 at 1:22 pm EDT | by Chris Johnson
Senate Dems propose UAFA inclusion in immigration reform

A recently published outline of principles Senate Democrats are seeking as part of upcoming comprehensive immigration reform calls for language that would address inequities faced by same-sex bi-national couples.

The 26-page draft proposal, posted online Thursday by the Politico, devotes one line to express a desire for language to allow LGBT Americans to sponsor their foreign same-sex partners for residency in the United States as part of the final immigration reform bill.

“It will eliminate discrimination in the immigration laws by permitting permanent partners of United States citizens and lawful permanent residents to obtain lawful permanent resident status,” the draft states.

The proposed language is similar to standalone legislation pending in Congress known as the Uniting American Families Act. The bill would change immigration law to assist an estimated 36,000 same-sex bi-national couples living in the United States.

The draft authors are Senate Democrats leading the effort in the chamber for immigration reform — Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.).

But calling for the inclusion of UAFA in immigration reform makes up a small portion of the proposal. Much of the outline discusses the priority of having more border patrol agents and other border security-tightening measures before providing a path for illegal immigrants to become legal U.S. residents.

Steve Ralls, spokesperson for Immigration Equality, called the proposal “a very significant development” for those seeking inclusion of UAFA in comprehensive immigration reform.

“It is a solid indication that lawmakers — in crafting their priorities for the bill — saw this as being one of those priorities,” he said.

Still, Ralls said the inclusion of UAFA in this draft is “a first step, not a final step” and work remains in turning these principles into language for bi-national same-sex couples in the introduced bill.

Even with this draft proposal made public, Ralls said it’s hard to say when the immigration reform bill will be introduced, although he noted Reid has said he’d like to move quickly with the legislation.

“Certainly, the release of the principles is an indication that Congress is turning its attention to the issue and that they hope to have some legislative action soon,” Ralls said.

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

  • Thank you for the trackback; I appreciate it.

    Immigration reform is something I feel very strongly about, as it affects me on a daily basis. My partner is a British national, and as of a few months ago we were both living in London. While I was fully prepared to abandon my US citizenship in favor of the rights I can receive abroad as a gay man, circumstances brought us both back to Chicago. We both have jobs here and thanks to Simon’s employer his continued presence in the States is secure.

    Most bi-national couples are not as lucky. Relationships are being split up, families are being separated. All because of a glitch in the current law? C’mon – I mean seriously. As a nation we should be ashamed of that.

    I’m very encouraged by the current draft proposal and we have a LONG way to go before this is a done deal. While we easily have our hands full with DADT and ENDA, immigration equality needs to move to a far higher ranking position on the to-do list than where it currently sits.

    I’ll be curious to see how this all shapes up in the coming months.

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