(CNSNews.com) – Two amendments to the Immigration and Nationality Act introduced in the House of Representatives’ current session would add language allowing “permanent partners” to sponsor their foreign-born "spouses" to become naturalized citizens.
At a Capitol Hill press conference held Friday by the Asian Pacific Legal Center, a panel expressed support for the legislation as part of its campaign to include family reunification reforms in federal immigration legislation, including for homosexual couples and their children.
“While many groups face enormous obstacles with the backlogs for family-sponsored immigrants, one group has seen its families shut out completely,” said a report released by the legal center in September 2008 and distributed at the conference states.
“Same-sex couples and their children have no standing in U.S. immigration law, and as a result many committed bi-national couples in the U.S. and their families … are forced to separate or live in constant fear of separation,” report added.
Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) introduced House Resolution 1024 in February 2009 to amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to give “permanent partners” the same rights as heterosexual spouses under the law. The amendment was referred to the Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security, and International Law in March.
In June, Rep. Michael Honda (D-Calif.) introduced HR 2709, which includes the permanent partner language and states it is designed “to promote family unity and for other purposes.” That amendment was referred to the same subcommittee in August.
Friday’s panel included a homosexual man who said his partner of nine years voluntary returned to Indonesia last week after he was laid off from his job and lost his work visa. Steve Orner said he and his partner plan to move to Canada when they are reunited.
“Joey is my family,” Orner said. “We got married in Connecticut, but unfortunately immigration does not recognize same-sex marriage.”
Panelists at Friday’s event said the amendments are the first in the House to incorporate “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender” rights into immigration reform legislation.
“In 2009, we should be ready as a society to acknowledge that stable American families come in all varieties,” Nadler said when he introduced the Uniting American Families Act. “We in fact strengthen our communities – and our nation – by encouraging loving couples and families to stay together and live as cohesive units.
“Any committed couple deserves the potential to form a life and a family together – this is a basic human right – and whether that couple is gay or straight should be irrelevant. “Gay and lesbian Americans in loving, committed relationships deserve the same rights as everyone else,” Nadler said.
“The Reuniting Families Act should be at the heart of comprehensive immigration reform, seeking to fix our broken immigration system while taking into account the current economic climate,” Honda said when he introduced the Reuniting Families Act.
“Our proposed legislation is in line with both American family values and with our short-term need to grow our economy and save taxpayer money,” he added.
Aside from its support for including homosexual rights in immigration reform legislation, the Asian Pacific American Legal Center report also supports the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which limits marriage to the union between one man and one woman.
The legal center report said repealing DOMA is “an obvious and necessary step to ending federal discrimination against gay and lesbian couples.”
Entitled “A Devastating Wait: Family Unity and the Immigration Backlogs,” the report includes a long laundry list of recommendations for immigration legislation, including reclassifying spouses and minor children of legal permanent residents as immediate relatives, exempting Filipino World War II veterans from annual quotas and placing a permanent three-year cap on wait times for family-sponsored visas – which would include families headed by “permanent partners.”