Integrity Legal

4th Jun 2009

On June 3rd the United States Senate held hearings on the Uniting American Families Act for the first time. This was a historic event because it marked the first time in history that the Senate held hearing regarding Same-Sex Family Immigration matters.

For those unfamiliar with the UAFA, it is a bill that would add the term “Permanent Partner” to the list of those eligible for US Immigration benefits based upon a family relationship. Under the Defense of Marriage Act, the Federal government only recognizes marriage between a man and a woman. The UAFA creates a new category of family member, namely: Permanent Partners.

A note of importance, the President of AILA , The American Immigration Lawyers Association, submitted a statement to the committee supporting the enactment of the Uniting of American Families Act. An interesting quote from the statement:

“[S]ame sex partners of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents are not recognized as family members under current immigration law, no matter how long-term or committed the relationship. This outdated and biased definition forces U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents to make unconscionable, life-altering decisions to either relocate to a foreign country or permanently separate from their loved ones.”

The hearing was punctuated by the heart wrenching story of an immigrant partner who was taken away by US Immigration officers and deported in full view of her partner and family members in the USA.  The witness said on the record, “I was put into a van with two men in yellow jump suits and chains and searched like a criminal, in a way I have only seen in movies.”

On a related topic, the American State Department recently changed internal rules in order to allow same-sex partners of State Department employees the same rights as different sex couples. US Secretary of State was quoted as saying such rule changes were the “right thing to do.”

Current Immigration law still does not allow American Immigration benefits for same sex loved ones of American Citizens, but the above changes in guidelines and proposed enactments would greatly equalize immigration law to the benefit of same sex couples. It should be noted that this proposed legislation would have no effect on the Defense of Marriage Act, nor would it have any effect with regard to gay marriage. Instead, it would grant immigration benefits to persons previously not qualified to receive them.

(Nothing contained herein is to be construed as legal advice. No lawyer/client relationship is created by reading this post)

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