Thursday, June 04, 2009

AFSC Supports Uniting American Families

"No American should have to choose between country and loved ones," said Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) at a hearing this week on the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA). Senator Leahy introduced UAFA earlier this year, which would allow same-sex 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. The bill would also penalize immigration fraud in connection with permanent partnerships.

Progress of Immigration Laws

The bill "would assist about 36,000 same-sex couples nationwide," according to the New York Times. Testimony by Christopher Nugent of the American Bar Association stated that as many as 19 other nations extend this right to bi-national, same-sex couples. Senator Leahy noted that government policy should encourage these relationships instead of trying to hold onto antiquated policy.

The majority of the Senators at the hearing, including Senators Leahy, Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Arlen Specter (D-PA) spoke in favor of UAFA. Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) opposed the bill, stating that allowing same-sex couples to have the same immigration legal rights as traditional man/woman couples creates a new definition of marriage.

AFSC Joins Other Voices in Support of UAFA

The American Friends Service Committee submitted hearing testimony to Congress in support of UAFA. "We add our voice with many others in support of the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) which will improve current immigration policies that protect equally the basic human rights of every immigrant person and immigrant families," said AFSC. The bill is "a critical piece and compelling change to existing policy is the elimination of discrimination in immigration law against same-sex, permanent partners," AFSC stated.

As the debate on immigration policy unfolds, AFSC and its partners will work to ensure that legislative and policy actions are constructive, humane and respect the basic dignity of every person. Finally, supporting families so that they remain intact, decreasing a 5.8 million family immigration backlog and reducing the years of waiting can be the beginning of a process that repairs the gaps in the nation’s immigration system. UAFA is a pivotal step in this direction.