If you care about the rights of Americans who are in relationships with non-US citizens, specifically, same-gendered ones, now is the time to step up and make calls. Not "now" as in 2010. I mean now, today, and then make every effort you can muster to spread the word to everyone you know.
For over a decade, Out4Immigration (O4I) and other groups have been trying to pass the Uniting American Famlies Act, or UAFA, which would amend the Immigration and Nationality Act so that we can sponsor our foreign partners for legal residency, as straight people have long been able to do. This extends a single federal right to us, though a crucial one if you believe in self determination and strengthening community. The bill also provides for the consequences of fraud and makes clear that if the relationship ends, the foreign partner’s status would come up for review.
Queer US citizens who fall in love with someone from another country have the same menu of choices they’ve had for as long as we can remember, and the fare is unsatisfying to say the least: a) try to survive the emotional and financial drain of a long distance relationship, and hope your partner is not harassed or barred from trying to visit the US too often; b) move abroad to a country that acknowledges your relationship; or c) be one of the relatively lucky whose partner can qualify to reside legally in the US through visas related to work and education--a status that is not guaranteed and often comes to and end. Clearly, none of these are ideal options, unless you’ve always wanted to renounce life in the US to take up residency in the land of your foreign partner. Beyond that your only other choices are: break up, which is an inevitable and heart-wrenching outcome for many; or just as difficult, you and your partner may find yourselves in the ranks of the undocumented, and all the challenges and pitfalls--not to mention searing uncertainty and possibility of harsh consequences--which comes with that. This is certainly not an ideal way to live, and most of us don’t have the wherewithal or means to pull this one off. But some do, and it certainly happens. Something to think about next time you find yourself involved in a conversation where "illegal aliens" come up.
So, we have struggled long and hard to muster both enough co-sponsorship in Congress, as well as the political will, to move this bill out of committee, where it has been languishing during each session of Congress since 2000, when Jerrold Nadler (D)-NY, authored and introduced it in the House for the first time. After President Obama’s election, we had high hopes that this would be the last Congress in which the bill would have to be introduced. And long before that election and since, we have been told ad nauseum that the UAFA would only stand to pass as part of Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR). Most of us as citizens care deeply about social justice and the importance of immigrants to our history, economy, and national soul. Still, it is difficult to see our ability to choose our path in life and love tied to immigration reform. While we were cautioned in the past that the introduction and passage of the UAFA as a stand-alone bill is a non-starter, it makes sense to those of us who would stand to benefit. And until now, we thought CIR was a no-go in 2010, and possibly not until after the 2012 cycle.
As you likely know by now, there is a chance that Senator Reid will bring a Defense Authorization Bill (DAB) to the floor next week, with a DADT repeal attached. Well, two days ago, a story broke on Politico.com, stating that Senator Robert Menendez is preparing to introduce a CIR bill in the coming month, to pair with the bill drafted by Representative Luis Gutierrez last fall. Folks: this presents us with the best chance we’ve had in a long time to see a new protection extended to all of our families. After many years of calling, letter writing, speaking out, and visiting our representatives, this spring the Senate unveiled draft legislation for CIR--and it included the language of the UAFA! If CIR is to be our path, we must fight to stay included, and to that end, I implore you to contact Senator Menendez’ office and make sure he gets the message that the UAFA must be included in his bill. Additionally, us O4I’ers are trying to lobby Senator Reid to include the language of the UAFA in the DAB next week. Please help us avail ourselves of not one, but two opportunities to bring this chapter of discrimination to an end!
If you pick up the phone and call your Senators to let them know you wish to see UAFA language in the DAB, I will love you and thank you forever! And if you would call Senator Menendez and help us shut down his lines with the message that we must be considered in his CIR bill, that would make you one of the most awesome people in the Universe, as far as I’m concerned. Senator Menendez’ DC office can be reached at 202.224.4744. Senator Reid’s office is 202-224-7327. Please help!
And as always, if you or someone you know is in a bi-national relationship, or if you see the potential injustice to anyone in our community who desires a family of their own, please visit O4I at their website, by joining their listserv on yahoo.groups, and by visiting their blog and Facebook page. You can also follow them on Twitter. Our time is now! Make those calls, and please pass it on!