On Wednesday morning, June 3, at 10 a.m. the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA). (If you are in town, the hearing is in Room 226 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building.) C-Span does not have Wednesday's television schedule up yet, but the Committee website offers a webcast of the hearing.
UAFA would amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to allow a citizen to sponsor a same sex partner for citizenship.
This might be one of those bills that ultimately goes nowhere or it may fundamentally change the course of both the gay marriage and immigration debates. Follow me below the fold for more on this bill.
This bill has flown under the radar. The only resources I could find about it are from Human Rights Commission, The Advocate, and Tips-Q. In other words, the wingnuts have not picked up on this yet.
There is some anecdotal evidence that this is a problem. This story is from HRC:
My partner came to this country, like many of our relatives, in pursuit of a better life. Now he may never be able to come back. I would be lost in this world without him. My family treats him like a son. He is such a special person and has brought so much joy into our lives. I am not looking for special treatment. All I want is a venue to get my word to the people. It is hard for me to believe that I am the only one in this situation. Please help me get my voice heard, help me change the world, help me get my partner back so that we can continue our life.
More stories here.
I read that and my heart broke a little more for these gentlemen. If they were a straight couple, the sponsorship would be routine. As it stands, this loving couple might be split forever if the wingnuts have their way..
The Advocate article mentions that three or four couples who have been split apart or who might be spit will likely testify Wednesday. Even if there are only a few cases, that is still a few cases too many. This is not gay marriage, but it is an important right that is denied to gay and lesbian couples.
One potentially strong argument that our opponents will make is "what about fraud?" In other words, unmarried people could sponsor someone of the same gender just by claiming to be gay/lesbian and claiming to be in love. UAFA provides for the same penalties as the rest of the bill for fraud (up to five years in prison and $250,000 in fines).
But, but, but... what about the unintended consequences? Again, HRC provides the answer that 20 countries already allow citizens to sponsor same sex partners for citizenship and none have reported problems. The 20 countries are:
Andorra, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Israel, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.
This is not exactly a group of immigration friendly countries, but under the GOP, the U.S. was not exactly immigrant friendly. If W had his way, the guest worker program would have allowed immigrants to come here, work for less than sweatshop wages, and then go home.
Getting back to Wednesday's hearing, I have a feeling that the GOPers might take the opportunity to exhibit their homophobia and xenophobia as they rail against teh gay and anyone from the Middle East or South of the Rio Grande River. Who knows, maybe some wingnuts will argue that immigrants from Europe are the only acceptable immigrants. In that case we can show the rare GOP hat trick (racism, homophobia, and xenophobia).
On the other hand: if (when) this passes, it will bolster the argument for extending equal rights to gays and lesbians and lay the legal foundation for gay marriage or civil unions at the very least.
The bill is HR 1024 in the House. It is sponsored by Jerold Nadler of New York and has 102 cosponsors. In the Senate, the bill is S 424. It is sponsored by Patrick Leahy and cosponsored by 17 Senators. (Links are from Thomas LOC; sorry if they don't work correctly.)
Incidentally, Leahy is the chair of the Judiciary Committee. It's good to be the
king chairman. That's just the way Washington works. If you are on the committee considering the bill, there is a good chance the bill will actually be considered in committee.
For purposes of contacting your legislators, here are the committee members:
Democrats: Patrick Leahy, Chairman, Vermont; Herb Kohl, Wisconsin; Dianne Feinstein, California; Russ Feingold, Wisconsin; Chuck Schumer, New York; Dick Durbin, Illinois; Ben Cardin, Maryland; Ron Wyden, Oregon; Sheldon Whitehouse, Rhode Island; Amy Klobuchar, Minnesota; Ted Kaufman, Delaware; Arlen Specter, Pennsylvania
Republicans: Jeff Sessions, Ranking Member, Alabama; Orrin Hatch, Utah; Chuck Grassley, Iowa; Jon Kyl, Arizona; Lindsey Graham, South Carolina; John Cornyn, Texas; Tom Coburn, Oklahoma
I might take the morning off work to catch this.