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April, 23, 2010

Nadler wants partner bill added to immigration reform

Washington, D.C.--The best chance to get the Uniting American Families Act passed will be to attach it to comprehensive immigration reform, according to its sponsor.

The bill would allow partners of gays and lesbians to immigrate to the United States in the same way married couples can.

Currently, only legally married opposite-sex spouses are permitted to sponsor their wives or husbands for immigration. This often makes it impossible for bi-national same-sex couples to stay together in the United States.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler, a Democrat representing Manhattan, introduced H.R. 1024 in the House on February 12, and Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, introduced the nearly identical S. 424 the same day. Both measures are known as the Uniting American Families Act of 2009.

They will add the phrase �or permanent partner� after �spouse� to every section of the Immigration and Naturalization Act that applies to legally married couples. The change would apply only to same-sex couples.

�Permanent partner� is defined as a person age 18 or older, who can prove a domestic partner relationship and is unable to marry their partner because they are the same sex.

California Democrat Mike Honda later expanded the measure�s language to also include rights for the children and step-children of the foreign born partner.

Nadler said earlier this month that UAFA is not likely to move on its own, and that the best way to get it passed is to get it attached to the comprehensive immigration reform bill that Congress will consider this summer.

�The leadership has made it clear that UAFA will only be passed if it is in the form of an attachment to comprehensive immigration reform and that it will not be pursued as stand-alone by the congressional leadership,� Nadler said.

Nadler wants calls made to Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Judiciary Committee Chair John Conyers of Michigan and to Zoe Lofgren of California, who chairs the subcommittee on immigration, citizenship, refugees, border security, and international law.

Lofgren�s panel will hear the immigration reform bills.

Conyers is one of the 121 co-sponsors of UAFA. Pelosi and Lofgren are not.

Ohio Reps. Dennis Kucinich of Cleveland and Betty Sutton of Akron, both Democrats, are also co-sponsors.

Nadler also wants all members of congress called, including senators, asking for UAFA to be included in comprehensive immigration reform in both chambers, though the senate has no bill yet.

The House immigration bill has been introduced without UAFA by Democrat Luis Gutierrez of Illinois.

New York Senator Charles Schumer is expected to introduce immigration reform in the Senate. It is not clear whether or not Schumer�s proposal will include UAFA, though he is one of 23 Senate co-sponsors.

Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown is also a UAFA co-sponsor.

The White House wants comprehensive immigration reform passed, but has not weighed in on the inclusion of UAFA.

Countries that already allow gays and lesbians to sponsor their partners for immigration include Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Israel, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.

There are approximately 40,000 same-sex couples in the United States threatened by the inability to sponsor partners for immigration, according to the latest census figures cited by Immigration Equality, which lobbies for LGBT people and people with HIV. Of those, 45 percent are raising children, and a significant number are caring for elderly parents. The average age of the partners is 38.

Nadler is a long time champion of immigration equality, having introduced similar bills in every congressional session since 2000. Until 2007, they were called the Permanent Partner Immigration Acts.

In 2004, Leahy began introducing companion bills in the Senate.

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