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February 8, 2013

Obama immigration plan includes same-sex couples

Las Vegas--An immigration reform plan revealed January 29 by President Barack Obama includes elements that would keep same-sex couples together in the United States.

The plan includes making undocumented immigrants pay back taxes and learn English as a condition of staying in America and working towards a green card, holding companies that hire undocumented immigrants accountable, streamlining the legal immigration framework and tightening border security.

While he did not mention it during his appearance at Del Sol High School, the part about streamlining legal immigration includes protections for same-sex families. A fact sheet on the White House’s website goes into more detail on the issue.

Under a subsection labeled “Keep Families Together,” it reads, “It also treats same-sex families as families by giving U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents the ability to seek a visa on the basis of a permanent relationship with a same-sex partner.”

Efforts have been under way for several years to allow gay and lesbian United States citizens to sponsor their foreign partners for visas or citizenship in the way heterosexual married couples have long been able to. Without it, many couples have had to choose between leaving the United State or separating, as the non-U.S. partner’s visa runs out.

One of the most notable couples facing this challenge is performance artist Tim Miller, one of the NEA Four and the partner of Alistair McCartney, an Australian citizen.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement, under the Obama administration, has already declared that foreign partners in binational couples are not prime targets for deportation proceedings, that enforcement efforts will target those that are more “high priority.” Those moves started in 2011, and were strengthened in the second half of 2012.

Efforts have been made to attach the Uniting American Families Act to a comprehensive immigration reform bill; Rep. Jerrold Nadler of Manhattan tried that tack in 2010. Nadler was set to reintroduce the measure this week.

A day prior to the release of the president’s plan, a Senate framework was released that made no mention of same-sex couples. Sen. Charles Schumer of New York said in a conference call that same-sex couples would be left out to bolster bipartisan support.

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