Senator Menendez Introduces Inclusive Immigration Bill

This afternoon, Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) introduced a
comprehensive immigration bill with provisions directly impacting
bi-national LGBT couples. Named the Comprehensive Immigration
Reform Act of 2011, the bill includes within its coverage the
Uniting American Families Act (UAFA), legislation that will allow
U.S. citizens and permanent residents to sponsor same-sex partners
for family-based immigration. Senator Menendez’s immigration bill
could mean great news for bi-national couples and their families
who are currently at risk of being pulled apart because of archaic
and unfair immigration laws that do not recognize their

Data from the 2000 census estimates that there are approximately
36,000 bi-national couples living in the U.S. These discriminatory
immigration practices limit the ability of U.S. citizens to provide
permanency for their families, forcing many of them to make the
untenable choice between their families and their country.
Bi-national same-sex couples in the U.S. are raising children at
the astounding rate of 46% — more than double that of the national
average of same-sex couples generally (20%) – which makes the
ability to build a permanent life, home and family that much more

UAFA seeks to solve this problem by amending the language used in
the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) to be inclusive of
same-sex bi-national couples. The Act would add definitions for
“permanent partner” and “permanent partnership” to the INA.
The proposed requirements are not lax: a prospective sponsor would
need to be in a committed relationship with another individual
outside of their biological family and otherwise unmarried. The
couple must be financially interdependent and show an intent for a
lifelong commitment.

Should it pass, the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2011
would be beneficial for both same-sex bi-national couples and
Americans at large. Under present policy, bi-national same-sex
couples are often forced to settle abroad in one of the 20
countries that provide protections and benefits to emigrating
same-sex couples. When they go, these couples take their tax
dollars, professional talents and families with them. The current
archaic and broken immigration system serves as a “brain drain”
on the U.S. when talented citizens are forced to leave the country
because the government refuses to recognize their families.

The Family Equality Council applauds Senators Menendez, Reid,
Durbin, Kerry, Leahy and Schumer for their leadership on this
issue. Family Equality Council endorses this and other such
LGBT-inclusive and family-friendly legislation. This bill is one
giant step toward a nation where all families, regardless of
creation or composition, will be able to live in a country that
recognizes, respects, protects, and celebrates them.