Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.) introduced on Thursday a gay inclusive immigration bill that would enable gay and lesbian Americans to sponsor their foreign-born partners, a right that is currently denied them by the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act.
The bill, the Reuniting Families Act, echoes other legislation like the Uniting American Families Act in trying to make it easier for gay bi-national couples to stay together.
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Rachel Tiven, executive director for Immigration Equality, praised Honda for including a provision for bi-national same-sex couples as part of his legislation.
“Separating families has an enormously expensive impact, it is a drain on the economy and separating Americans from their loved ones and forcing them to move abroad because they can’t keep their family together in this country is simply pointless,” Tiven said.
In addition to including UAFA — like language, Honda’s legislation would help shorten the wait times that can keep legal immigrants and their overseas loved ones separated for years. The bill would classify spouses and children of permanent U.S. residents as “immediate relatives” and exempt them from numerical caps on immigration.
“The reality is almost 6 million people are stuck the log jam of our family visa system,” Honda said. “The current system has not been updated in over 20 years, and many family members who apply for visas are not granted admission for decades — and that undermines their economic contributions to our country and encourages some frustrated relatives to resort to illegal migration.”
The Reuniting Families Act currently has 73 co-sponsors including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
The subject of immigration reform looks set to be one of the main issues of the 112th Congress with President Obama having made it one of the key issues he would like to tackle during his presidency.
Until comprehensive and LGBT-inclusive immigration reform is passed, Rep. Honda has joined several other legislators in asking that President Obama issue a moratorium on deportation proceedings against foreign-born spouses in same-sex marriages or equivalent unions whereby, were it not for the Defense of Marriage Act that bars federal recognition of same-sex unions, the individual would be applicable for a marriage-based green card.
Senator Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) is expected to introduce counterpart legislation in the upper chamber though the exact form that legislation will take is not yet known.