Comprehensive and Inclusive Immigration Reform




Comprehensive=Inclusive Immigration Reform

US Immigration law is based upon the principle of family unification, and when an American citizen or legal permanent resident falls in love with someone from another country, they are allowed to petition to bring their fiancé or spouse into the US.

 

This does not if you’re gay or lesbian and I learned this first-hand when I met my partner.

 

I’m a US citizen, born and raised in New York. My grandparents came to the US as immigrants and that was about as familiar as I was with our immigration laws – completely ignorant of how next-to-impossible it is to come here legally.

 

After discovering there was no legal way for me to bring my partner here, I moved to Europe in order for us to be together. A year later, a former employer contacted me and offered me a job back in the US. After lengthy e-mail and phone call discussions, they agreed to sponsor a training visa for my partner, good for 18 months, so he could move with me. Shortly after arriving in the US, our attorney advised us to approach the employer to file for a skilled worker visa, which would give us more time here and a possible path to a green card. The employer agreed to do this, but we had to cover the expenses (both visas totaled over $10,000).

 

Later that year, we travelled back to Europe and received the skilled worker visa, and then a few months later, the company almost went bankrupt. They let my partner know his position was being eliminated, and after consulting with the attorney, discovered this meant we’d have to leave again (once a work visa is ended through job loss, the employee becomes undocumented). It felt like the whole world came crashing down that day. We rushed to find another job for my partner, and luckily, miraculously, within a week we did, and they agreed to sponsor another visa and possibly a green card down the line.

 

After this, everything was moving along great. We bought an apartment together in Westchester and were enjoying the life we were building here with family and friends. Then the economy took a turn for the worst and my partner’s new employer notified him that they would be eliminating his job. Once again, our world was turned upside down. Imagine being told you’d have to sell your home, leave your family and friends, and not know when – if ever – you’d be able to return together. It felt like we were screaming in a vacuum and nobody was listening.

 

When we explained all of this to the employer, they agreed to reduce my partner’s hours and allow him to search for another job.

 

Forcing gay and lesbian Americans into exile in order to stay with the person they love hurts American families, businesses and communities. America is losing talented, tax-paying citizens, and American companies are losing talented employees because they are forced to move abroad to keep their family together.

 

 

The US Government discriminates against gay and lesbian couples by not allowing us to sponsor our foreign-born partners or spouses for residency the way straight couples can. No matter how long we’ve been together, no matter if we are married or in a civil union or domestic partnership in any of the States or Countries that grant this right – we are not afforded this basic dignity in the US. At least 19 other countries provide equal immigration benefits to gay and lesbian couples, including most of our closest allies.

 

Like many other gay and lesbian bi-national couples, we are forced to ‘visa-juggle’ to stay here legally. If we were a straight couple, all we’d have to do is get engaged or married to gain permanence legally.

 

The Uniting American Families Act (UAFA – H.R. 1024/S. 424) would end this discrimination and would allow me to sponsor my partner for immigration, with the same process, procedures and penalties applied to straight couples – including imprisonment for up to five years and a $250,000 fine for fraud.

 

The UAFA does not redefine marriage and it would not repeal the Defense of Marriage Act law. We simply want the same opportunity to prove that our family deserves to stay together.

 

Comprehensive immigration reform is not comprehensive unless it includes all families – including gay and lesbian families. We are hoping Congress remembers this when they draft the next immigration reform bill.

 

To learn more, please visit: www.ImmigrationEquality.org

 

Thank you,


Tom

[email protected]

Posted in Immigration