Friday, September 12, 2008

An Unacceptable Choice Between Family & Country

More than 36,000 bi-national, same-sex couples are impacted, every day, by the discriminatory immigration laws of the United States. These loving, committed couples are bound by love, but separated by official federal policy, which renders them unequal in the eyes of the law.

"American immigration law is based on the principle of 'family unification,'" Rachel Tiven, the executive director of Immigration Equality (pictured), writes in a recent Wisconsin State Journal op-ed. "Accordingly, it allows U.S. citizens to reunite with their parents, children, siblings and spouses by sponsoring these family members for immigration."

"Gay and lesbian families are not afforded this basic dignity," she notes, "because an American cannot sponsor their foreign-born same-sex partner for immigration, no matter how long they have been together or how committed their relationship is, even if they are married in Massachusetts or California."

This is one American law that tears families apart, rather than bringing them together.

Consider, for example, the story of Pamela Hathaway and Lucie Ferrari , a couple recently profiled by the Journal.

"Hathaway, 32, is a U.S. citizen," reporter Melaine Conklin notes. "Ferrari, 40, is a French citizen whose work visa ran out a year ago, forcing her to quit her job as a teacher in Sun Prairie and leave the country. The couple married in Canada in January, but U.S. immigration policy doesn't recognize same-sex couples, even ones that have been legally married, so Hathaway cannot sponsor Ferrari for U.S. immigration."

And because of that, "they have to do so using videoconferencing, Skype calls over the Web or a telephone because they cannot legally be together."

Fortunately, Congress is considering the Uniting American Families Act, which would level the playing field for same-sex couples and remove anti-gay discrimination from our country's immigration policy. The bill, which is being championed by Immigration Equality, recently obtained its 100th co-sponsor in the House, and its 15th in the United States Senate.

For families like Pamela and Lucie's, its passage cannot come soon enough.

The current law, as Tiven writes at the Journal, "runs contrary to some of our dearest values as Americans - including promoting strong families and communities and the pursuit of individual happiness."

"Americans should not have to choose between family and country," she (rightly) points out.

For more information on the Uniting American Families Act, click here.