by Kathy Drasky
Title: The Uniting American Families Act: Addressing Inequality in Federal Immigration Law
Testimony Submitted to the United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary Hearing: "The Uniting American Families Act: Addressing Inequality in Federal Immigration Law"
June 3, 2009
Statement of Out4Immigration, http://www.out4immigration.org
Out4Immigration is an all-volunteer, grassroots organization that addresses the widespread discriminatory impact of U.S. immigration laws on the lives of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) people and their families by raising awareness about this issue and advocating for change through passage of the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA, S.424; H.R. 1024). Our group was started by a handful of individuals who have been directly affected by unfair U.S. immigration policies that ban same-sex binational couples from the same benefits afforded opposite-sex binational couples - the right of the American partner to sponsor their foreign partner to remain with them legally and safely in the United States.
We thank Senator Leahy for his long-time support of equal immigration rights for LGBT people, for holding this historic hearing on the UAFA and for advocating for inclusion of our families in comprehensive immigration reform this year. We have but one hope for the outcome of these events - that equal immigration rights are extended to all foreign partners of American citizens and permanent residents, regardless of sexual orientation.
Out4mmigration has reached out to thousands of same-sex binational couples since our inception in 2006 and has provided the basis to empower these individuals to stand up and speak out about the inequities in the U.S. immigration system - the very inequities that have forced many of these couples over the years to leave the country in order to stay with the person they love.
From near and far, Out4Immigration's members take advantage of every affordable outlet to raise awareness about the need for the UAFA. For many, it is their only chance of ever returning to the United States; for others it is their only hope of being able to stay.
Our passion for the United States and equality knows no bounds. Our members speak at community and university forums, attend town hall meetings, march in LGBT pride parades and attend immigrant rallies, distribute flyers, tirelessly write and call Congress, talk with local legislators and advocacy organizations to enlist their help and advice, pitch stories about our relationships to journalists and write and publish Op-Eds and letters to the editor about the dire need for the UAFA. Then we blog and use all forms of social media to spread the word further.
Collectively, we feel we have achieved our goal of raising awareness. We believe we have taken the unfair treatment of same-sex binational couples under U.S. immigration law and put it on the radar for the American public as a wrong to be righted. We have done this with a small army of people who have given their time, energy and limited resources while struggling to keep their families together in the United States, while being forced into exile to stay with the person they love, while being forced to live apart and suffer undue hardship in maintaining their relationships, and for the Americans in this equation, being asked to make the most difficult and unfair choice of all - choosing between the person they love and the country they love.
Senator Leahy, we respectfully urge you to do all you can to end the discriminatory impact of U.S. immigration laws on the lives of LGBT people and their families through passage of the UAFA, and/or inclusion of our families in comprehensive immigration reform.