Saturday, June 04, 2011

Senator Feinstein, please be a champion for ALL families!!!

by Chris Barnett

Much of Out4Immigration’s efforts over the years has been focused on securing equal immigration rights for same sex binational couples. The Uniting American Families Act is bill seeks to amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to add the words “and permanent partners” wherever one finds the word “spouse”. Binational couples, families, and their respective communities need to encourage members of the House and Senate to become cosponsors.

Senator Dianne Feinstein of California has repeatedly rebuffed requests by community members to cosponsor UAFA. Historically, the concerns she has stated include the contentiousness of issues related to same-sex marriage and immigration –especially voicing concerns about fraud, even though UAFA stipulates tough penalties in those instances, just as for heterosexual couples. On a larger point of immigration reform, she has expressed her preference to support comprehensive immigration reform, rather than piecemeal legislation like UAFA to deal with specific communities or issues. Out4Immigration and its supporters have taken issue with this stance of the Senator’s, believing this to be an issue more relevant to civil rights and equality than immigration—and thus an issue worthy of her support—not to mention the feeling it leaves behind, that she does not get how injurious current laws are for many Americans and their families.

Feinstein's intervention in 2009 on behalf of Shirley Tan and Jay Mercado, a California couple with two sons, is exactly the response we would hope for from her in the face of the discrimination our families face. Sadly, when it comes to every other family affected by this issue, Senator Feinstein has shown little interest in making this issue a priority, even as many lives are torn apart by it.

In a recent interview with Frontiers Magazine, Senator Feinstein spoke about the need for DOMA repeal--and as some may be aware has authored The Respect for Marriage Act to that end--yet rejected family reunification for LGBT as relevant to that effort. Considering the years in which we have been appealing to Senator Feinstein through letters, phone calls, and meetings with aides to support UAFA, we found her lack of knowledge and awareness on this issue disheartening and disturbing—and grounds for this week’s petition letter calling on her to champion this issue at last as she works to seek The Respect for Marriage Act’s passage.

By treating one group as if they should wait for their civil rights, our elected representatives perpetuate conditions that give rise to inequality in our society. Demand better! Please sign this letter, and please share and promote however you can!

And the letter:

Senator, the time has come to be a champion for ALL families!

Dear Senator Feinstein,

For years, Out4Immigration has been working to secure passage of the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA, H.R. 2221 / S.1328) and, more recently, Congressman Mike Honda’s Reuniting Families Act (RFA, H.R.1796).

Over the years, members of Out4Immigration and many of your constituents have appealed to you for your signature as a co-sponsor of the UAFA. As a politician, your concerns about “contentious” bills like this one are understandable. However, your intervention on behalf of the family of Shirley Tan and Jay Mercado in 2009 inspired and gave hope to all who are touched by this issue. It affirmed for us your knowledge that many Americans face similar hardships. The fact that some Americans have a mechanism to sponsor their foreign-born spouses for legal immigration, while members of the LGBT community do not, points directly to the issue of equality.

In the course of your recent Frontiers Magazine interview, you expressed surprise on the issue of same-sex binational couples and what DOMA repeal would mean for them, asserting that this issue was “a whole different set of laws.” The fact is, immigration through family reunification IS an important federal right – one of the 1,138 federal rights legally married gay and lesbian citizens are currently denied due to DOMA. As Attorney Lavi Soloway states in Frontiers,
"The growing call for a moratorium on deportations that are tearing married same-sex binational couples apart every day in this country is not solely, or even primarily, an immigration issue, but rather an equality issue. No other civil rights issue of our time intersects with our broken immigration system in this manner.”

Senator Feinstein, we stand firmly behind you in the conviction that the Respect For Marriage Act must become law. It’s time for America to join the more than 20 other nations on the side of fairness and human rights by providing same-sex binational couples a legal way to sponsor their spouses for permanent residency, along with all the other rights afforded heterosexual married couples under federal law.

You stated in your interview that you would “look into” the binational issue. This petition is our effort to help you do that, because our families urgently need your help, and this injustice has gone too long without being set right. America’s LGBT citizens in binational relationships have been asking for your help for a long time. It is our hope that through the Respect for Marriage Act, you at last take advantage of the opportunity to become the champion our families so critically need.


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