Most people in York recognize that when an American marries someone from another country, the American spouse can sponsor his or her foreign spouse to immigrate to the United States. Husbands have brought wives and wives have brought husbands to this country, allowing them to bypass the visa system and shorten the amount of time they have to wait before they can naturalize as American citizens. This is a great benefit for different-sex binational couples, but it is one that has yet to be expanded to Americans in same-sex relationships with people who are not American citizens.
The Uniting American Families Act, however, would change that. The bill would give same-sex relationships recognition for purposes of immigration only, meaning that the federal government would not see a couple as married, but would allow an American to petition for his or her partner to come to the United States. Up to this point, the bill has been supported primarily by Democrats, but one Republican senator is also voicing her support for extending immigration rights to binational same-sex couples.
Senator Susan Collins is not only supporting the bill, but she is a co-sponsor of it. Ideally, she would like to see the bill pass on its own, but if it cannot, she hopes the issue of same-sex relationships and immigration will be covered in the expected immigration reform in 2013.
There were an estimated 40,000 couples in the United States in 2011 that are unable to receive the same treatment under federal immigration law as different-sex couples. In addition, there are approximately 25,000 children who are being raised by binational same-sex couples, and they are under constant threatened with having one parent deported.
It remains to be seen whether this bill will have enough support to pass on its own, but Senator Collins sees it as just an "update" to the immigration system.
Source: The Huffington Post, "Susan Collins: Immigration Reform Should Address Same-Sex Couples," Elise Foley, Dec. 11, 2012
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