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  • « Dems back federal rights for gays | Main | Having it both ways on immigration »

    June 03, 2007

    Hillary, Obama hedge on UAFA

    Posted by: Chris

    Well, the bloom came off the rose pretty quickly for those of us in binational relationships.  The Human Rights Campaign "report card" on the Democratic presidential candidates indicates that both Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama "support" immigration rights for gay couples.

    But the actual HRC questionnaire responses show both candidates hedging their support, raising concerns about immigration fraud.  Clinton, in particular, said she did not believe the already overburdened U.S. immigration agency could handle scrutinizing the additional applications they would receive. The other five Democratic presidential candidates, including John Edwards, have offered their unconditional support.

    More details here, in a special report I wrote for Gay News Watch.

    My reaction to the Clinton-Obama hedge is mixed.  Obviously, concerns about immigration fraud are serious and should be taken as such.  The Uniting American Families Act, which extends to gay Americans the same right to sponsor non-Americans for citizenship, would put binational gay couples through the same scrutinization as straight Americans.

    Still, it's reasonable to put unmarried couples through greater scrutiny than married couples because the act of marrying, with its accompanying responsibilities and commitments, is pretty clear evidence of the couple's legitimacy and credibility.  Of course, there are limited jurisdictions worldwide where gays can marry, and even once married their responsibilities are subject to how they'd be treated where they divorce.  It's one thing to marry in Massachusetts or Canada, for example, but if most other U.S. states won't recognize the marriage, then it's not as risky and serious a step for the couple.

    Other countries have addressed this issue by requiring additional evidence of commitment and mutual interest of unmarried couples.  Both the U.K. and Canada require cohabitation for at least one year.  That can be a huge hurdle for gay couples, since only 20 countries worldwide allow gays to sponsor a partner for a residence visa.  Perhaps a requirement like that would satisfy Clinton and Obama. 

    It's disheartening to see Clinton, who counts many prominent lesbians and gay men as supporters, put a price tag on our equality.  That's the effect of withholding her support for UAFA because she's concerned about whether the Citizenship & Immigration Services could handle the burden of scrutinizing visa applications from gay binational couples.  If she believes gay couples should be treated equally, then the question of burden should be applied to gay and straight couples equally.  Unless she favors withholding sponsorship rights for straight couples, money shouldn't be a reason for withholding similar rights for gay couples.

    I also can't help but wonder whether the risk of fraud is actually greater for gay couples.  The vast majority of heterosexuals worldwide wouldn't dream of faking a gay relationship for immigration purposes.  And even a small amount of scrutiny would pierce the veil of most.

    It was encouraging to see all seven Democratic presidential candidates support UAFA, but to take Clinton and Obama seriously when they say they support immigration rights for gay binational couples "in principle," they should make clear what more they would require.

    For a comprehensive look at gay immigration rights, click here for the Gay News Watch summary.

    For a comprehensive look at gay issues in the U.S. presidential race, click here for the Gay News Watch summary.

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    Comments

    1. Maureen on Jun 3, 2007 8:03:23 PM:

      Clinton's remark about the burden on the immigration agency is laughable. White straight men are sending off for brides from Russia and the Pacific Rim, and she's worried about the gay influx. Have you, Chris, made finding a foreign partner such an irresistible idea that every gay person in America is going to leave the country to seek one? Never mind the immigration paperwork, if that's the case, the airlines and cruise ships won't be able to handle all of you.

      She's in a very bad position, and if she doesn't get a backbone soon and firm up her stance on this issue, she may as well cut her losses and start begging for the VP job or a spot in the administration. I believe Obama can withstand this early hedging; I don't think she can.

    1. Ben Gardent on Jun 4, 2007 6:22:55 AM:

      Burden or not, this is not a reason to continue a discriminatory policy.

    1. Andoni on Jun 4, 2007 7:55:13 AM:

      Clinton's reponse is particularly troubling because it reminds me of the one bigots used to use against equal health care benefits for gay couples: we can't do it, it will cost too much, break the budget, etc. (BTW, these arguments NEVER panned out.)

      What part of EQUAL does Hillary not understand. It's also similar to (during desegregation) when blacks got equal rights "we can't allow blacks into our schools just yet because it will overburden the classrooms....." give me a break.

      Hillary's is a definite positioning to make her look like she is a 100% candidate, but really is NOT. (Was she warned that the other candidates were supporting UAFA and that she had better check that box too to look good?)

      IT IS TIME FOR THE RESPONSIBLE GAY GROUPS TO CONFRONT HER ON THIS WITH THE ABOVE EXAMPLES or to ask her what her plan might be to avoid fraud and/or overburdening of the system without simply shutting the door on this gay right she supports "in principle."

      After all EQUAL IS EQUAL and we have to not let her get away with this type of 1990's thinking.

    1. Amicus on Jun 4, 2007 11:09:00 AM:

      Obviously, concerns about immigration fraud are serious and should be taken as such.
      =========
      Is there much evidence that they have been?

      Historically, I haven't been close to this issue, but even I know enough to recall that enforcement and fraud prevention were among the first 'issues' raised by critics, long before Hillary became a public figure on the issue.

      It's annoying, because it harkens back to those who didn't do their homework and suggested that repealing the ban on gays in the military would be just like Truman's Exec Order. Well, it turned out that more was required. Here's hoping that this issue doesn't turn out the same - that there is a fully thought out set of goals. For instance, Andrew Sullivan is pointing out on his blog today that DOMA has provisions forbidding the recognition of 'civil unions'. Is that germane? If so, how? I hope that these bills amount to solid legislation, in terms of well briefed legal opinions. In other words, that they aren't just 'aspirational' bills or 'sense of the Congress' type formats ...

      Does one find these concerns rebutted anywhere? I couldn't even find the quote from Immigration Equality that you use in the post above...

      A while back, when I looked into who was sponsoring the bill in the House, I couldn't find any Jerry Nadler comments that amounted to, "We've looked at the enforcement issues and this is what we've come up with ...".

      What's more, there is an education hurdle among the general electorate. How many people know that there are 'processing centers' for immigration versus how many who imagine that it is something like applying for a passport, that involves showing various forms of 'ID'? I, for one, wasn’t aware that married couples needed to show too much more than their marriage license for the purposes of immigration. It is in the confusion about how things function that good intentions can get tripped up by foes, and one reason why 'general education' on how 'gay immigration' would work administratively is ... a 'gay issue', arguably.

    1. Brian Miller on Jun 4, 2007 6:57:03 PM:

      Goodness, as a taxpaying citizen, who often pays higher taxes than an equivalent heterosexual married man, far be it from me to *inconvenience* the poor, overloaded federal bureaucracy by demanding equal rights.

      Good for Mrs. Clinton for standing up for what really matters -- bureaucratic convenience and the incompetence of America's non-computerized immigration directorate -- rather than for the pesky rights of everyday citizens.

      Taking my tongue out of my cheek for a (rare) moment, it's interesting to note that while Obama and Clinton express "reservations" about the potential for "fraud" in a small percentage of a few thousand same-sex applications, they have no qualms whatsoever supporting the pending immigration bill that would grant legal residency to up to 30 million Mexican citizens who entered the country fraudulently.

      The Democrats doth speaketh with forked tongues. The reality is that on immigration, just like on military service issues, they cannot be depended on to stand for anything. We'd be better off casting our votes for candidates who don't waver on basic principles, or put the convenience of government bureaucracies over the concerns of taxpayers.

    1. Courtney on Mar 8, 2010 4:41:26 PM:

      Press Release: 3 pages
      For immediate release: Wednesday February 25, 2010
      For more information contact: zoeoka@yahoo.com
      VIGIL AT THE MONUMENT
      Americans From Across the Nation
      Gather To Raise Awareness of Their Plight:
      Unequal Treatment, Economic Hardship & Forced Exile
      On Sunday, March 21, 2010, Americans in same-sex binational partnerships will
      gather in the nation’s capital at the Washington Monument to protest a situation that
      few Americans are aware exists. They are Americans who suffer human rights
      violations due to unequal treatment in U.S. law and policy that does not permit them
      to sponsor their foreign same-sex partners to live with them in the States. Tens of
      thousands of Americans are in the same heart-breaking predicament: they must
      choose between continuing their lives in the States or leaving America to live in exile
      -- simply to preserve and protect their primary family relationships.
      Vigil participants will carry pictures of themselves with their partners and represent
      bi-national families everywhere who are either separated, living in fear of deportation,
      or exiled in other countries where they are legally recognized as family units.
      Twenty-one countries around the world permit their citizens to sponsor same sex
      partners: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France,
      Ireland, Germany, Iceland, Israel, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal,
      South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. This list
      demonstrates how behind the times America is when it comes to extending human
      rights and equal treatment under the law to all our citizens.
      It is time to take [the] constraint off the committed same-sex partners of
      American citizens.
      Sen. Patrick Leahy, UAFA Judiciary Hearing, June 2009
      Currently, there is a bill in Congress to correct this problem. It's the Uniting
      American Families Act (the “UAFA”), (HR 1024/S 424), introduced February 12, 2009
      by House Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) and U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT). The UAFA
      has 120 co-sponsors in the House and 23 co-sponsors in the Senate. But it is not
      moving fast enough for bi-national families who suffer daily. As human rights activists
      we are not satisfied with the way the bill is stalled in committee. Apparently it will be
      used as a political football with some legislators hoping to include the UAFA in
      comprehensive immigration reform but others hoping it will go away. Vigil
      Participants don't trust that the contentious context of immigration reform will be the
      vehicle to bring them relief. We want to see UAFA pass as a freestanding bill or
      signed into law by executive order as quickly as possible. Alternatively, if the UAFA is
      to be included in other legislation we believe it would better fit attached as a ‘jobs
      retention/jobs creation’ measure in a jobs bill or other vehicle similarly less
      contentious than immigration reform.
      The plight of binationals, as Sen. Leahy stated in the June 3, 2009 Judiciary Hearing
      on the UAFA is “unjust, cruel, and unnecessary.” Our lives are filled with havoc and
      uncertainty, loneliness and fear, economic sacrifice and for some -- instability and
      financial ruin. We are literally forced to exile ourselves from our lives and homes in
      America, just to keep our families together!
      This makes no sense as economic policy in a competitive global
      marketplace.
      Sen. Russ Feingold, UAFA Judiciary Hearing, June 2009
      It is not in the economic interest of this country to force exile Americans. America
      benefits when it retains its citizens rather than loses us to other countries which is
      what happens when we leave and take our U.S. dollars, opportunity, and talent with
      us -- sapping the vitality of the communities we enrich here at home to benefit
      countries that will welcome us, with our partners as family units. American homes
      are sold and the profits are put into real property in foreign lands. Businesses are
      closed, American employees lose their jobs, and opportunities are created beyond
      our borders. For those of us that cannot manage the challenging option of rebuilding
      life in a foreign country, relationships are destroyed and tragedy may ensue. A policy
      should not remain in place that causes wreck and ruin in the lives of Americans who
      cannot afford the extraordinary option of rebuilding life in a foreign country.
      Family unity is economically sound policy for the U.S. because it keeps
      American dollars in the country. …The definition of ‘family’ is not
      restrictive and can and should also include non-traditional family units.
      …The definition of ‘family’ should not be interpreted so stringently as to
      omit people who are in a loving, committed relationship but happen to be
      of the same gender.
      Julian Bond, Chairman, NAACP, UAFA Judiciary Hearing, June 2009
      This policy damages not only those families, but U.S. society generally.
      …Many of these binational couples are forced to leave this country,
      depriving our nation of the economic, cultural, social and other
      contributions these individuals could make here.
      Christopher Nugent, ABA, UAFA Judiciary Hearing, June 2009
      Zoë Oka is the founder of the Committee to Advance Equality: “We deserve our
      rights exclusive of immigration reform and our rights should come before that fight
      begins. The challenge to adjust as many as twenty million illegal immigrants and set
      them on the path to citizenship is a separate struggle and it's sure to be a three-ring
      circus -- at least as contentious and unpredictable as the debate over health care.
      Why should the rights of Americans in committed, enduring relationships be subject
      to the volatility of such a process without certainty that obtaining our equal rights 3
      will be the committed goal fought for to the end? The UAFA is a simple solution. It
      needs to become the law now. With the current state of the law our lives are on hold
      indefinitely. Passage of the UAFA will put an end to our daily suffering and allow
      some of us to come out of the shadows, others to come home with our partners or at
      least have the right to visit the States. For people like myself, it would avoid having
      to up-root our lives to go live in exile in a foreign country, the reason being that
      we're not treated equally here at home, we’re not welcome to live out our lives with
      the one person most dear to us -- our partners.”
      “Until it happens to you, you don’t even realize it’s a problem -- that people are
      suffering this sort of human rights denial and legal inequality. For all of the progress
      we've made, gays and lesbians are still treated as second-class citizens in important
      contexts. Being in a binational relationship demotes us further -- it confers third
      class status for us and results in pariah status for our foreign partners who aren't
      even permitted to enter the States as visitors once it is suspected that they have
      American partners. All you have to do is fall in love across the border and just watch
      your rights disappear,” states Ms. Oka. "It’s important to understand this problem for
      what it really is: a human rights violation and unequal treatment under the law.
      Uncle Sam is constructively booting us out of the country because our partners are
      not Americans. The need for love and the right to form family relationships are our
      natural, human rights. This problem is not negotiable. Human rights and equality are
      not popularity contests. We need relief now. America must stop forcing Americans
      into exile in foreign lands."
      Vigil at the Monument will occur simultaneously with a larger event, an
      immigration reform rally, also scheduled to be held in Washington DC on March 21.
      American citizens in binational relationships are encouraged to come out of the
      shadows and participate in Vigil at the Monument. For additional information
      contact zoeoka@yahoo.com, founder, Committee To Advance Equality For Binational
      Same Sex Couples; http://ctae.open-board.com; ctae@mail.com

      Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/tos.php?api_key=448a31f7758cee8797f69753c8952953&next=%3Fpf_ads_market%3D003ild0000001OEY172hpiw6qW000000%26pf_ref%3Dx1027_US_AMT%26pf_pub%3D5893&v=1.0&canvas#!/event.php?eid=348195536980

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