United States Senator Patrick Leahy proposed legislation on Wednesday that would allow U.S. citizens to sponsor their same-sex partners as they apply for green cards. President Barack Obama and Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano have also backed the same-sex rights in immigration reform.. During the Senate committee meeting, Napolitano stated that concerns over green card fraud shouldn’t play a role in the immigration reform debate, according to The Huffington Post.
The legislation, currently called the “Uniting American Families Act,” is also supported by Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine. Leahy said that it is time for immigration officials to change the way they think about gay and lesbian couples to shift the attitude of people worldwide. According to the Brattleboro Reformer, at least 25 nations offer immigration benefits to same-sex couples.
Under Vermont law, Japanese-born Takako Ueda and U.S. citizen Frances Herbert got married in April 2011. However, because of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, the couple may be separated. Last year, the couple was granted with a form of deferred action, but the ruling expires in May 2014, leaving Ueda in limbo.
“I have heard some disparage fairness in our immigration law as a ‘social issue’ that threatens their narrow view of what immigration reform means,” Leahy said. “Well, to me, the fundamental civil rights of American citizens are more than just a social issue.”
Regulations and punishments would be the same for same-sex marriages as it is for heterosexual marriages. Under this bill, applicants would have to prove they are at least 18 years old and in a lifelong relationship. Penalties would include up to five years in prison and $250,000 in fines for the U.S. citizen and deportation for the foreign-born partner.