December 19, 2012
By Jacob Combs
Two House Republicans have announced their support for the Uniting American Families Act, which would provide same-sex couples with the same immigration rights opposite-sex couples enjoy, the Huffington Post reported yesterday. Rep. Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania and Richard Hanna of New York joined Senator Susan Collins, the only Republican to support the bill up until yesterday, and 145 Democrats as co-sponsors on the legislation.
In a statement to the Huffington Post, Rep. Hanna called his decision “pro-business”:
“Our laws force some couples to live apart rather than in the country of their choice, pressuring Americans to take their talent, innovation, and wealth elsewhere. Businesses large and small in New York, many of them multinational corporations, are struggling to keep some of their best workers in the United States … We can keep jobs, dollars and talent right here in the United States by simply allowing financially and emotionally committed couples to live together in the same country.”
New York Rep. Jerrold Nadler introduced the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) in 2011. Because of the Defense of Marriage Act, non-citizens in same-sex marriages in the United States are often at risk of deportation, since their American spouses cannot sponsor them for citizenship the way that opposite-sex partners can.
As speculation heats up that President Obama may push for a comprehensive immigration solution in his next term, some immigration equality advocates hope that UAFA could be included in those discussions. As the Huffington Post reported in November, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus included immigration rights for binational same-sex couples in a press release containing their principles for immigration reform.
Of course, three Republican lawmakers is a tiny fraction of the party’s legislators, and UAFA is a long way from passage. But these small steps are a crucial part of building a coalition for change.