The Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) introduced in February by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and in the House of Representatives by Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) would help same-sex spouses of permanent US partners petition for a family-based visa.
“There is a shared struggle among the immigrant and the LGBT communities,” Immigration Equality Spokesperson Steve Ralls told NBC News in a recent interview. “There is a growing recognition that if we can get fair immigration reform through Congress we can work on a lot of issues together moving forward.”
Known for offering legal aid to immigrants, Immigration Equality details the concerns from protections for undocumented LGBT individuals to a broader call for equal rights.
According to UCLA’s Williams Institute, 900,000 LGBT immigrants live in the United States with around two-thirds documented.
“We’re investing in immigration reform because it is a social justice issue and we have a responsibility to advocate for the kind of world we want to live in,” National Center for Lesbian Rights Policy Director Maya Rupert told NBC News.
“But beyond that, there are LGBT people who are going to be directly impacted by every provision in the ultimate legislation, so we have to make sure that it’s being done in a way that is inclusive and conscious of their needs.”
Many activists are also working on the specialized requirements for LGBT Citizens and native residents who seek to bring a foreign partner to the country.
“You can imagine the fear that an undocumented person faces with the uncertainty in current law if their deportation would mean the return to a home country where they cannot be out, where they cannot have a relationship or they would be subject to intense persecution,” said Ralls.
“So a path to citizenship is critical for all undocumented people, and for undocumented LGBT people it is in many cases a critical safety issue for them.”