AP and Staff Reports
Former U.S. Rep. Jim Kolbe (R) of Arizona on Monday, urged a Senate committee to expand its immigration reform bill to include a path to citizenship or permanent residency for immigrant same-sex partner partners, including his own.
“While this is an excellent starting point, I submit to you it is still incomplete. Families like mine are left behind as part of the proposal. Our laws should not separate American citizens from their loved ones for such unacceptably long periods of time,” he said in his testimony.
Kolbe, a Republican who represented the Tucson area in Congress for 11 terms, has a partner from Panama who had to leave the U.S. after his work visa expired according to the Arizona Republic. Under current law, Kolbe could not sponsor his partner for a family reunification visa.
Kolbe, 70, served in the U.S. House from 1985 to 2007 and came out as gay in August 1996 after his vote in favor of DOMA spurred efforts by some gay rights activists to out him. He won reelection that year, becoming the second openly gay Republican to serve in Congress. He said the immigration bill introduced this month as a political compromise between Democrats and Republicans, is “still incomplete” because of its “omission of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender families.”
The bill omitted married gay and lesbian binational couples, leaving out the Uniting American Families Act.
“I know, as the partner of an immigrant how difficult it can be to build a life and protect (my family) under the current system,” Kolbe told the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is holding a series of hearings on an https://www.cbo.gov/publication/44225 844-page immigration reform bill drawn up by a bipartisan group of “Gang of Eight” senators.
“This committee has an opportunity to fix the problem,” said Kolbe, urging the committee to add language from the http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uniting_American_Families_Act Uniting American Families Act. The UAFA, sponsored by Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), is a stand-alone bill that seeks to allow a U.S. citizen to gain citizenship for his or her “permanent partner.”
According to a November 2011 report from The Williams Institute, the current exclusion leaves an estimated 28,500 bi-national couples in the U.S. caught in limbo, because the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) does not provide spousal benefits to same-sex couples. Approximately one in four couples include a partner from Mexico, eight percent from Canada, and six percent from the United Kingdom.
Kolbe said that he and his partner, Hector Alfonso, will legally marry in May in the District of Columbia. The former congressman was recently appointed by President Barack Obama to serve on his Advisory Committee for Trade Policy Negotiations.
Note: Kolbe served in the U.S. House from 1985 to 2007 and came out as gay in August 1996 after his vote in favor of DOMA spurred efforts by some gay rights activists to out him. He won reelection that year, becoming the second openly gay Republican to serve in Congress. Read Kolbe’s entire testimony here http://immigrationequality.org/2013/04/read-congressman-kolbes-testimony-in-support-of-inclusive-immigration-reform/. Follow the issue here at Immigration Equality http://immigrationequality.org.