On February 14th, a number of bi-national couples were able to celebrate their love for one another across the 50 states. But too many could not. The K-1 Visa that allows US citizens to sponsor their significant other’s citizenship does not include same-sex partners.
Why? And what is the likelihood of this changing?
This has got to change. Michael Wildes hopes to change it. A distinguished immigration attorney and former Mayor of Englewood, NJ, Wildes is a proponent of equality and therein fair and just immigration reform, specifically for the K-1 Visa.
In Chicago, Rep. Luis Gutierrez has been the person to speak out about this issue, choosing to continue his work on much needed immigration reform rather than run for mayor. A mayoral candidate would have to focus on local issues and immigration is a federal issue.
The movement for immigration reform is growing stronger and Gutierrez has been pressuring the Obama Administration and Congress to move faster. When Gutierrez first introduced an immigration reform bill in the U.S. House, the inclusion of same-sex partner rights was too politically risky, but he believes the coalition in favor of immigration reform is now strong enough to make the bill ‘truly inclusive’.
“The underlying part of any comprehensive immigration bill is family unity,” Gutierrez said in an interview tith the Chicago Tribune. “We need to speak more clearly and more articulately and more frequently that the (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community, and same-sex couples and their binational relationships, are part of families.”
(5/20/2010 by Rex W. Huppke, Chicago Tribune – “Gutierrez wants same-sex partner rights in immigration reform bill”)
The 2000 U.S. census estimated that there were more thant 35,000 binational same-sex couples in the country. At this point, same-sex binational couples who want to remain together in the United States have to relty on work or student visas, or seek other legal loopholes.
This is where Immigration lawyer, Michael Wildes comes in. An immigration lawyer at NYC-based preeminent immigration law firm Wildes & Weinberg, which was established by his father, Leon Wildes, and a former federal prosecutor with the U.S. Attorney in Brooklyn.
Wildes has become internationally renowned for having represented the United States Government in immigration proceedings, for the successful representation of several defectors who have provided hard-to-obtain national security information to the United States and, most recently, for obtaining an injunction to prevent Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi from residing in New Jersey during the 2009 UN Summit.
Wildes is frequently a legal commentator/analyst for network television, called upon to offer insight and expertise on crucial matters affecting the global community. Michael and his cases have appeared in top-tier media included The Associated Press, New York Post, BBC, MSNBC, and New York Nightly News. And no doubt, he will continue to make news.
I had the opportunity to speak with Michael Wildes.
The K-1 Visa excludes the possibility of sponsorship of same sex significant others. Is this an oversight, perhaps, because of earlier legislation, or is this a purposeful exclusion?
Wildes: “This is a purposeful exclusion as the Federal Government does not recognize same sex marriages or relationships for immigration purposes.”
What is the approximate number and nature of the appeals to this exception that you have encountered?
Wildes: “I have not encountered many, and I have represented transgendered individuals in their claim for asylum in the United States. Appeals of this type will be unsuccessful as the Federal Government does not recognize same sex relationships for immigration purposes.”
Why is this an issue of importance to you?
Wildes: “It’s important as I believe that everyone has the right to love anyone they want.
It’s important as it reflects the needs and wants of a segment in our society which demands the same rights and privileges as same sex couples.”
Can you tell me more about the United American Families Act?
Wildes: “The UAFA HR1024 S. 424 is the US bill to amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to eliminate the discrimination in the immigration laws by permitting permanent partners of US citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents to obtain legal permanent resident status for their same sex partners.
It was proposed in the 11th Congress last February 12, 2009, and may come up again within the next several weeks.”
If the underlying part of any comprehensive immigration bill is ‘family unity’, how is ‘family unity’ being defined here?
Wildes: “Good question, but it would take a detailed analysis and hours of dissertation to try to answer it. The ‘family unity’ as it exists today, excludes family members of those presently in the US illegally, failing to achieve true family reunification, prohibiting those family members from obtaining status, etc.
‘Truly inclusive’ would be defined as including all bi-national couples/individuals without discrimination.”
Is the work in changing this definition of ‘family unity’?
Wildes: “The US congress came up with this definition. I believe that the US should adopt statutory definitions similar to those of Canada who have a broader view of family reunification.”
IL will offer legal civil unions for same sex couples in June, 2011 but this still excludes a lot of rights, inclusive of K-1 Visa rights, is that correct?
Wildes: “This is correct. Same sex couples are also excluded as they are not recognized by the US government.”
Do you see this changing?
Wildes: “Yes – in coming years as more and more non-traditional families are formed.
Yes, I believe it will change but it will take time as there is a prevalent undercurrent cycle of prejudice”
What can the individual citizen do to ensure passage of this bill?
Wildes: “Contact your congressional representatives.
Congress must find the will and desire to pass this amendment. Constituents must contact their representatives. Continue pressing your congressional representative; press and get the message out there.”
If passed, the Uniting American Families Act will allow permanent residents to sponsor their same-sex partner’s entry into the United States.The bill is expected to be re-proposed this month.
Art courtesy of Paul Richmond: paulrichmond.bigcartel.com/product/the-clearing-print