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Old June 4th, 2009, 04:36 PM
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Exclamation US lawmakers seek to ease family immigration

US lawmakers seek to ease family immigration
5 Jun 2009, 0405 hrs IST, AGENCIES
WASHINGTON: US lawmakers on Thursday unveiled legislation to help reunite families split apart for years by the creaky immigration system
including, controversially, same-sex partners.

Representative Mike Honda, who heads the caucus of Asian Americans, said that some families are split apart for decades due to the severe backlog in US immigrant visas for relatives of some nationalities.

"The benefits cannot be overstated," Honda said. "American workers with families by their side are happier, healthier and more able to succeed than those distanced from loved ones for years on end."

The legislation, of which a similar version has been introduced in the Senate, would make family reunification a priority in immigration and raise the number of potential visas by rolling over those unused in previous years.

It would also allow Americans to bring in same-sex partners as family members. The provision has triggered the opposition of the Roman Catholic Church, which usually supports measures to liberalize immigration.

Neil Abercrombie, a Democratic congressman from Hawaii, said that excluding gay partners was a form of discrimination of the type seen periodically throughout US history.

"There has always been somebody ... after they got here, then they wanted to close the door," Abercrombie told reporters.

"We didn't learn anything about discrimination," he said. "This is something we're not backing down on."

President Barack Obama is expected to unveil his own package on immigration reform in coming weeks. It is expected to focus on finding ways for millions of undocumented workers to legalize their status.

Initiatives by Obama's predecessor, George W. Bush, all died in Congress as some members of Bush's Republican Party opposed "amnesty" for illegal immigrations

Honda's legislation also puts a priority on immigration by World War II veterans from the Philippines.

Obama earlier this year signed a measure spearheaded by Honda to extend benefits to Filipino veterans, who had fought alongside US forces but were stripped of payments soon afterward.

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