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Changes would would recognize gay families on U.S. Customs forms
From news releases
2012-03-26

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Immigration Equality hails proposal as a significant step toward federal family recognition

Washington, DC — Immigration Equality, a national organization fighting for equality under U.S. immigration law for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and HIV-positive people, hailed the announcement today from the Department of Homeland Security ( DHS ) that would recognize lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender families ( LGBT ) on the customs form required to enter the country. When adopted, today's proposal will end discriminatory treatment of LGBT families, who until now have been forced to fill out two separate forms despite the fact that the form says "only ONE written declaration per family is required."

"Immigration Equality is proud to see this change come to fruition," said Rachel B. Tiven, the group's executive director. "We asked the Obama administration to stop discriminating against families on federal customs forms, and today's announcement is welcome news. Separating families in the customs line was a waste of government resources and a painful symbol of the double standard LGBT families face at the federal level. This proposal ends that insult. It sends an unmistakable message that the Administration, and the United States, recognize gay families as 'real families,' too. We thank our coalition partners, especially Family Equality Council, for their part in this victory."

The proposed change will undergo a series of reviews prior to implementation, including a period of public comment. Immigration Equality vowed today to rally public support for the changes, including support from families directly impacted by the change, such as Mihail S. Lari and his partner, Scott Murray.

In June 2011, Mihail — a naturalized U.S. citizen originally from Pakistan — and Scott entered the U.S. following a European trip. They filled out one customs form, "since it states that only one form is needed for each family," said Mihail. The customs officer asked why they had only completed one form, and when they replied they were domestic partners registered in the state of California, the officer said, "The federal government doesn't recognize that."

"Scott and I met the qualifications on the customs form, including a shared address, yet the federal government refused to recognize us as a family," said Lari. "After waiting years for citizenship because federal law would not allow Scott to sponsor me, we were then faced with the reality that, even after I naturalized, we were still not family in our government's eyes. This proposal is one step towards correcting that, and our family is glad to see it moving forward."

For more information, visit www.immigrationequality.org .

From Family Equality Council:

Washington DC - ( Mar. 26, 2012 ) - Family Equality Council, the national organization that connects, supports and represents the one million parents in this country who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender ( LGBT ) and the two million children they are raising, today praised the Department of Homeland Security and Department of Treasury for supporting Family Equality Council's proposal to allow all families — including those headed by LGBT parents — to file a single customs declaration form upon returning to the United States from travel abroad.

The changes in the U.S. Customs and Border Protection regulations would broaden the definition of "members of a family residing in one household" to include the different types of family relationships that currently exist across the country, including the relationships that exist between LGBT couples and their children.

Family Equality Council Executive Director Jennifer Chrisler hailed the proposed changes as a major victory for LGBT families.

"No child should have to ask their parent if they really are a family because of an arcane customs form," said Chrisler. "But that is what is happening to LGBT families who are treated differently when re-entering the United States through Customs and Border Protection after travelling abroad. In many cases couples are forced to declare they have no relationship with their spouses and parents are forced to split up their children in order to get through the customs process."

"President Obama and this administration have recognized the need to modernize forms and regulations to reflect the reality of today's American families and we applaud them for that," added Chrisler. "We look forward to the day when LGBT families are recognized, respected and protected by all laws and policies."

The current regulatory definition of "members of a family living in one household" includes "all persons . . . who are related by blood, marriage, or adoption . . ." This definition excludes members of any family who may not be related by blood, marriage, or adoption, but who still function as a family living in one household.

Family Equality Council recommended the regulations expand from the current narrow definition of family to more accurately reflect what American families look like today. These changes will ensure that all families, regardless of barriers that prevent formal legal recognition of their relationships be treated the same as families headed by opposite-sex married couples.

The proposed change is also expected to facilitate the customs process by reducing paperwork for customs officials and allowing more travelers to benefit from the family grouping of exemptions for articles acquired abroad.

Customs and Border Patrol ( CBP ) allows members of a family within one household to make a single customs declaration of any articles acquired abroad for which declaration is necessary. Persons within a single family residing in one household are permitted to combine their allotted allowances to increase the amount which they can declare without incurring duties or taxes. The ability to file a single form also allows families to pass through CBP as one unit, rather than having to split up and move through the process separately.

Family Equality Council was proud to lead this effort and worked with a coalition of partners including Immigration Equality to advance this proposal.

CBP announces proposal to expand filing of Joint Customs Declarations

WASHINGTON— U.S. Customs and Border Protection ( CBP ) will publish March 27 a notice of proposed rulemaking proposing to revise its regulations concerning when members of a family residing in one household and traveling together on their return to the United States may make a joint declaration for all members of the family.

CBP is proposing to expand the definition of the term "members of a family residing in one household" to include domestic relationships, which would allow more U.S. returning residents to file a joint customs declaration for articles acquired abroad. "Domestic relationship" would be defined to include foster children, stepchildren, half-siblings, legal wards, other dependents, and individuals with an in loco parentis or guardianship relationship. CBP would also include within the definition two adults who are in a committed relationship including, but not limited to, long-term companions and couples in civil unions or domestic partnerships where the partners share financial assets and obligations, and are not married to, or a partner of, anyone else. "Members of a family residing in one household" would continue to encompass relationships of blood, adoption, and marriage.

By expanding the definition of "members of a family residing in one household," CBP anticipates a reduction in the number of declarations ( CBP Form 6059-Bs ) , which would streamline passenger processing by CBP officers and reduce costs. CBP believes that this proposed change would more accurately reflect relationships between members of the public who are traveling together as a family.

Written comments must be received on or before May 26, include the agency name and docket number by visiting the Federal eRulemaking Portal: www.regulations.gov or by mail to:

Trade and Commercial Regulations Branch

Regulations and Rulings

U.S. Customs and Border Protection

799 9th Street, N.W. ( Mint Annex )

Washington, D.C. 20229-1179


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