Alex Blaze

Democrats want to add gays to the immigration bill

Filed By Alex Blaze | July 16, 2010 2:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, The Movement

The gays will be in the upcoming immigration bill, or at least Democrats will give the old college try:

LuisGutierrez.jpgRep. Luis Gutierrez of Illinois, Rep. Mike Honda of California and others will urge Congress to pass the Uniting American Families Act this year as part of a comprehensive immigration reform package.

But both parties are skeptical of that strategy. They warn that introducing a contentious issue just months before the midterm elections could add fuel to the immigration debate and erode support from lawmakers in socially conservative districts.

"It adds another dimension to the issue that will be the subject of significant debate," said Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee. "For sure, it will enhance the debate."

Let's see, the watered down DADT deal is in peril, the incredibly popular ENDA, which was also severely compromised, didn't even get a vote this year, we're still waiting on DP benefits for federal workers, DOMA isn't even getting discussed, several other, smaller LGBT bills have been introduced and gone nowhere, and this is the one we're supposed to believe in?

Not even getting into the substance of the current comprehensive immigration reform bill being discussed or same-sex partner sponsorship, immigration is probably the most politically complicated issue in the US right now. Racists don't want "amnesty" and want to build a wall and arrest more Mexicans, liberals want a system that treats immigrants more respectfully while keeping their labor cheap, nativists want to prevent them from working and punish their employers, business wants immigrants to keep on coming over without papers so that they don't have rights, and the left wants them to be treated decently, get papers, and have access to basic rights and protections.

The issue is a 50-dimensional tightrope walk, and considering how little Democrats want to challenge the status quo, how inept they've proven themselves at getting any legislation with even the slightest hint of controversy through (and how beholden they are to big-money interests), and how little they care about LGBT issues, same-sex partner sponsorship is just not going to happen in 2010.

They have comedians writing this stuff for the Democrats in Washington, right?

Anyway, three random thoughts on this, since immigration is an issue that's near and dear to me what with everyone in my family moving to different countries and everyone getting married with furrinners and traveling around for no good reason:

  1. If the immigration bill generally sucks (more punishment of undocumented immigrants, a fence, more troops on the border, no program to get papers to people who need them, etc.), but this measure is added to it, will it really be a victory? LGBT activists were bizarrely asking the opposite - what to do if the bill is generally good but same-sex partner sponsorship is left out - just a few months go, but Washington has even less respect for undocumented workers than it does for LGBT people.
  2. Partner sponsorship is fairly complicated for straight people, and includes forcing the citizen to prove that s/he has enough of an income to support another person, etc. My parents are a straight, binational couple, but my mother didn't get her green card (and, subsequently, her citizenship) through marriage. She decided it wasn't worth it.

    My brother and his girlfriend, who isn't a US citizen, are going the marriage route because getting a work visa, even for someone who has needed, professional skills like she does, can't crack this nut. Maybe the US doesn't need any more nurses? Either way, the system is messed up and no one should have to get married to move to the US.

  3. Even though it actually wouldn't solve 90% of the problem, we wouldn't be having this debate if the Democrats had gotten rid of DOMA.

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This is GREAT news. This winter when bloggers attended a summit on Immigration reform in New York, we were told that the LGBT community was on our own. We were not in the Gutierrez bill, and the coalition working towards immigration was swayed by Catholic interests to leave us out.

I am glad to see that at least now, they want to include us.

The problem remains though - is this more lip service and the Catholics are still pitching a fit and threatening to leave the coalition? If so, they'll choose the Catholics over us when it comes down to brass tacks.

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | July 17, 2010 7:47 AM

Wowie, another promise.

I think Obama's passing out Easter eggs are a better deal. They're substantial, his promises aren't.

A. J. Lopp | July 17, 2010 4:50 PM

I'll bet you, dollars to donuts, that this will turn out to be a "bargaining chip" as the bill progresses.

A bargaining chip? ... As versions of the bill get closer to passage, the Dems will tell a few Republicans who are close to voting in favor, "Now look, we'll drop this uber-liberal same-sex partner clause if it will mean you'll promise your vote." That will prevent them from having to make a compromise that they think would really be painful.

You see, when the Dems throw us under the bus, if they are close to the right gutter sometimes they can even sell our blood.

Me? ... Cynical? ... Why do you say that?

Just to be clear: this is not an Obama bill or promise. He's biding his time and waiting to see what his best options are, and has only recently committed to acting, in a fashion, on immigration because of pressure from immigration activists. It needs to be remembered that there have been more deportations under this administration than under the Bush administration. This does not bode well for sensible and compassionate immigration reform measures.

The Gutierrez bill is the more liberal of the two/three (perhaps more) versions of immigration reform legislation floating around. The Charles Schumer-Lindsey Graham bill is much heavier on penalties, border patrol, and enforcement and is therefore more likely to take effect. You can read it online - it makes for chilling reading. That one does not include UAFA. The best case scenario is that we get some version of immigration reform that combines Schumer and Gutierrez's bills, but given the current rabidly anti-immigrant sentiment sweeping across the US, I think we're more likely to see Schumer's version in place. None of the bills currently in play address the root causes of the current immigration crisis - the intense neoliberal exploitation of cheap labor. For that reason, anything that passes, while better than nothing, will still only be a patch-up job and the crisis will continue to manifest itself.

Alex's concluding three points are absolutely on target. It should also be noted that the H-4 spousal visa bill - which is what UAFA mimics - is so riddled with problems and has been so badly abused (by spouses who have inflicted physical, economic and mental abuse on their partners) that there is a very serious push in Congress to reform it. Those who enter on "dependent visas" are economically vulnerable to a frightening degree. You can find out more online.

As I understand it, several pro-UAFA folks wanted to it to be a stand-alone bill, but Immigration Equality and other groups decided to take their chances and try to include it in CIR (comprehensive immigration reform). (If I'm wrong, many will doubtless correct me). Whether that gamble works or not is being heavily disputed.

I, of course, have a rather different view on UAFA and CIR - but I'll reserve my views for a separate post. For now, I just wanted to make sure that folks here understand that CIR is by no means a simple task and is a vastly complicated process that is nowhere near anything resembling a bill or a promise by Obama. There is a long and bloody battle ahead.