Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Non-comprehensive immigration reform

One of the main disagreements among those seeking to reform US immigration law to end its discrimination against GLBT people, has been whether to pursue ad hoc reform of existing law through measures like the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA), or to include GLBT reforms in comprehensive immigration reform. From what I can tell, leftists prefer only the latter, while others—like me—want to get the job done in whatever way can be passed and signed by the president.

On December 15, HR4321, the "Comprehensive Immigration Reform for America’s Security and Prosperity Act" of 2009 (CIR ASAP) was introduced in Congress. Despite its name, it’s hardly comprehensive: GLBT people are not included.

I read in Chicago’s Windy City Times that US Representative Luis Gutierrez (D-IL-4) introduced the bill, but the lead sponsor of the legislation is actually US Representative Solomon P. Ortiz (D-TX-27), with Gutierrez listed as a co-sponsor. Which makes me wonder why Gutierrez is being singled-out for criticism by Chicago GLBT activists. However, Gutierrez’s long-time support for GLBT people would lead one to think that he’d push truly comprehensive immigration reform (Gutierrez is a co-sponsor of UAFA).

In any case, US Representative Mike Quigley (D-IL-5), also a co-sponsor of UAFA, may introduce an amendment to include GLBT people in the new bill. Last October, according to WCT, Quigley said that no bill could be “comprehensive” without GLBT people included. His Congressional District has a large GLBT population.

Leftists, however, hate UAFA and aren’t too keen on similar reform. Writing on the Daily Kos, veteran activist Michael Petrelis summed up the position of the left:

I must… point out that Gay Inc advocates were only asking for changes related to gay couples and gay immigrants who are single were left out in the cold. Another depressing instance of our leaders elevating the concerns of couples above everyone else. Why can't we put forward laws that meet the immigration needs of gays in partnerships and gay individuals?

This is utter nonsense. Obviously, if one isn’t in a relationship, one doesn’t need to worry about sponsoring a non-American partner. The issue here is that current law relating to couples applies only to opposite-sex couples—the American can sponsor their non-American husband/wife. Put another way, UAFA and similar approaches seek to have same-sex bi-national couples treated equally with heterosexual bi-national couples. Clearly single people are irrelevant to issues affecting only couples.

Immigration law in general isn’t too kind to single people, but that’s an issue to address, not a reason to knock or oppose UAFA as many LGBT leftists do. To the extent that immigration law addresses single people’s needs, obviously gay people should be treated equally.

The problem for many leftists is that they want poor, unskilled single immigrants treated the same as skilled migrants (single or partnered), something that no country I’m aware of does, except as part of their UN commitment, if any, to accept refugees. Being in a relationship, particularly with a citizen or national of the country, is often seen as a settlement factor for the immigrant.

So, it seems to me that seeking to have same-sex bi-national couples treated the same as heterosexual bi-national couples is a no-brainer. So is making sure that immigration law treats GLBT singles the same as heterosexual singles. But trying to suggest that reform for GLBT couples must be rejected until there’s a policy to allow poor, unskilled single migrants is an absurd, na├»ve position for politically privileged folks whose lives don’t depend on achieving real reform for GLBT people.

I am a pragmatist and an advocate for GLBT people. I am not, and make no claim to be, a leftist. It’s leftists’ right to sit on their hands until perfection can be achieved, but as for me, I prefer to get what we can get, however incremental and imperfect it may be.

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