Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Immigration reform obstacle

There’s one word that neatly sums up why LGBT-inclusive immigration reform is unlikely to happen this Congress: Republicans. They think they see an opportunity to get a lot of political mileage, and most are determined to get it.

People who vote Republican are increasingly moderating their views, with increasing numbers of them supporting marriage equality as well as comprehensive immigration reform. As with every other grouping in society, young people who vote Republican are for more likely to be supportive of the rights of LGBT people than are their Republican parents or grandparents.

Republicans in the US Congress, however, are far out of step not only with Americans generally, but even with their own voters. Dominated, as they are, by far right religious extremists and teabaggers, Congressional Republicans are the main problem with Congress, and why it can’t get anything done.

Immigration reform is no different: Americans want reform and those who know the issues at stake support including LGBT people. Republican politicians, however, are playing games.

President Obama wants to include LGBT families in his immigration reform plan. Late last year, the Immigration Task Force of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus released its principles for immigration reform, which includes LGBT families.

As has been the case for four years, Senate Republicans are the problem. ThinkProgress reported:
During a conference call with LGBT groups on Sunday afternoon, Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), and Dick Durbin (D-IL) claimed that the inclusive LGBT language was not included due to Republican opposition, but added that Senate Judiciary Committee Patrick Leahy (D-VT) ‘will offer an amendment in his committee to protect gay couples.’
Tuesday morning US time, Sen. John McCain, the Arizona Republican and ex-presidential candidate, said that including LGBT people in immigration reform is “not of paramount importance,” which is a nice weasel-words way of putting it: It leaves him free to claim he never said they weren’t important, just not “more important than anything else; supreme”, as my dictionary defines his word.

However, McCain also said that including LGBT families is a “red flag”, so it’s pretty clear that he really meant that including them is not important at all. How on earth did John McCain, who once upon a time was worthy of respect and even occasionally admiration, become such a cold-hearted bastard?

It’s estimated that there are 28,500 LGBT bi-national couples (in which one partner is not a US citizen) living in the USA, plus another 11,500 couples where neither partner is a US citizen. It’s pretty clear that including LGBT families in immigration reform IS of “paramount importance” to those 40,000 couples!

There are no reliable estimates of the number of US Citizens who left the USA because our native country refuses to acknowledge our same-gender partners in the same way it recognises the opposite-gender partners of their friends and family members. We’re sometimes called “love exiles”, and our numbers are probably pretty high. So, John, this “red flag” is pretty important to us, too—and yes, we vote.

All of this creates a sterling opportunity for Senate Republicans: They can push for immigration reform that deliberately excludes LGBT families in the hope that it will drive a wedge between Hispanic and LGBT activists. Desperate as the Republican Party is to attract Hispanic voters, they’re equally determined to keep LGBT people outside of full participation as citizens. For Republicans in Congress, being anti-gay while working on immigration reform achieves both goals.

The problem for the more Machiavellian politicians in the party is that many of their fellow Republicans in Congress aren’t too keen on Hispanics, either, and have no interest in genuine immigration reform—quite the opposite, in fact.

I think there are two things that could happen. First, it could be like healthcare reform: Republicans will keep demanding ever-changing concessions, forcing Congressional Democrats and the White House to capitulate on one thing after another (like including LGBT families), and then Republicans will still vote against the resulting weak bill.

Or, Democrats and the White House could call the Republicans’ bluff: They could stand firm on certain core principles to force Republicans to show their true colours. That would give Democrats something they can take to voters in 2014 when, with some luck, Democrats will regain full control of Congress. Then, they could proceed with genuine immigration reform.

LGBT advocates, meanwhile, won’t fight against a bill that excludes us, no matter how much Republicans hope they do. After all, any immigration reform is bound to help at least some LGBT people, even if it perpetuates our second (or third) class citizenship overall.

The Republican Party is in serious trouble. It is out of step with American voters and, increasingly, with their own voters. Some of their leaders have realised that have spoken out, declaring the party must change to survive. Will it be soon enough to enact genuine immigration reform? Tens of thousands of LGBT couples are waiting to find out.

Update: A few hours after I published this post, Salon published "GOP prepares to blame Obama for immigration deal collapse" by Alex Pareene. It presents a similar view to mine, plus makes more valid points underscoring the fact that Republicans aren't actually interested in genuine immigration reform. Well worth a read (H/T to Roger Green, who provided the link in the comments). For information about what President Obama REALLY wants, check out the White House link, below.


FACT SHEET: Fixing our Broken Immigration System so Everyone Plays by the Rules – From The White House

Nadler Lauds President Obama’s LGBT-Inclusive Blueprint for Comprehensive Immigration Reform – reaction from US Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY 10), sponsor of the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA)


Roger Owen Green said...

GOP prepares to blame Obama for immigration deal collapse

Arthur Schenck said...

Thanks for the link, Roger! I've updated the post to include it. I'm kind of glad to see that someone else sees things the same way I do—glad, but not surprised.