Of course, generally the people who hate the LGBT community and oppose any establishment or strengthening protections against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation (i.e. heterosexual supremacists) are also generally the same people who hate immigrants as well (i.e. xenophobes and oftentimes nativist racists), although these two sets of people are not completely overlapping. (Not all homophobes are xenophobic and not all racist xenophobes are anti-gay. However, a significant fraction of the Republican Congressmembers are both anti-gay and anti-immigrant)
The current draft comprehensive immigration reform bill in the Senate (often referred to as the Gang of Eight's CIR bill) does not include a provision helping same-sex binational couples, although the President's immigration blueprint of reform principles does.
So there is an intriguing political question of what will happen when the political desires of the LGBT community to be included in CIR collides with the Republican xenophobia and homophobia? The Go8 CITR bill is being marked up in the Senate Judiciary Committee next week and the Democrats are expected to offer an amendment that includes the entire text of the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) that would solve the same-sex binational couples' issue by creating a new class of visa for sponsorship of "permanent partners" for those who can not get married and sponsor their spouse for a permanent resident visa.
The Republicans involved in immigration reform have been repeatedly saying that including "social issues" like LGBT equality will derail any chances of comprehensive immigration reform. Cue the New York Times:
Now, with the immigration bill scheduled to advance next week toward a vote in the Judiciary Committee, Democrats are in a quandary about whether to offer an amendment that would give green cards to same-sex partners.
Republican sponsors of the overhaul warned on Tuesday that such an amendment would sink the entire measure.
“There’s a reason this language wasn’t included in the Gang of Eight’s bill: It’s a deal-breaker for most Republicans,” Senator Flake said. “Finding consensus on immigration legislation is tough enough without opening the bill up to social issues.”
Under existing immigration law, it is generally a quick and straightforward process when an American citizen seeks a green card for a foreign-born spouse in a traditional marriage.
But under a 1996 federal law that defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman, Americans cannot apply for green cards for foreign spouses of the same sex. In addition, the immigration code does not recognize same-sex partners.Interestingly, a number of LGBT groups pushed back hard this week on the notion that including same-sex couples in comprehensive immigration reform would weaken the bill:
This is a tough one. There are roughly 9 times as many LGBT immigrants who will be positively impacted by comprehensive immigration reform as who will be negatively impacted by a CIR bill that does not include UAFA. I am fan of the Williams Institute, but their estimate that less than 2.5% of all undocumented immigrants are LGBT seems woefully low to me. The only reason to keep UAFA out of CIR is to placate Republican's homophobia while the Republicans are presumably playing down their own xenophobia. Would you agree to a sexist compromise on a racist bill? When multiple identities combine and compete against each other, usually everyone loses.
However, a significant part of this issue may be resolved after June 27th if the Supreme Court (as expected) strikes down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act and the Obama administration starts issuing permanent resident visas (i.e. green cards) to legally married same-sex couples. It's unlikely CIR will have become law by then so Senate Democrats should move forward with including UAFA now and wait and see if DOMA is still valid law when they make their final vote on the bill.
President Obama himself (finally!) weighed in on this issue, saying while in Costa Rica yesterday that he supports inclusion of LGBT couples in immigration reform. The Miami Times reports:
I say call the Republicans bluff. There are over 800 pages in the bill which will impact 11 million undocumented immigrants and hundreds of billions of dollars and they are going to blow it up because the bill will allow same-sex binational couples to remain families?President Barack Obama says he supports recognizing gay unions in a broad immigration bill pending in Congress but won't say whether he would sign legislation that fails to do so.Obama says that recognizing same-sex relationships in the bill is "the right thing to do." But he says it would be premature to telegraph what he will or won't do before lawmakers send him a bill.Gay rights supporters are pushing for an amendment to the bill to allow gays to sponsor their partners to come to the U.S.But Republicans, including some who helped draft the bill, have made it clear that amending the legislation in that fashion would cost their support.
Really? Bring it on.