Nel's New Day

June 3, 2013

Senators Fail to Support Same-Sex Couples

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 2:10 PM
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Conservatives are always bragging about their “family values,” but they’re very selective about who they consider families. Some liberals, too, are willing to follow the conservatives view of “traditional families” if it serves their own ends. A prime example of this is the proposed immigration reform balloon, currently in a fragile state, that dumped LGBT families off as ballast to encourage the bill to rise.

Amidst the over 300 amendments proposed to the Judiciary Committee for the immigration reform bill last month—many of them designed to stop the act in its tracks—was one from Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-VT) that would allow U.S. citizens to seek permanent resident status, a so-called “green card,” for a foreign same-sex partner. Conservatives so viciously threatened to scuttle the entire bill if that amendment were included that several Democrats on the committee refused to support support Leahy’s amendment.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) voiced the conservatives’ relief: “To try to redefine marriage within the immigration bill would mean the bill would fall apart.” Support from evangelical churches would have, according to Graham, “made it possible for a guy like me to survive the emotional nature of this debate.” (Whatever that means.)

What gives LGBT groups stature in this conflict is that they continue to support the reform despite the fact that they are left out in the cold. Felipe Sousa-Rodriguez, co-director of Get Equal, said, “I can’t deny my outrage when I felt betrayed.” But he is ready to push for the bill in the Senate, scheduled next week.

Born in Brazil, Sousa-Rodriguez is one of the 1.7 million young immigrants brought here illegally as children who will have an accelerated five-year path to citizenship if the bill passes. If the Senate bill were to have the green cards for LGBT spouses, Sousa-Rodriguez could have immediate eligibility because he is legally married to Juan, an immigrant from Colombia who is about to become an American citizen.

Rea Carey, the executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, said, “I am deeply disappointed that binational couples were not included, and we will continue to push for that. But we will remain in this fight.” Activists have estimated that at least 267,000 illegal immigrants are LGBT.

The National Center for Lesbian Rights, GLAAD, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, United We Dream and Queer Undocumented Immigrant Project, Lambda Legal, Equality Federation and the National Center for Transgender Equality provided this announcement documenting their continued support for immigration reform:

“We remain steadfast in our commitment to passing compassionate, comprehensive immigration reform that will provide a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented men, women and children living in our country, including at least 267,000 LGBT undocumented immigrants.

“We are disappointed that certain senators threatened the entire immigration reform bill simply because it affords 28,500 same-sex binational couples equal immigration rights. At the same time, we thank Senator Leahy for standing up for these families. A majority of Americans, 53 percent, believe that all consenting adults should have the right to get married and that gender should not play a role in who is considered family.

“It is unconscionable that lawmakers committed to equality and commonsense, humane immigration policy were forced to make a false choice between protecting the rights of same-sex binational couples and keeping a tenuous coalition together. This take-it-or-leave-it stance with regard to same-sex binational couples is not helpful when we all share the same goal of passing comprehensive immigration reform that provides a path to citizenship.

“Beyond the issue of same-sex binational couples, the bill addresses many issues that will particularly benefit LGBT people, such as eliminating the one-year bar on applying for asylum, providing protections for DREAMers and improving conditions for people held in detention facilities. These include important protections limiting the use of solitary confinement and explicitly prohibiting the use of this practice based solely on a detainee’s sexual orientation or gender identity. We will continue to work to improve the legislation as we fight for its passage because this bill is a historic step forward for all immigrants and the LGBT community.

“Our primary goal is to pass a commonsense, compassionate immigration reform bill that puts our nation’s undocumented men, women and children on a pathway to citizenship.

“We desperately need to reform our broken immigration system immediately because it dehumanizes, scapegoats and vilifies all immigrants, including LGBT immigrants. We will continue to advocate and support changes to the bill that will create the most accessible pathway to citizenship possible and allow all undocumented immigrants the opportunity to become citizens, and we will continue to ardently oppose draconian amendments that would make immigrants permanent second-class citizens and create undue hardships along a pathway to citizenship.

“Every day we fail to reform our system, 1,100 families are torn apart. As a nation, we pride ourselves on keeping families united, and our immigration policies should reflect our commitment to keep families together all families.”

Sharon Stapel, the executive director of the New York City Anti-Violence Project, wrote in defense of green cards for same-sex couples:

“With immigration reform, Congress has the opportunity to affirm the principle that they cannot leave any family behind. However, right now, the immigration reform bill fails to affirm that principle: the current proposal is not truly ‘comprehensive’ because it leaves LGBT families behind.

“Families who cannot sponsor their partners and spouses for immigration risk a future of uncertainly, separation and exile–and LGBT people should have the same protection against this insecurity as every other family protected by the reform bill.”

Sen. Chuck Schumer  (D-NW), one of the eight senators who wrote the legislation, has promised to build support among Republicans so the amendment could be added during the floor debate. Evangelical Christian and Catholic leaders have promised to oppose any same-sex issues in the immigration overhaul.

Anyone watching the high level of dysfunction existing in the Senate at this time knows that an amendment supporting same-sex couples cannot pass that chamber. It takes only one senator to keep the amendment—in fact, the entire immigration bill— from a vote.

Reflecting on the lack of legislative support, Richard J. Rosendall wrote that the LGBT community needs “well-placed allies”:

“Leaders in several sports are making strides to ensure a greater welcome for gay and lesbian athletes. Employers increasingly make the case for pro-LGBT policies. Sri Srinivasan, the Principal Deputy Solicitor General of the United States, was unanimously confirmed by the Senate on May 23 to become the nation’s first circuit court judge of South Asian descent. He assisted in arguing for the United States before the Supreme Court in the Windsor case on March 27. Former Acting Solicitor General Walter Dellinger, who has worked with him in both public and private law practice, notes his ‘extraordinary personal touch.’ His mixture of brilliance and warmth gives Srinivasan rare across-the-aisle appeal. He is widely touted as one of the top choices to fill the next vacancy on the high court. The need for friends in high places is all too evident as we await the decisions in Windsor and Perry.”

The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) prevents United States citizens from petitioning for their foreign same-sex partners even if they are legally married  in a jurisdiction permitting marriage equality. Either same-sex couples live apart and travel to see one another or one of them stays in the United States without legal status.

At this time, the Supreme Court could change DOMA if it were to override the law blocking marriage equality. The court’s decision regarding marriage equality in specific situations will be made later this month, but there is very little likelihood that they will decide to make marriage equality the law of the land.

Despite the ignorant exclusion of same-sex couples from the proposed immigration reform—the arrogant assumption that LGBT spouses are not family–the LGBT community shows its support for its larger family of those who will benefit from an immigration reform bill. Despite the sadness and loss of those who suffer because they must be separated from the ones they love, the LGBT community supports the family of humanity.

May 13, 2013

Immigration Reform Divides GOP

The split between the two parties has grown into internecine war during the past two years, but now the battle has moved over to the GOP party as the immigration reform bill is creating a deep divide between the far-right conservatives and the extremists. (The moderate Republicans are now almost extinct.) As the Senate Judiciary Committee started to work on over 300 amendments to the 844-page bill, the tear between the two parts of the GOP daily became increasingly obvious.

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) a politician with a very checkered past, leads the opposition, even calling the bill’s architects “dishonest.” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) is fighting back with his own “myth vs. fact” campaign, probably difficult for a politician whose positions tend to lean toward “myth.”

Republicans know their party’s survival is dependent on more more votes from women and people of color, especially after the announcement that Mitt Romney got only 17 percent of the minority vote, but this knowledge doesn’t affect some of the vitriolic speech.

Starting out as a bipartisan act, the proposal was drafted by four Republican and four Democratic senators. The bill strengthens Southwest border security and creates new guest-worker programs, especially for the badly needed low-skilled labor. The magical path to citizenship for undocumented people in the U.S. would require 13 years along with paying back taxes, fines, and fees.

A major player on the extremist, anti-immigration side is the Heritage Foundation, newly headed by former Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC). Supposedly a non-partisan “think tank,” the group published a report last week claiming that the bill would cost taxpayers $6.3 trillion, a number that came out of thin air. In contrast, the Social Security Administration estimates that the reform would add more than $275 billion in revenue to Social Security and Medicare, increase the gross domestic product by 1.63 percent, and provide more than 3 million jobs over the next decade. 

The report drew much controversy after the discovery that co-author Jason Richwine believes that  race determines intelligence. Richwine said:

“You have Jews with the highest average IQ, usually followed by East Asians, then you have non-Jewish whites, Hispanics, and then blacks. These are real differences, and they’re not going to go away tomorrow, and for that reason we have to address them in our immigration discussions and our debates.”

Even the lead author of the report, Robert Rector, admitted that he wrote the report for Heritage Foundation without looking at the entire bill. The Rector/Richwine report of 2013 is a 180-degree turn from the 2006 report published in 2006 that noted, “Worker migration is a net plus economically.”

Following ridicule—except from white nationalist websites—Richwine resigned, and the Heritage Foundation tried to distance itself from him. Yet the far-right organization is still stuck with his presence on their report, created to give cover to GOP lawmakers who wants to reject the bipartisan immigration reform bill.

One of DeMint’s dissenters is “no-new-tax” Grover Norquist, who claims that the bill would increase tax revenue by growing the economy. (I always worry about my thinking when I agree with Norquist.) Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention has asked that lawmakers consider “the human dignity” of the immigrants, and evangelicals started a pro-reform prayer campaign last Wednesday. Although formerly friends with DeMint, Rubio took particular umbrage at the Heritage Foundation statements.

Attempting to drown the bill by weighting it down, Congressional lawmakers have proposed the following amendments:

Prevents undocumented immigrants from becoming citizens. Sort of defeats the purpose of the bill. (Sen. Ted Cruz, TX)

Require DNA testing. This is to compare against the Combined DNA Index System at the FBI. (Sen. Orrin Hatch, UT)

Prohibit undocumented immigrants from applying for permanent residence if they qualify for any government assistance. No supplemental nutrition assistance program (SNAP), no the temporary assistance for needy families program (TANF), no supplemental security income benefits (SSI), no nothing. (Sen. Jeff Sessions, AL)

Ban humanitarian travel. Anyone returning to a home country for any humanitarian reason, such as visiting a sick relative, couldn’t reenter the United States. The current provisional legal status requires authorization for such travel. (Sen. Chuck Grassley, IA)

Deletes family re-unification. Points on a green card for entering the country would not allow points for siblings of U.S. citizens. (Sen. Jeff Sessions, AL)

Mandate in-person interviews for 11 million immigrants. That will most likely add a few decades to the process for 11 million people. (Sen. Jeff Sessions, AL)

Limit visas to South Korea. E-5 visas from all South Korean immigrants will be withheld until the country removes its age-based import restrictions on beef. (Sen. Chuck Grassley, IA)

Enforces head-of-household deportation and cause family separations. The current bill allows immigration to decline to deport people if they believe this would result in hardship for his or her U.S. citizen child. The party of family values doesn’t believe in keeping families together. (Sen. Chuck Grassley, IA)

Prevent low-income undocumented immigrants from seeking legalization. People have to make above 400 percent of the poverty line (more than $92,000 for a family of four) instead of the current bill that requires 100 percent of the poverty line or show regular employment. Sessions may not be aware that about two-thirds of the people in the United States make under this magical 400 percent—and in his state, 70 percent make less than that. (Sen. Jeff Sessions, AL)

Restrict visas for refugees. Nobody could apply for refugee and asylum status until one year after the Director of National Intelligence submits a review related to the Boston bombings to Congress. (Sen. Chuck Grassley, IA)

Allow undocumented immigrants to be hired, but only as domestic workers. These would specifically include cooks, waiters, butlers, governessess, maids, valets, gardeners, footmen, grooms, and chauffeurs. (Mike Lee, UT) 

Allow for racial profiling. Federal law enforcements could take into account a person’s country of origin when allowing them into the country. This comes from the party that’s screaming about the IRA’s profiling of Tea Party organizations despite the fact that these organizations have had a high rate of IRS “issues” during the past two years. (Sen. Chuck Grassley, IA)

Although conservatives fight any additional government spending except for defense, five Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to increase, by an undetermined billions of dollars, money spend on border security. Cruz wanted to triple the number of border patrol agents on the border and quadruple the technological infrastructure—probably meaning “the fence.” That would cost the country about $60 billion and stop any undocumented people’s movement toward citizenship by ten years. The measure failed in a vote of 5 to 13; even Arizona’s GOP senator, Jeff Flake, voted against it.

During the 2012 fiscal year, the government spent $18 billion to secure the border, employing 21,000 agents and building 650 miles of fencing in the past eight years. The existing bill already appropriates $3 billion to increase border security with the government able to spend billions more.

In a recent poll, 83 percent of respondents said they supported a path to citizenship for the 11 million immigrants already in the country illegally, as long as certain requirements—such as the ones on paying fines and back taxes, passing a criminal-background check and learning English–were met. Unlike extremist lawmakers, these people agree with President Reagan’s 1986 position when he signed a bipartisan immigration reform package that extended amnesty to any immigrant who entered the country illegally before 1982. 

Conservative columnist David Brooks made great sense in the immigration debate when he excoriated the opposition to the proposed bill by declaring that the “one core concern” is control, the desire to restrict conservatives in the country, assimilation, love, social mobility, skills, and the inevitable. His take on the situation is well worth reading.

Or for great dark humor on immigration reform in the Senate, just watch Jon Stewart.

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