Why Healthcare has Impacted Uniting American Families Act… because it has in essence halted Comprehensive Immigration Reform

mel shirley tan and jay and famvvvNot unpredictable - says Melanie Nathan, author of this post!



Press Conference – Mexico-

DSCF1786Today President Obama confirmed some of my fears in so far as they relate to Uniting American Families Act - UAFA and comprehensive immigration reform (CIR).  

“I’ve got a lot on my plate and it’s very important for us to sequence these big initiatives so they don’t crash at the same time,” Obama said when asked by a reporter about the prospects for immigration reform.”

When asked the question by the Reporter from the New York Times, the President drew the now terrifying comparative, revealing a new barometer for success for reform legislation – ‘the Health Care debate debacle.’  Obama alluded to this notion when he made the above quoted comment that the sequence of these “big initiatives” is relevant, noting that health care reform is still an ongoing battle.  The President said   “I am unable to snap my fingers and get it done.” 

If  health care reform is anything to go on, imagine the tussle when CIR is introduced.  It has the propensity to go on forever.   It has a greater propensity to avoid or negotiate out wedge issues such as LGBT equality in immigration law through inclusion of permanent partner language, which would allow Gays and lesbians to petition for permanent partners for immigration purposes.

Recently Julie Kruse published an article in the Washington Blade. Julie is employed by Immigration Equality (IE), a preeminent LGBT immigration equality organization. I have been critical in the past about veering away from UAFA as a stand alone focus and saw the writing on the wall when IE changed strategy.

Julie says in her article:

“Including our families in comprehensive immigration reform, if successful, will not only be a watershed moment for couples impacted directly by discriminatory immigration policies, It also will be an important accomplishment for the community as a whole. If LGBT voters bring new support to a large, comprehensive bill, we also bring credibility to other fights that impact our families, too. That’s why it is so important that our community support comprehensive immigration reform and urge Congress to pass an inclusive reform package that benefits us.

Comprehensive immigration reform will not be easy. Previous attempts to pass such legislation have failed. But, if LGBT voters can bring our champions to the table in support of an inclusive bill this time, we have a chance of making a real difference not just for our families, but for every family suffering under the current immigration system.

There is a real Doing so will require opportunity, right now, to score a legislative victory. enthusiastic support from each of us, and calls to our lawmakers insisting that no reform is truly comprehensive unless it includes our families, too. That, in turn, creates momentum for equality that our entire community, regardless of whether or not we are part of a bi-national couple, can benefit from.”

My contention is that if and when CIR is drafted and if it does include UAFA, that we will get consumed by this Obama-esque “big initiative,” which I predicted in my first article on the subject.  Once LGBT language is in CIR our congressional representatives will use CIR as an excuse to keep us at bay and UAFA with all its sponsors will snooze on a shelf and perhaps rot while CIR is kicked around in yet another  KILL-THE-BILL  game, like we are witnessing now with heath care reform. Bi-nationals were told that UAFA is  “it” and now they are being told and I quote the Julie Kruse of IE again “THERE’S A BATTLE looming for LGBT families that we can win now…..” and then in effect ditches UAFA as first option and replaces it with CIR – to effect the now!  

I am calling on Immigration Equality to re strategize and change their course back to the original focus.  The focus on UAFA, what it represents to binationals currently in exile or in hiding, its use to raise funds for IE has veered off track and instead of fighting for what we have been promised in countless web posts, we are have been scratching the backs of those who clearly have their own cause and now that cause is on hold.

At the very least, I am wondering if IE will now realize that CIR is a long shot in terms of timing and heed to Obama’s statement about sequence. I don’t believe that it can be “done now” through CIR as Julie Kruse suggests and again I am calling for a UAFA focus.

When Senator Schumer announces his draft CIR bill and includes LGBT language we should all applaud, but we need to keep pressing for UAFA as a stand-alone, even amongst existing supporters.    

With messages such as this we cannot delay any longer waiting for CIR as the organizations have been doing since June 3rd when there was a prime opportunity  for Immigration equality to piggy back the momentum of the Shirley Tan story and hearing on UAFA before  the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.  

To reinforce this halt, Obama said that we have a “pretty big stack of bills.”   UAFA depicts a remedy for a particular issue of equality.  Our representatives should be working with their colleagues in the house to gain support. That is their duty to their constituents and I am not seeing that happen.  In other words if your representative already supports UAFA please write and ask what they are doing about it now?  Ask if they are willing to do anything to move it forward, and ask what was the result of the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing?

I have been getting many emails from supporters of UAFA asking what they can be doing if their congress person already supports UAFA.  My answer has been to still contact them regularly to ask what they have done to promote its passage – have they tried to influence other members of congress- and if you are in a binational relationship suggest that your REP use your story as an example of the unfairness in immigration equality.  You can also help in the education process, n matter what State you live in. 

Obama went on to say “I know we are going to get it done but it will take long,”   Binationals have waited ten years with bills laying around – we are not willing to wait any longer.   In a reversal of strategy the organizations ought to be using Obama’s words on CIR as a reason to push UAFA – because as soon as CIR comes out and includes our language, we are going to be on the back burner and this time with 12 million more than our 36,000.

Kruse asserts “Now, the LGBT community is at a significant tipping point to ensure inclusion of our families in this legislation. “   I agree but please do not depend on this as a strategy. Even a dual strategy at this point is perilous. Keep the UAFA focus as a stand alone and if it ends up in passage through CIR great!

rainbow liberty

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