Dr. Jillian T. Weiss

Why Immigration Reform Is Good for the LGBT Agenda

Filed By Dr. Jillian T. Weiss | May 07, 2010 12:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics

The swiftly changing winds of Washington, D.C. today are making my head spin, but one theme begins to clearly emerge from all this: the Democratic Party is at a tipping point.

The background of all this is the dire prediction of Democratic defeat and loss of the House and Senate in the November midterm elections. Some pundits have suggested that a loss of 50 or more seats in the House are a distinct possibility.

That's if the Democratic Party does nothing and things stay exactly the way they were when the predictions were made, which is impossible.

The Democratic Party will, of course, take steps. There are basically two choices.

One: Move to the right to attract conservative independents.

Two: Move to the left to lock up its base, including the LGBT community, and motivate the first-time Obama voters to show up at the polls again in an unexciting midterm year.

Movement on immigration reform is a harbinger of choice number two. Putting aside the significant merits of the immigration issue, we must, as a community, throw all of our heart and weight behind immigration reform if we are to accomplish our agenda.

I should note that, in talking about The Democratic Party, it's not really a single entity, but a collection of individuals and groups with many differing interests. The Party's platform is persuasive but not binding. It's more like a lesson plan than a lesson, and how much gets learned depends on whether the rowdy kids are in class or not.

We all know that there are a few crucial swing votes on ENDA. We all know that DADT is in trouble, but that could be reversed with the stroke of a pen.

What makes politicians pay attention? The major focus today is, of course, the midterm elections and the prospects of losing control of the country. That would be a very, very serious blow for a lot of progressive issues of great import. It would essentially mean that the Obama Administration would get very, very little done during the next two years, and imperil President Obama's re-election.

The Administration and the Democratic Party were clearly charting a course right-ward after the winter break. That is text-book election behavior. Elections are won from the center, not the margins.

But these plans were upended by several unpredictable events.

It started with the health care reform, which was watered down and watered down, and was about to be broken up into several minor bills when Jared Polis and Chellie Pingree rescued it with a stab-in-the-dark effort at using the reconciliation procedure that surprisingly won the day. The Democrats started to recover their mojo after that. Winning breeds winners, and everybody likes a winner.

But things kept sliding right-ward, and they are still sliding that way...but less so more and more every day, and the playing field is starting to tilt to the left ever so slowly. But you don't need much of a tilt to slide everything to one side.

Then came the Tea Party to capture all the conservative independents. They've done that quite effectively, which is why you see all sorts of third party races going on. Conservative independents now have a third, much more comfortable choice than either Republicans or Democrats.

Then came the over-reaching Arizona immigration bill, a total game changer. Nobody likes our current immigration system, but changing it is going to be a bear because there are so many strong, contradictory feelings against illegal immigration but wanting to keep people who would make good citizens and the impossibility of removing all undocumented people. But the Arizona immigration bill galvanized the Latino community, and the civil rights community, and it's starting to galvanize the Democratic politico community.

And then came the BP oil spill disaster, which is galvanizing the environmentalist community and the Louisiana and other Southern shoreline communities.

The stars are lining up in a left-ward direction. Immigration reform, which was assumed to be election-year dead a few short weeks ago is now hot stuff. "Drill, baby, drill," which some Administration officials had started to chant, is trailing away. The right-ward drift there is also reversing.

And then comes ENDA and DADT repeal. Is it in the best interests of the Democratic Party to alienate the LGBT community, or to alienate conservative independents?

No Democrat in their right mind can be counting on conservative independents today to get them elected.

Not only will immigration reform move the Democratic Party to the left, it will also school political operatives in the palatability of leftward movement generally. It will show nervous Democratic incumbents that their only choice, really, is to keep to the left.

And that's good for us.

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SkepticalCidada | May 7, 2010 1:02 PM

I'd love to believe your account, but I don't see it in the same tea leaves you're reading.

On immigration, I see Democratic fear of losing Latino votes. It's been clear for a long time that unlike LGBTs, Latinos are a group that the Democratic Party actually worries about wooing. They don't get the dismissive "oh, yeah, well, where will you go?" response that we get because they'll actually vote Republican in large numbers.

The Gates letter last week starkly highlights how much the administration is still giving the finger to the progressive wing. On immigration, I suspect that it is only a matter of time before the permanent partners language gets cut out and tossed under the bus. Anti-gay Catholics, who support immigration reform, won't tolerate anything queer in the bill.

Remember the pig who called the progressive wing "f*cking r*tards" a couple of months ago is still running the show.

In part, I agree, and this is well-argued.

But .. I'm going to have a lot of trouble with "immigration reform" if it's only immigration reform for straight people, that is, if it excludes the Uniting American Families Act.

Much the same as I have a lot of trouble with "health care reform" that throws LGBT provisions under the bus in the final weeks. With health care reform the situation was even worse, HCR left access to health care for most Americans a function of employment (in which we face discrimination, note that a gender-identity protecting ENDA still isn't part of the law of our land) and legal marriage (in which we face discrimination) without doing anything a single thing to "reform" the inequality of said access.

If "immigration reform" turns out to be Immigration Reform for Straight People the way that HCR turned out to be Health Care Reform for Straight People, the IR movement will leave me even more embittered with the Democratic Party.

SkepticalCidada | May 7, 2010 3:54 PM

Agreed in full.

Good points both. I note that the issue of the election is not simply a question of whether we would vote Republican in large numbers. If we stay at home in large numbers that's a big problem for them too. As far as leaving UAFA out of the bill, I'm guessing they'll come out with a compromise.

I see a relationship between immigration reform and DADT too but in a different way.

Last week when I watched Pres. Obama announce "we will pass immigration reform this year" (or something like that) my first thought was - ya, I've heard this before.

We, too, were promised that the right thing would be done on DADT/EDNA and DOMA. Some of those with "This year" attached to the promise. Any real movement that you feel confident about?

One thing I see. Yes, immigration reform will set the stage for LBGT issues. B/c if the administration doesn't follow through on immigration reform, Pres Obama looses the Latino vote and the confidence that anything can get done for those who are not older straight, white christian males.

The prospects of IR are shifting daily, despite a huge mobilization and regular turnout for the cause from labor to churches. UAFA made it in the Senate framework REMARKABLY, which is already OVER the major objections. The USCCB is complaining, but there is a LOT of strong support among RIFA members and others. Like us w/the dems, the USCCB has no where to go on this - they can't walk from IR over it - that's for sure.

If the Dems keep control of the House and Senate, I now give UAFA 80-20 chance or better, of survival (provided it appears in the bill when and if filed of course).

However, I'm not at all convinced that CIR is on track for passage this year, despite some of the best political posture conceivable for the topic (including Arizona). But that'll depend on whether an Arizona boycott gathers speed, etc.

As for the mid-terms, I entirely agree we need WINS on LGBT issues DADT and ENDA to inspire us to NOT stay home. But let's face it. If we get NEITHER of these, we're all going to have to put 1000% STILL into retaining Democrat control of Congress. They know and always have - we have no where to go.

This is thanks to our one party, narrow peace-meal agenda that has never had the self-respect to pursue amending the 1964 Civil Rights Act to include SO&GI.

If neither DADT or ENDA pass (and even if they do actually), our strategy needs a game changer to make the conversation about Human Dignity and Equality, not bathrooms and genitals. An omnibus bill or amending the CRA could do this.

If the Republicans retake Congress (either house), we have no option but to shift movement gears to fight for the whole enchilada.


SkepticalCidada | May 10, 2010 2:15 AM

"But let's face it. If we get NEITHER of these, we're all going to have to put 1000% STILL into retaining Democrat control of Congress."

No, I could not disagree more strongly. That is a mindset that leads directly to perpetual subordination to the political homophobes who run the Democratic Party. The truth is that we managed to make significant gains over the last decade despite Republican control of the national government. We can survive some Democratic time in the political wilderness if necessary to make it clear that we won't be taken for granted. They need our money, GOTV work, and votes as much as we need them. Never again should we cower in fear and capitulate to the hostile attitude that says, "You'll take whatever abuse we decide because you have nowhere to go." Having raised thousands of dollars and done GOTV work in 2008, I won't lift a finger for this party until DADT repeal and ENDA pass--and I'm not inclined to do much of anything as long as the DOJ keeps filing homophobic legal briefs arguing that we have no judicially enforceable constitutional rights. We don't exist to subsidize and promote some straights-first agenda of any political party.

No Democrat in their right mind can be counting on conservative independents today to get them elected.

True that, but Democrats aren't in their right mind and haven't been for a long while. I wouldn't hold my breath about them finally seeing the light.

I see immigration reform as bad for the lgbt and the Democratic Party.Pushing immigration reform that would be equal to amnesty with a slap on the wrist is a pig that won't fly.Most Americans regardless of political party are against amnesty and want to send the lawbreakers home and to the back of the visa line where they belong.If the lgbt is seen as pro amnesty it will weaken us politically.Then on the flip side those same immigrants will have a right tilting effect on the Democratic party if they are given amnesty a no win situation for lgbt's.Closing the border and rounding up the illegals will go a long way in proving America's borders are secure and help beef up national security.The wrong message to send is that it's okay to violate our national security and immigration system.