September 06, 2007
Obama and gay immigration rights
Posted by: Chris
Score another blow for readers of this blog. First there was Christopher Hubble, who reacted to a complimentary post I'd written about Bill Richardson by dredging up his "maricón moment" on the Don Imus show a year earlier. That resulted in a story on Gay News Watch that was a first important hint that the New Mexico governor's record on gay rights was more impressive than his command of gay issues.
Now Danielle Clark, a Barack Obama supporter, has done some sleuthing that sheds important light on her candidate's qualified support for gay couple immigration rights. She came across a couple of posts I wrote back in June about how both Obama and Clinton were hedging their support for the Uniting American Families Act, which would extend to gay Americans the same rights straight folks have to sponsor their spouses for citizenship.
The Human Rights Campaign candidate "scorecard" showed both Obama and Clinton supporting immigration rights for binational couples even though neither had signed on to cosponsor UAFA. It turns out that both of them, in their more detailed responses to the HRC questionnaire, had raised concerns about the risk of fraud under UAFA as written. When I wrote a less-than-complimentary second post tracking Obama's evolution on the issue, in which he showed sympathy but not full-fledged support, Danielle had had enough.
She fired off an email to the Obama campaign asking for clarification and got this, rather detailed reply:
Barack believes that LGBT Americans with partners from other countries should not be faced with a choice between staying with their partner and staying in their country. That's why he supports changing immigration policy through the Uniting American Families Act. He does, however, have some reservations about the fraud provisions of the present bill.
Precisely because same-sex couples are not allowed to enter into civil unions, domestic partnerships, or other legally-recognized unions throughout the country, he believes we need to make sure that we have adequate safeguards against fraud.
He wants to make sure that immigration is possible for a partner in committed relationships, but he also wants to make sure there is a good mechanism for determining who qualifies for that status. He would like to see the Act get more specific with regards to defining 'financial interdependence' and the documentation required as proof in order to establish relationships -- which could very well happen once the bill reaches the Senate floor.
Hope this helps clarify.
Actually, Alex and Danielle, this does help clarify quite a bit. The Obama camp is right that merely extending immigration rights to gay Americans doesn't level the playing field because heterosexuals are required to marry (or at least be engaged) to the non-American to sponsor him/her for citizenship. As Alex rightly suggests, gay Americans can't enter into that level of commitment because few states have marriage or civil unions for gay couples, and the Defense of Marriage Act (signed by Mr. Hillary Clinton) blocks federal recognition of gay marriages anyway.
So that makes the fraud provisions of UAFA that much more important. Even though it's unfair we can't marry, it is fair to require some additional level proof than just our say-so that we are in a committed, permanent relationship with the non-American we want to sponsor.
As Alex/Obama also suggests, the UAFA strategy has been to add on fraud-prevention provisions in the horsetrading that would happen when the bill comes up for consideration. Adding them now, it's reasoned by Immigration Equality and other pro-UAFA groups, only means vulnerability to some other, more painful compromise when push time comes.
It's a judgment call to be sure, but I see Obama's point here. Why shouldn't UAFA be written in a form ready for passage, rather than holding off on provisions that ought to be there but aren't. Other countries that have dealt with this issue of how to test the legitimacy of unmarried couples, including Canada and the U.K., have required one year of cohabitation in addition to proof of financial codependence, etc. It's a draconian provision, as my own vagabond life has proven, but I can't say it's unreasonable.
So kudos to Danielle and, I have to say, I'm once again impressed that Obama and the Obama camp don't pander and have substantive responses on the issues. Now it's Hillary's turn.