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    May 21, 2007

    UAFA's 89-percenters

    Posted by: Chris

    24778445TWO UPDATES: At the end of the post.

    Some of you have emailed to ask just who besides Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are these 89-percenters who would have perfect 100s on the Human Rights Campaign congressional report card except for their failure to sign on in support of the Uniting American Families Act

    That piece of legislation would extend to gay Americans the same rights heterosexuals have to sponsor our permanent partners from other countries for U.S. citizenship.  Well here they are, all of them Democrats:

    Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.)
    Mark Pryor (D-Ark.)
    Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.)
    Bill Nelson (D-Fla.)
    Richard Durbin (D-Ill.)
    Barack Obama (D-Ill.)
    Evan Bayh (D-Ind.)
    Mary Landrieu (D-La.)
    Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.)
    Paul Sarbanes (D-Md.)
    Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.)
    Robert Menendez (D-N.J.)
    Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.)
    Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.)
    Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.)
    Jack Reed (D-Nev.)
    Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.)

    There are all sorts of surprises on this list, including purported closet case Mikulski and her liberal Maryland counterpart Sarbanes, whose seat is now occupied by Ben Cardin, another progressive Democrat who had a perfect HRC score as a member of the House except on UAFA.

    Besides Obama and Clinton, the other two biggest disappointments are Schumer, the senior senator from New York, and Harry Reid, the Senate Majority Leader.  His public backing, like that of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, would carry extra weight.

    Immigration Equality, which along with HRC is pushing for passage of UAFA, announced Thursday that two more senators had signed on as co-sponsors: Daniel Inouye of Hawaii, and Senate newbie Sherrod Brown of Ohio, both Democrats.  Brown isn't much of a surprise since he was already a co-sponsor as a member of the House.  Inouye is one of five senators who had perfect HRC scores except on UAFA and one other item.  The other four all progressives, including the two most likely Republican co-sponsors:

    Tom Harkin (D-Iowa)
    Susan Collins (R-Maine)
    Olympia Snowe (R-Maine)
    Carl Levin (D-Mich.)

    Immigration Equality Policy Director Adam Francouer, writing on the organization's blog, indicated it's still a "long shot" that UAFA will get included as part of the comprehensive immigration reform currently being debated in Congress.  The best shot appears to be in conference, assuming the House and Senate can each pass some sort of reform package, but UAFA will need a champion and that is more likely on the House side, where Pelosi is a co-sponsor.

    UPDATE No. 1 (5/22):  From a New York Times piece about how the bipartisan immigration reform bill came together, it's clear that a core problem for UAFA entering the process is withheld support from key Democrats.  Of those mentioned as critical to negotiating the package, only Ted Kennedy is on board as a UAFA co-sponsor.  The rest — including Ken Salazar of Colorado and Robert Menendez of New Jersey — are not.

    Also, I was probably off-base expecting much support from Pelosi and the House leadership, only because mustering the votes for even the UAFA-free compromise measure appears much more difficult on that side.  That means, from my vantage point (very) outside the Beltway, that Kennedy looks like our best and only hope.

    But in addition to Clinton, Obama and Reid, I would put Menendez (who is an 89 percenter) and Salazar on the top of the "get" list for UAFA's backers.

    UPDATE No. 2 (5/26):  This is what happens when you blog with no editor. 

    JoebidenIn my hand count of the UAFA 89-percenters and 78-percenters, I left one (very prominent) senator off the latter list.  Joe Biden, the Delaware senator now making a second run for the White House, is a 78-percenter.  He managed good marks from HRC for the last session of Congress on every issue except two: UAFA and a bill that would allow states the option to use Medicaid funds to pay for HIV meds.

    As I noted in a post today (5/26), there are now only three serious candidates in the Democratic primary — Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are the other two — who have not publicly backed UAFA.



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    1. Andoni on May 22, 2007 4:18:40 AM:

      I think a very important starting point is for HRC members to start pressing HRC that they don't want anyone endorsed for president by the organization who doesn't have a 100% score.

      This is a MUST in the primaries and should be a goal in the general election. After all, this is 2007. ENDA and Hate Crimes legislation are IOU's to us from 1996. These two items should be "givens." No one should be allowed to site support of these two bills as enough to get our support.

      If we value our integrity, we should insist that any candidate getting our community's support have a 100% score!!

    1. Ben Gardent on May 22, 2007 4:25:10 AM:

      If Congress passes this amnesty bill, we can forget about passing UAFA in this session of Congress and probably the next. The Democrats will not want to touch anything immigration-related.

      The fact that the amnesty bill de-emphasizes family ties is especially disturbing.

      I already wrote my senators and told them to oppose it if it doesn't include UAFA.

    1. dan on May 22, 2007 9:31:54 AM:

      as much as it leaves a bad taste in your mouths, i don't think that pushing for this during an election cycle is a winner. this is one of those things that might be better to let slide until after the '08 elections, and then put the pressure on. no candidate is going to want to take on a high profile gay issue like this while in this cycle. blecchh...i know, but still...strategy suggest...you know what i mean?

    1. Sean on May 22, 2007 10:59:43 AM:

      I've lost a lot of respect for you, Chris. In your last immigration post you had no problem using race to further your argument but wouldn't defend gay people against Falwell's legacy. Then you post another comment about Falwell when you research his checkered past on racial issues and have a change of heart. It was offensive when you said that you didn’t want Falwell’s supporters to feel shame because some might call them haters. Shouldn’t hateful people feel shame? What about the millennia long shame gay people have had to endure from the likes of Jerry Falwell? So it's ok or less worrying to you that gay people are offered up for political gain? This illustrates that people will stand by race, gender or religion because there is a family bond. Gay people are strangers. We don't grow up in gay families so we don't have that bond when it comes to homosexuality.

      I'll support the UAFA because it's the right thing but I'll never support amnesty. It's EXTREMELY disheartening that gay people are supporting amnesty when most illegal immigrants wouldn't support equal rights for GAY AMERICANS. That's not the reason why I'm against amnesty but it's the emotional reason why I've spoken out about it. I'm not going to be told by people that are coming in to this country what I can and cannot do here. The US takes in more immigrants than the rest of the world COMBINED. That means the US is very generous (atleast when it comes to straight immigrants). The amnesty bill will not solve anything. Illegal immigrants already took the easiest route to be in the US, what makes us believe they will all of a sudden change? They are not going to pay a fine, take courses to learn English, and leave the country in eight years to reenter legally etc. They will take the easy route and just take their citizenship.

    1. Ben Gardent on May 22, 2007 11:42:43 AM:

      Well said, Sean. It really is disheartening to see groups like Immigration Equality support the amnesty bill. This bill goes against everything America is supposed to stand for. It teaches people that if you break the law you will be rewarded. Those who try to follow the law get screwed.

    1. Citizen Crain on May 22, 2007 12:08:12 PM:

      A few points here:

      Sean, regarding Falwell, I didn't back off my earlier post with the new historical information. I don't believe Falwell was a "hate-monger," and I certainly don't believe that of most fundamentalist Christians generally. The closest I would come is that the actual hate-mongers get societal aid and comfort from the biblical "support" cited by Falwell and his ilk.

      Ben, I respect your view but I support amnesty because I believe it DOES go for everything America stands for. We are a nation built by immigrants who came across porous borders with no identity cards or respect for the existing inhabitants.

      Those here illegally now are chasing the American dream for themselves and their families, like countless before them. Most of them work hard and, as a practical matter, will be here regardless and we're all better off if they come out of the shadows and into our "system."

      That said, I certainly appreciate the bitter irony of how the bill gives them a path to U.S. citizenship while withholding it from others who have followed the rules. But I don't believe that our cause is well served by torpedoing theirs.

      The political reality, as both you and Dan point out, is that UAFA is unlikely to go anywhere until these bigger issues are dealt with. So let's do our part to support getting them off the table and see where that leaves us — all while keeping an eye open for opportunities for UAFA.

    1. Sean on May 23, 2007 12:19:57 AM:

      There are legal ways to enter the US. Being an American is more than making money.

      "So let's do our part to support getting them off the table and see where that leaves us..."

      Gay people should be satisfied with scraps. Let's do our best to help our straight overlords because we are shit. Give me a break Chris. I have a little more self-repect then to be fighting for scraps.

    1. Citizen Crain on May 23, 2007 12:47:09 AM:

      Sean, you shorthand your thoughts so much that I'm afraid that you lose me entirely. "Gay people should be satisifed with scraps" from "our straight overlords because we are shit"? Can you tell me when I've ever suggested anything approximating that, even setting aside your sarcasm?

      I did suggest supporting immigration reform because (a) it's badly needed and justified on its own merits; and (b) its backers in both parties and in and out of Congress are the ones most likely to support UAFA.

    1. Sean on May 23, 2007 10:02:29 AM:

      UAFA and amnesty are two different issues. They are not related and congressmen will treat it as such. The UAFA is legislation that will give equal treatment to all people applying to be citizens of the US regardless of sexual orientation. The amnesty bill is legislation that will legalize illegal behavior and reinforce it. But that is not the way most congressmen will look at both issues. Supporters of amnesty will see it as a business interest to keep the flow of cheap, exploited labor coming while they look at the UAFA as a gay issue.

      You believe gay people should take a back seat to people that illegally entered the US on their own terms. First of all I don’t support that. Secondly during every election people say to gays that we should take a back seat so they can win elections and then do some stuff for us yet it never materializes. Thirdly if the amnesty bill passes congress (which it won’t, thankfully) you can bet that it will be over for the Democrats. They won’t win in ’08 and we will get NOTHING. I’m not sacrificing my right to live as an equal human being for someone else’s desire to make a buck.

      It’s really upsetting the way you’ve subjugating gay people’s right to equality to that of an illegal’s desire for monetary gain. Almost all illegal immigrants come to the US to make money. If they could make the kind of money they make in the US in their own country they would not come here.

    1. KJ on May 23, 2007 12:36:48 PM:


      Apparently in contrast to other readers, I greatly appreciate your analysis on this topic.

      I would add that to call the current immigration law being contemplated by congress an "amnesty" law would not be accurate. The "pathway" to citizenship includes a process that those illegaly here must follow. "Amnesty", in my mind, would be a pardon that required nothing of those receiving it.

    1. Andoni on May 24, 2007 10:54:18 AM:

      The person who points out that we should not tolerate the illegal immigrants because there are legal ways to immigrate to the US is technically correct, but way off base. The main reason the US finds itself in the current immigration mess is that about 20 years it effectively turned OFF the spigot for legal immigration to the US. It is nearly impossible for most people to do it legally. Actually, I know people who have had to wait so long in the legal immigration line that they died of old age.

      For argument’s sake, let’s assume there is an avian flu outbreak in the US killing hundreds of thousands of people and the only way to get the most effective antidote is by applying through legal channels to the government. However, the wait for the drug via the legal channels is pointless because it is too long and most people die waiting on the official list. But there is an alternative, illegal source of the drug via the black market which will allow access to the drug without waiting. Faced with this situation what would you do to save yourself and your family? Would you take the legal route and wait and wait hopelessly, or take the illegal route?

      Although dying of bird flu and wallowing in poverty, unemployment and despair in Mexico, Honduras, Haiti, or Somalia are not the exact same situations, I believe they are morally similar situations and I personally can understand and forgive both these groups of law breakers.

      Part of the problem I have with people on the opposite side of the immigration debate is that they belong to the “I have it, and now that I have it I don’t want others to have the same thing I have” club. This axiom was true when the “haves” were able to buy a nice house in the suburbs, but once there didn’t want a black family to move into a nice house next door to them to have the same thing they had; this axiom plays out with straights who have the legal ability to marry but don’t want gays to have what they have too; similarly some people who had the right to vote wanted to prevent others from gaining the same right they had. These type of people who actively wish to prevent others from following along the same road of progress that they themselves traveled to achieve the same opportunities, same rights that they have achieved are morally reprehensible.

      The US is built on immigration. Nearly 100% of US citizens can find an immigrant if they look back far enough. For these people to think “My family and I are in now and I don’t want others to have that same opportunity to have what I have” …….is morally corrupt. And to try to justify ones view by saying, well these people do have a legal path option is simply a cop out, because the legal path is really a closed door. That legal path into our country is simply there to make us feel better about ourselves vis a vis our history that we are still letting people in. In reality, the door is closed and anyone who thinks otherwise is deluding themselves.

      Andoni, Paris 7e

    1. Sean on May 25, 2007 12:41:58 AM:

      Yes, there is a high demand to get into this country. And yes the US brings in more immigrants than all other countries combined.

      The fact is most are coming for money. My right to live as an equal human being with respect and dignity is not comparable to someone's desire to make money. They come here from places where the standard of living is lower. At one point the standard of living in the US was also low. Having massive amounts of people coming to the US does not help those that remain in their home country escape poverty. If you look at the research it actually makes things worse. Lets look at the situation.

      Person X wants to come to the US.
      Person X gathers all the resources to move.
      X enters country illegally.
      X gets job.
      X sends money back to family. Money is 10 times more than family makes in one year.

      Why would anyone work hard when they are getting boat loads of money? They don't. There is no incentive to work. So poverty gets worse.

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