Will lawmakers let poison pill kill immigration reform?

Robert G. de Posada Founder, Latinos for Reform
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Immigration reform will die in 2013 if Washington politicians once again put their commitment to ideological and partisan special interests above our national interest. That’s what they did to kill immigration reform in 2006, and it’s what they’re poised to do now.

While a bipartisan coalition of senators and House members continue to work tirelessly to find sensible solutions to our immigration problems, a few politicians are doing something else: crafting a legislative amendment that would make it possible for gay U.S. citizens to sponsor their foreign partners for green cards. The amendment would theoretically benefit some gay couples, but it’s a poison pill, and if it’s included in the final legislation, it will kill it.

Politicians from both extremes of the political spectrum can’t wait to kill immigration reform and use immigration as a wedge issue in 2014. They’ve tried shooting down the bipartisan legislation time and time again, but senators like Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Chuck Schumer (D-NY), and House members like Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL) and Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), have so far made it impossible for them to prevail.

No immigration legislation will make everyone happy — there are too many cross-cutting issues. But the bill negotiated by the Senate Gang of 8 is the sort of bill that many of us thought would be impossible to craft: one that deals with the immigration problems we face today and improves our immigration system for the future. Both sides had to compromise in order to achieve this. While not perfect, it is a giant step in the right direction.

For most Republican legislators, immigration is not an issue that their constituents are clamoring for action on. Few have large Hispanic populations in their districts. So having to explain and defend their support for this legislation will be challenging, and may guarantee that they’ll face a primary opponent in their next election. They won’t be able to vote for the bill, period, if it’s amended to apply to gay couples. The same goes for a number of moderate, red-state Democrats.

Unfortunately, some liberal Democrats are willing to kill immigration reform just so they can have an issue to mobilize Latino voters with in 2014.

They may be miscalculating. It will be awfully hard for Democratic legislators to explain to their Hispanic constituents why they allowed a relatively minor disagreement to derail a comprehensive immigration bill. These sorts of excuses don’t go over well with Latino voters. Most of us are tired of waiting for immigration reform and sick of the never-ending political blame game.

Plus, the whole debate over the amendment may be moot if the Supreme Court overturns DOMA.

Best to pass immigration reform now and deal with this issue later — if it’s still an issue later.

If Democrats are serious about immigration reform and are not playing political games with the lives of undocumented immigrants, they will block this amendment and pass comprehensive immigration reform now. It’s time to finally put an end to the political games. Latino voters are running out of patience.

Robert G. Deposada is the founder and past president of The Latino Coalition and Latinos for Reform.