Under current (and any conceivable future) immigration law, foreign spouses of U.S. citizens are permitted to immigrate without numerical limitation, under the “Immediate Relative” category. In FY 2011 more than 250,000 spouses were granted green cards, accounting for about one-fourth of that year’s total immigration of close to 1.1 million. In addition, there is a numerically limited category for the spouses of green card holders (spouses they didn’t have when they received their green cards, because then they would have received green cards at the same time).
A secondary front in the war on marriage has been to extend such spousal immigration rights to homosexual couples. The vehicle for this has been a perennial piece of legislation, now called the Uniting American Families Act, which has been around in various forms and under various names since 2000. As a citizen, I’m opposed in principle to redefining marriage. But as an immigration analyst, my concern is that any attempt to make such a change must focus on repealing the Defense of Marriage Act, which repeal would then ramify throughout the U.S. Code, including in immigration law. The attempt to sneak this change into immigration law specifically is simply dishonest.
Be that as it may, the issue is one of the few differences between the Schumer/Rubio amnesty framework and that of the White House; the president has insisted on its inclusion in a possible amnesty bill this year, while the Post quotes McCain as disagreeing: “Which is more important: LGBT or border security?” (It tells you what you already know about McCain’s commitment to conservatism that he uses the de rigueur abbreviation in a non-ironic way.)
The elements of Big Religion that have jumped aboard the amnesty bandwagon are objecting furiously, and the inclusion of such a measure is pretty much a guaranteed deal-killer (though if the Supremes later this year find some right to gay marriage amid all the penumbras and emanations of the Constitution, the question would be moot). Mickey Kaus thinks the issue is an “obvious distraction/bargaining chip,” the implication being that it’s being raised now with the full intention of dropping it in negotiations, to make the final amnesty bill appear to be more of a compromise. The comments in the Post piece point in that direction; the gay-rights spokesmen quoted by name said it would be a good thing but laid down no demands, while the reporter added, “Some activists said they would not stand in the way of an immigration deal without the same-sex couples provision if the alternative was no reform deal at all.”
But given the militancy of much of the homosexual-rights movement, it’s entirely possible that they won’t be content with their scripted role in the amnesty kabuki. Basically, the Left will have to decide later this year whether immigrant trumps gay, or gay trumps immigrant.