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Immigration overhaul could leave gay couples out
"Every time he leaves, I wonder is he going to come back to his house, to our friends, to my family," added his partner.
It is unclear whether an immigration overhaul will take place in the next 12 months. The rise of the "tea party" movement, the popularity of tough new anti-immigration laws in Arizona and other states and the growing likelihood that Republicans will control the House of Representatives and possibly the Senate after the 2010 midterm elections all suggest that an immigration overhaul will be difficult.
At the same time, advocates for such an overhaul say, there are also powerful social and political forces that could move changes forward: Chief among them, the presence of 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country and the growing political clout of Latinos in states such as Florida, Colorado and Nevada. Rodriguez rejected the argument that opposing gay marriage provisions in an immigration overhaul constituted homophobia. Rather, he said, the choice was between excluding gay and lesbian families from an overhaul of immigration laws - or losing out on an overhaul altogether.
The key constituency to changes getting passed are white evangelicals, he added. After years of outreach, Latino evangelicals have formed alliances with white evangelical groups - and those evangelicals are key to getting Republican votes in the House. Including provisions related to gay marriage, Rodriguez said, would prompt white evangelicals to desert the coalition.
"It is not a matter of being anti-anything but being pro-immigration reform," he said. "It is not fair to morph the immigration agenda with the same-sex agenda."
Steve Ralls, director of communications at Immigration Equality, a legal aid and advocacy organization that seeks to include gay and lesbian families in any immigration measure, said he was confident that equal rights would be part of any overhaul. In the Senate, he said, an immigration bill would have to pass through the Judiciary Committee, where Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) has been a strong backer of equal gay and lesbian immigration rights.
For Beddingfield and de Leon, the issue is personal as well as political. De Leon expects to finish his doctorate in public and urban policy in the spring. If an immigration overhaul does not allow Beddingfield to sponsor his spouse for citizenship, de Leon might be able to acquire U.S. residency through his mother.
That's ironic because de Leon's mother came to the United States from the Philippines after he did. Like de Leon, she married an American, but quickly obtained legal residency because she was straight. It currently takes about 10 years for Filipinos to sponsor their children for U.S. residency. To de Leon, that's a long time to wait for a legal right he argues he should already have.