I've been waiting for immigration reform since 1995, when I started my practice. It never happened, largely because the immigration-advocacy movement wanted everything or nothing. We got nothing.
The DREAM Act was introduced in 2001 -- nearly 12 years ago. It was a no-brainer from the start. But because the advocacy leadership insisted that the DREAM Act be part of "comprehensive immigration reform," it never passed. Sadly, hundreds of thousands of young immigrants -- in the United States through no fault of their own -- lost a full decade to pursue their hopes and dreams.
The same self-destructive tactics are back on display. The pro-amnesty crowd wants a special pathway to citizenship for all 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States. The marriage-equality movement -- which President Obama supports -- wants same-sex couples to be included in any immigration reform. This is a recipe for disaster. The special interests of a few is threatening common-sense immigration reform that will benefit millions.
Don't get me wrong -- I support gay rights. Same-sex couples should have all the rights of heterosexual couples, and discrimination of any type must not be tolerated. Government should not even be in the marriage business in the first place. In Britain, same-sex and opposite-sex couples register their "civil partnerships," which provide all the legal consequences of marriage. If such a concept was adopted in the United States, these civil partnerships would then be valid for immigration purposes.
Until the issue is settled, Immigration and Customs Enforcement should continue to offer "prosecutorial discretion" to prevent the tragic separation of families and deportation of same-sex undocumented spouses.
As many of the justices on the Supreme Court indicated during oral arguments about the constitutionality of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, perhaps the question of marriage equality should be left to the people themselves, in the form of referendums and statewide legislation. It's not something that should be settled by nine fallible individuals in an institution noted for some terrible decisions. Dred Scott, anyone?
In any event, the introduction of a volatile, highly controversial issue like "marriage equality" is sure to scare off any moderates or Republicans that could be persuaded to support immigration reform. Think what you will, Sen. Rand Paul's speech to the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce was a brilliant opening for the Tea Partiers to help legalize millions of unauthorized immigrants that may eventually become U.S. Citizens (many of whom may vote for Republicans.)
One reason that the planets are now aligned for immigration reform is that moderates and Republicans are joining the cause. The National Immigration Forum has been spearheading a new consensus on immigration reform that focuses on "Bibles, Badges and Business." Law-enforcement officials, business owners and faith-based organizations are paving the way to broad-based, non-partisan legalization and eventual citizenship for many of the millions of unauthorized immigrants in the United States. The message is clear: Immigration reform is good for the economy and it's the right thing to do.
We need immigration reform that will legalize millions of hard-working, law-abiding individuals who aspire to U.S. citizenship and share our values. Not everyone is going to be happy, but that's the way it works in a democracy.