In the immigration vote this week, the new political pecking order was laid out
in the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Corporations, si. (Especially the hi-tech ones like Facebook and Friends, and
all their lobbyists.)
Families, no. (Not if you want to petition for an older married child or a
brother or sister.)
Gays, definitely a no, no, no. (As Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said to Judiciary
Committee chair Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), “You’ve got me on immigration. You
don’t have me on marriage. If you want to keep me on immigration, let’s stay on
In other words, it’s a definite no to same-sex immigration, and a continuing yes
to discrimination and the hypocritical politics that keeps it alive.
And finally, last in the pecking order, Asian Americans.
Asi-uh, what are those again?
With hardly any mention at all in any of the daily coverage of the immigration
bill mark-up, Asian American voices and our concerns don’t seem to matter.
Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), speaking for all Asian Americans, really did offer
up 24 amendments among the over 300 to the bill. But from the coverage, you
wouldn’t know she was even in the room. Hirono was trying to add to the massive
overhaul of our immigration laws by putting back in all the family-friendly,
humanistic provisions that were deleted by this new bill.
What’s wrong with your father’s immigration law when it comes to families? You
mean the laws that Teddy Kennedy fought for?
Hirono’s amendments to restore the reunification of siblings and older married
children had the support of more than 200 Asian American, civil rights, and
immigrant rights groups from around the country. Their open letter to the
committee urging support for Hirono’s amendments had no impact.
One bright spot was a measure to allow a group used to being kicked around and
denied their due–Filipino World War II veterans—the right to reunite with their
adult children who remain in the Philippines.
But it was a sop to Asian Americans since both the House and Senate have already
approved similar measures to speed up the visa applications of veterans’ older
To give in on this required no heavy lifting and was submitted by Sen. Dianne
Feinstein (D-CA) for a voice vote.
Given how Asian Americans were treated in this bill, she could use this for
cover and hold it up close to her face like a small fan, and then with a simple
flick clear away the remaining odors from the mark-up of S. 744, the pathway to
imperfect immigration reform.
Waving a small fan means you don’t have to hold your nose while passing the bill
on to the Senate floor with a 13-5 vote.
And this is how politics is made in America when both sides learn to discount
principles to get things done.
“It feels good to do bipartisan lawmaking,” said Lynn Tramonte, deputy director
of America’s Voice, on a conference call after the mark up.
Yes, if the goal was to keep a few deadly amendments by Republicans like Ted
Cruz and Charles Grassley from sinking the entire bill, then immigration
advocates can feel great about the mark-up this week.
There is still a bill in tact that will give 11 million undocumented immigrants
a way to become citizens.
But it comes at a cost.
The mark-up gave us “moments of truth” that sadly reveal the price of
The thought of Sen. Leahy pulling his own amendment that would have given
bi-national gay and lesbian partners the right to petition for their partners,
and the idea of Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) going along with it makes one wonder:
Is there a big enough fan to clear the air?
Mee Moua of the Asian American Justice Center said she respects the
“obligations” of the “Gang of Eight,” which forged the compromise bill in the
first place, to keep the bill alive.
But the on-the-record votes against the Hirono family unification amendment by
other senators like California’s Feinstein, who represents the most Asian
American state by population, clearly puzzled Moua. “She didn’t have to, and
said on the record that she heard loudly and clearly from her constituents,”
said Moua. “And yet she chose to vote against the Hirono amendment.”
The fight for the small measure of family reunification isn’t over yet.
There’s still the Senate floor debate to come, and the House bill on immigration
Until then, you can choose to ignore the odor from S.744, or you can wave your
fans furiously and hope it can revive a sense of justice, fairness, and humanity
into the process.