Gay rights, immigration reform on collision course

Published: May 10, 2013

(CNN) — You wouldn’t think that gay rights would be on a collision course with immigration reform. After all, what does one of these things have to do with another?

Not all that much. Yet, the fact is, these two worthwhile causes are about to collide, running right into one another at high speed. All for the sake of politics.

Here’s why: The Gang of Eight’s bipartisan immigration reform compromise bill — "The Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Modernization Act of 2013"– combines border security and temporary guest workers with a pathway to green cards and U.S. citizenship for the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States.

You’ve probably heard about how there are many on the right who want to kill the bill to please anti-Latino nativists. The weapon of choice seems to be the amendment process; more than 300 changes were proposed.

For example, one person gunning for the legislation is Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who has proposed an amendment that dismantles the pathway to U.S. citizenship. Cruz would welcome more legal immigrants by expanding the high-skilled temporary worker program. But the senator opposes giving illegal immigrants U.S. citizenship. The Cruz amendment says that "no person who has previously been willfully present in the United States while not in lawful status shall be eligible for United States citizenship."

That amounts to a lifetime ban. What a terrible idea. The pathway should be long and difficult, but there has to be a pathway. It can’t just be scrapped. These people broke the law, but it’s a civil infraction, not capital murder.

But you might not have heard the other half of the story — that there also are those on the left who would like to see the bill defeated, even if they have to be more clever and discreet about their efforts to kill it.

The group that they want to please is organized labor, where despite the public pronouncements of labor union leaders that they support immigration reform, the rank-and-file may not be so easily convinced. Many of today’s union members — especially in rust belt states like Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, etc — still see foreign workers the same way that previous generations of union members saw them: as competition and a barrier to higher wages.

Senate panel tackles border security in immigration bill

In 1986, the last time that Congress passed meaningful immigration reform, the AFL-CIO fought the effort tooth and nail. Not much has changed since then. Oh, the leaders are singing a different tune. But, at the grassroots level, there is still resistance.

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