Are LGBTs The Bargaining Chip In Immigration Reform Negotiations?

It looks likely now that Senate Democrats will move ahead with an amendment to the immigration bill that will offer protections to same-sex bi-national couples. Following through on earlier signals, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy is likely to offer the amendment, as early as next Tuesday.

“Frankly, the bill getting out of committee without the Uniting American Families language isn’t really a possibility we’ve considered,” Ian Koski, a spokesman for Sen. Chris Coons, told Buzzfeed, referring to the legal wording to be included in the amendment.

So much for the good news.

Republicans still consider protections for same-sex couples to be a poison pill for immigration reform, which hasn’t exactly been embraced by the party in the first place. Worse still, the White House may see inclusion of those same protections as a bargaining chip in the negotiations.

“If the bill is too closely associated with the president, it becomes even harder for House Republicans to support it,” Kevin Drum of the Washington Post notes.  “The White House supports putting the provisions gay rights groups want in the bill. And so, the lack of inclusion of those provisions in it — combined, crucially, with vocal pressure from the left to include them – helps reinforce impressions of that distance.” And it’s just that type of distance that Republicans need to get behind reform.

Which means, when push comes to shove, we’re a bargaining chip, and an expendable one at that. If no same-sex protections is a concession Obama has to make to get immigration reform, he will. Politics is all about compromise, and comprehensive immigration reform is a noble goal. It’s just a lot easier to accept when the compromise doesn’t come at your expense.