The Federal Government is a sprawling thing. How else could it be? After all it is governing 305 million people and that can’t be done out of a small office behind the Kwiki Mart. Still there are times when the left hand knows what the right hand is doing that they work together instead of at cross purposes.
I am happy to point out one of these times today. The Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency has decided that it will suspend the deportation proceedings for a Mr. Henry Velandia. What is the reason that Mr. Velandia is getting a reprieve from being deported? It is because he is married to Josh Vandiver.
That’s right, because these two men were married in Connecticut; ICE is closing the deportation case against Mr. Velandia. You see this comes out of the Obama Administration’s decision not to contest the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).
When Attorney General Holder and President Obama decided that DOMA was unconstitutional it did not mean just that they would stop fighting the cases against it in court. It became the position of the Executive Branch that the actions of the government should reflect this new position.
This means, for now, that gay couples where one partner is an informal immigrant (as Mr. Velandia was, having overstayed a visa) who has not been involved in violent crime, and is married to a U.S. citizen will get the same kind of consideration that heterosexual couples in the same situation get.
This is a small story. It is really just about two men who won’t be separated because of immigration status. However the impact of this action could be huge indeed. The first aspect of it is obvious, if the federal government is starting to recognize marriages between people of the same sex for immigration purposes, that sends a huge signal to judges who are hearing the various challenges to marriage equality laws.
This is one of those “Put your money where your mouth is” moments. There are a lot of folks in the LGTB community who are rightly frustrated with a President and Administration that wants to claim the mantle of “fierce advocate” for equality but have moved very slowly and overly cautiously in this regard.
With this decision, and hopefully others to follow, the Obama Administration has shown that it intends to act as if the law if finds unconstitutional does not exist. It is not letting Mr. Velandia off the hook, it is just putting his case at the bottom of the pile. Still it is hopeful sign that there will be the a level playing field for all informal immigrants who are married, regardless of the hetero or homosexual nature of that marriage.
So far no Wingnut’s head has exploded about this, but that is only a matter of time. This issue is a real two-fer for them. Not only is it able to be spun to show the Administration is soft on informal immigrants (which is completely not true, this administration has deported more people already than the Bush administration) but it is also part of their favorite hobby horse, marriage equality.
Expect to hear about this case and others like it from the Republican presidential candidates and the bloviaters on Talk Radio. They are going to say that it just shows how un-American our president is. They will talk about “Anchor-weddings” and the like, but I am not sure how much traction this will get.
For those who actually believe that marriage equality is somehow damaging to other marriages there is no chance that they would vote for this president anyway. The same goes for those who think that all our immigration issues can be solved by draconian laws which don’t actually remove the incentive of living and working in the United States.
The fact that the Obama Administration is not publicizing this shift in policy is just so like them. Here is an issue that they could point to with their base, with the LGTB voters and donors that they will need to win re-election, but because there will be a lot of foaming at the mouth by Teahadists and other conservative voting blocks they are just letting it go by quietly.
It is a political failure of a type that this Administration is far to prone to. They never seem to latch on to the fact that Democrats, Progressives and Liberals want to know all about the things, small and large, that the Executive Branch is doing to stick it to the pernicious policies of the Republicans. The failure to tout the actions that they do take which the base likes leaves them in a position where they are always getting flack from the Left and Right.
I am one of those folks that does not subscribe to the idea that the Obama Administration has done nothing or very little of value. But I completely get how many of my cohorts on the Left can feel that way. It is not just the big flashy announcements that make a difference, it is the policy that comes from them that really changes things on the ground.
Is it time to let the president off the hook on gay civil rights issues? Hell no! They are just getting into gear on this and while it is important to recognize the good things they do, there is no reason at all why anyone who cares about civil equality for LGTB citizens should let up now.
DADT, while in the process of being repealed has not stopped discharges. They will, eventually stop, but until that time we are still losing people who actually want to fight for their country over bigotry. That is a shame that the Administration should be reminded of daily.
However, we should also give credit where credit is due. In the case of separating two men who are married because of immigration status, the Obama Administration did the right thing. If they would only make a habit of that, then we (or at least I) could be a lot more enthusiastic about helping the president win another term.
The floor is yours.