Op-Ed: Latinos Won’t be Duped on Immigration Reform

Senate Republican's Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas and Jon Kyl of Arizona –both retiring in January– along with Senator John McCain of Arizona recently unveiled their version of a pathway to legalization for undocumented youth, a watered-down version of the DREAM Act. They refer to it as the ACHIEVE Act.

The ACHIEVE Act notably lacks a path to citizenship and contains in no way a permanent solution to our current broken immigration system. The GOP legislation is in fact similar to what President Obama administratively addressed earlier this year as a stop-gap measure deterring deportation of DREAM Act-eligible youths, known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). President Obama has insisted DACA was in no way a solution to our broken system, but a humane and rational step in the right direction.

The ACHIEVE Act does nothing new to lift the shadows of deportation and alleviate the fears that keep members of our immigrant community relegated to a less-than-equal, permanent second-class, membership of society.

Senator Kyl's assertion that current paths available would remain unchanged is a disastrous suggestion to our DREAM-eligible youths like us who identify as LGBTQ. Not only are we relegated to a shadow underground society, but lack any opportunity to adjust our status through marriage to the loved ones we have committed ourselves to. Due to the Defense of Marriage, federal benefits are not extended to same-sex couples, forbidding any immigration benefits to our LGBT immigrant community.

Our own Florida senator, Marco Rubio, has recently insisted that the best path toward fixing our broken immigration system is through piece-meal measures. However, we all know Senator Rubio would push for the ACHIEVE Act, not the DREAM Act. His aspiration to pursue a so-called “humane solution” is nothing but a perpetual limbo status for a generation of young people in this country. Even worse, it would keep LGBT DREAMers like us from ever becoming U.S. citizens simply because of our sexual orientation.  

Skeptics have said that Republicans only “evolved” on immigration because Romney captured just 27 percent of the Latino electorate in 2012, which is significantly lower than Senator McCain in 2008 and President Bush in 2004. However, Latino voters have greater aspirations for a more equal United States. Our community values families and our desire to keep familial bonds intact explains why 59 percent of Latino voters supported marriage equality in 2012.

Organizations such as the National Council of La Raza and the League of Latin American Citizens have endorsed same-sex marriage; and United We DREAM, the largest undocumented youth network in the country, endorsed the full inclusion of our LGBTQ brothers and sisters into our society.

As Floridians directly affected by this issue we expect Senator Marco Rubio to lead by finding a permanent solution for DREAMers and our families.

The ACHIEVE Act should not be the baseline for this new round of immigration reform conversations. It does not extend more rights to DREAM Act eligible youth who have benefited from DACA and it discriminates against LGBTQ youth who cannot be sponsored for immigration purposes by their spouses. The exclusion of our LGBTQ people is inhumane but also a strategic mistake for the Republican Party.

The Latino community will not be duped by half-fast measures that don’t address the system of unfair immigration laws and any attempt to exclude our LGBTQ people.

Felipe Sousa-Rodriguez is Co-Director of GetEQUAL, a national direct action LGBTQ rights civil rights organization.

Marco Antonio Quiroga was born in Lima, Peru. Quiroga, who holds a bachelor's degree in biology and hopes to become a general surgeon, is an LGBTQ rights