Mary Sanchez

Immigration reform faces tough compromises in Congress

Updated: 2013-05-06T00:47:08Z

By MARY SANCHEZ

The Kansas City Star

Saturday was for preaching to the choir for Congressional Representatives Emanuel Cleaver and Luis Gutierrez.

This week, back in Washington, D.C., the more difficult conversations begin: Convincing their less congenial political colleagues to pass immigration reform.

Gutierrez has long been one of the most passionate and involved voices for immigrant rights. He visited Kansas City this weekend at the invitation of Cleaver. A forum with the Illinois Democrat keynoting showcased African-American and Latino coalitions in place both in Kansas City and within Congress.

“It makes no sense for the two largest minority groups to be divided and we won’t be divided,” Cleaver told the crowd of about 250 gathered at Penn Valley Community College.

Allies will be necessary for immigration reform to pass. Criticism is already building on the Senate’s proposal.

And this week, the question of whether or not gay people will be addressed in the legislation will likely stoke arguments. A lot of immigration law revolves around the idea of not separating families. So what about gay U.S. citizens who want to legally sponsor a gay immigrant partner to join them in the U.S? Gay marriage, the Defense of Marriage Act, is at issue. But including such an amendment would likely unravel the support of the evangelical community and many in the GOP.

Gutierrez was adamant about the tough road ahead. He told the crowd, many of them active local advocates, that they will need to be “persistent and consistent.” That’s a page from his playbook.

Gutierrez has been among the most strident voices criticizing Obama for deporting record numbers of immigrants, more than any other previous administration. He challenges policies that separate U.S.-born children from their undocumented parents.

Cleaver told a story of needing to stifle an inappropriate smile once when he was meeting with Obama. Aides had interrupted to inform the President that Rep. Gutierrez had handcuffed himself to the gates outside in a protest. Obama was not pleased.

And yet, Gutierrez also counseled that compromises will be necessary. “You will not like all of it,” he predicted of the legislative packages.

That’s politics. And Gutierrez was wise to issue the warning.

To reach Mary Sanchez, call 816-234-4752 or send email to msanchez@kcstar.com.

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