The contentious third-rail issue that neither party wants to debate will be front and center in DC today as thousands are expected to gather to rally for comprehensive immigration reform.

And a healthy representation of people in the march will be LGBT and black groups, two constituencies that have not been seen as vocal supporters of immigration reform.

African-American organizations, which in 2007 were skeptical, fearing that immigrants could pose competition to black workers, are more fully on board, and Benjamin T. Jealous, president of the N.A.A.C.P., is a scheduled speaker. While the A.F.L.-C.I.O. did not support the 2007 overhaul proposal, this year organized labor has united. Gay and lesbian groups, which had not been active on the issue, are now involved.

The critical portion of reform that has been newsworthy and of deep interest to many LGBTs is inclusion of the Uniting American Families Act, which would allow foreign-born partners of LGBT citizens to apply for legal permanent residency.

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), has to date not shown his hand on whether UAFA would be included, has signaled this week in a letter that it may be included in comprehensive reform. The letter, via The Advocate:

Thank you for contacting me to express your support for the Uniting American Families Act of 2009. I agree that our immigration system is in serious need of reform and I am currently working with my colleagues in both parties to devise a Comprehensive Immigration Reform bill that would effectively address the many flaws that exist today.

The failure to recognize permanent partners in the application for legal permanent residency is a major concern for many Americans. I share this concern and am a cosponsor of the Uniting American Families Act of 2009, which would amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to permit permanent partners of United States citizens and lawful permanent residents to obtain lawful permanent resident status in the same manner as spouses of citizens and lawful permanent residents. I support this principle of immigration reform and I am working on introducing a comprehensive package that would address this issue along with a host of immigration issues, including a pathway to legalization, the future flow of immigrants and border enforcement measures.

At this time, I believe that the only way to pass meaningful and effective immigration reform is through a comprehensive bill, not through piecemeal legislation. The successful design and passage of this bill would be a watershed in how we deal with all aspects of immigration in this country and I am committed to fair and comprehensive reform which is necessary to rectify the many deficiencies and weaknesses of our immigration system.

Again, thank you for taking the time to share your views about this important issue. Please do not hesitate to contact me If I can be of further assistance on this, or any other matter.

Sincerely,

Charles E. Schumer

United States Senator

Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who is working on a blueprint for a bill with Schumer, hasn’t shown his hand on his leanings about folding UAFA into the legislation meant to reform immigration overall, but he did play politics by tying it to the health care battle, intimating that the political friction will weaken any coalition building in Congress.

“The first casualty of the Democratic health care bill will be immigration reform,” Graham said in a statement released Friday afternoon. “If the health care bill goes through this weekend, that will, in my view, pretty much kill any chance of immigration reform passing the Senate this year.”

An interesting — and disturbing — aspect of today’s rally is that the attendee count is something that the Obama White House is actually watching as a barometer of the pressure to do something about reform.

The rally is expected to bring 50,000 reform advocates to the nation’s Capitol right as the health care debate reaches its climax.

..However, the White House knows the pressure from the right to stop an “amnesty” bill will be intense. That may be why the lone Republican, Sen. Lindsay Graham, is already backing off his stance in favor of a bipartisan bill.

If the crowd dips far under the 50,000 that organizers predict, expect less interest from the White House.

…The White House is very leery on this topic, and will be looking to see solid grassroots support before proceeding, especially after the cauldron of health care.

That’s something to note, people: basing political action on how many people show up on to a rally one of the factors that will move this administration. It’s sad, really. Is this the only way to get the Administration to listen?

If that’s truly the case, does this mean we need to keep doing Big Queer Marches on Washington until the WH listens?