Momentum is building each day for immigration reform, with a full-throated legislative debate set to start next month. Today, America’s Voice Education Fund and fellow immigration experts held the first in a series of weekly press briefings, or Immigration Reform “Office Hours.” Each week, a different and diverse group of speakers will share the latest information on the players, politics, legislation and other developments coming down the pipeline as the debate in Congress moves forward.
Moderated by Lynn Tramonte, Deputy Director at America’s Voice Education Fund, today’s call featured discussion and analysis from both Andrea Zuniga DiBitetto, Legislative Representative at the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) and Angela Maria Kelley, Vice President for Immigration Policy and Advocacy at the Center for American Progress Action Fund, who shared their take on this week’s events and what it all means in the last few weeks before the legislative debate actually begins in Congress.
Among the topics discussed during today’s briefing:
- AFL-CIO and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Release Joint Principles on Immigration: This joint statement was met with loud applause from leaders from across the spectrum and even some Congressional Republicans. The statement concludes: “We are now in the middle – not the end – of this process, and we pledge to continue to work together and with our allies and our representatives on Capitol Hill to finalize a solution that is in the interest of this country we all love.” Said House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), “I applaud the Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO for coming together to find common ground in an effort to reform our broken immigration system. Their goal of protecting American workers and ensuring we have the workforce we need to grow the economy and remain globally competitive is one I share.” And as the title of a Talking Points Memo piece on the joint statement rightly says, the agreement between the AFL-CIO and the Chamber is a “BFD.” This is more evidence that the landscape for immigration reform has changed and prospects for a bill that becomes law are better than they have been in 25 years.
- The Anti-Immigrant Crowd is Shrinking and Losing Power: Last weekend, Americans for Legal Immigration (ALIPAC) geared up for rallies in the 50 state capitols. They were expecting 20,000 people. They got twenty-two in Colorado, twenty-eight in California, and five in North Carolina. According to the event’s Facebook page, one showed up in Montana, one in Washington, two in Oklahoma, “a few” in Minnesota, six in Louisiana, and four in Georgia. As for the rest of the states, we might never know, as there was no coverage. If an anti-immigrant group holds a rally and no one comes, does it still make a noise? The answer is no. Organizers blamed the weather, or theorized that people may have gotten the date or time wrong. Maybe a few. But not 20,000. Now, THIS is what real movement power looks like.
- Diverse Group of National Leaders Join Forces to Launch New Campaign for Citizenship: To that end, the Alliance for Citizenship (A4C) launched this week—a new national campaign designed to support the rapidly growing movement behind immigration reform that includes a pathway to citizenship. On a conference call with reporters this week, national leaders from the newly formed A4C laid out their principles and action plan to win a roadmap to citizenship for 11 million aspiring Americans. Over the course of this week and next, eight “Power Up for Citizenship!” events are taking place — in Illinois, New York, Arizona, Michigan, North Carolina, California, Colorado, Florida, and Texas — to push key Senators to introduce a bill that includes a pathway to citizenship by March. Additionally, over 500 family members are taking part in the Fair Immigration Reform Movement’s “Keeping Families Together Bus Tour” that kicked off yesterday. Participants will travel to 19 states, 80 cities and 7 regions between now and March 12th.
- Polls Continue to Show that Americans Support Citizenship for Undocumented Immigrants: Support for a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants has been a growing trend amongst the American public for a while now. This was in evidence yet again this week with two separate surveys by Bloomberg and the Pew Research Center. According to Bloomberg, “Fifty-three percent of Americans support a path to citizenship while 18 percent back a process toward legal status for illegal residents already in the country if certain conditions are met…Only 23 percent would deny any path to legal status for immigrants who entered the country illegally.” Similarly, the Pew Research Center found that the public supports a path to citizenship by a 72%-24% margin, while among potential Republican-voting political typology groups the pollsters identified, Libertarians supported the path to citizenship option by a 66%-32% margin and Main Street Republicans by a 58%-39% margin, while Staunch Conservatives were split at 49%-49%.
- Citizenship is the Mainstream, NOT the Extreme in the Debate: As House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) told NPR this week, “Someone who broke the law, came here, [to] say, ‘I’ll give you citizenship now,’ that I don’t think is going to happen.” Goodlatte, Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID), and others in the House Republican conference that prefer a form of guest worker status for undocumented immigrants, but no citizenship, are championing an approach supported by 7% of Americans, according to a recent Hart/Public Opinion Strategies poll. This stands in stark contrast to the 87% of Americans who prefer a real path to citizenship.
- Legal Status without Citizenship is Politically Unwise and Un-American: If Republicans are really serious about repairing their relationship with Latino voters, promoting a second-class status for millions of Latinos and other immigrants is the wrong way to do it. To Latino voters and other portions of the electorate strongly in favor of real reform, the GOP would continue to be more Mitt Romney in 2012 than George W. Bush in 2004. Evolving on immigration reform will not single-handedly win back the support of the majority of Latino voters for the Republican Party. However, unless and until the GOP works to promote real immigration reform with citizenship, their overall brand image among Latinos and the Party’s competitiveness in national and numerous statewide elections will remain imperiled.
The bottom line here? Momentum for immigration reform is growing, organizations that usually sit at opposite sides of the spectrum are getting aligned, and anti-immigrant organizations are proving once again that their bark is worse than their bite. On policy, full citizenship for undocumented immigrants is the mainstream position, while some House Republicans continue to stake out less-than positions that won’t help them win back Latino voters and won’t resolve the issues at stake. It’ll be an exciting few months as this all plays out. We’ll keep you informed through weekly briefings. For a recording of today’s call, click here.