In the last couple of weeks, reporters and commentators have made clear that when it comes to August and immigration reform, pro-reform advocates have decisively won the day. Our side has turned out far more people, who are much more enthusiastic, at significantly more events, and made our views known to more members of Congress. The opposition–the anti-immigrant Steve King wing–is dispirited and distracted.
Over the weekend, Dan Nowicki and Erin Kelly at the Arizona Republic published a piece illustrating the details of this contrast, entitled “Anti-amnesty movement failing to pick up steam.” As the article starts out:
Calls for an uprising against “amnesty” similar to the outcry that helped shut down the last serious attempt at immigration reform in 2007 — and which could have upended this year’s fragile effort — have not been answered.
In fact, opponents of reform have canceled rallies in Miami, Chicago, Virginia, Texas and Wisconsin because of an apparent lack of interest.
An Aug. 12 event in Richmond, Va., headlined by Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, the immigration hard-liner who recently caused a furor by claiming many young undocumented immigrants are drug smugglers, was a bust. Organizers expected hundreds to attend, but only about 60 people turned out.
Meanwhile, supporters of reform have been far more active, organizing rallies and lobbying efforts from California to Florida to pressure House Republicans to support a plan that includes a pathway to citizenship.
More than 500 rallies, sit-ins, protests, forums and marches were organized by pro-reform groups during the August recess, according to the Alliance for Citizenship, which has been posting a list of events.
Advocates also have been out in force at congressional events in Arizona and elsewhere.
More than 500 people recently rallied outside the Cincinnati office of House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, in favor of legislation that would allow undocumented immigrants to earn citizenship.
In Phoenix, an Aug. 21 demonstration outside an Immigration and Customs Enforcement building by young immigrants who were brought to the country without authorization as children resulted in six arrests and drew national attention.
The religious community also is speaking out in favor of immigration reform: Evangelical leaders are running pro-reform radio ads, and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has signaled that many parishioners will hear a pro-reform message from the pulpit this month.
Immigration advocates said widespread and vocal support for the legislation will keep pressure on House Republicans as they prepare to tackle immigration bills in October.
Pro-reform advocates haven’t just been winning at mass rallies and town halls. Our side has also been showing strength where it matters: in pressuring more and more Republicans to support immigration reform with a path to citizenship. At least 24 House Republicans support such a solution, which is more than enough to pass real reform in the House when combined with Democratic votes.
Meanwhile, the Arizona Republic article also features quotes from key opponents of immigration reform, admitting their side’s relative lack of interest on the issue:
Supporters of immigration reform — including business groups and high-tech companies — are better funded and more coordinated this time. Many conservative “tea party” activists are preoccupied with other issues, such as defunding Obama’s signature health-care-reform law, and some are quietly confident that the gridlocked Republican House and the Democratic Senate won’t come to terms on an immigration fix. And there is a certain exhaustion, some say, over fighting the same immigration battle again and again.
“We have seen a little less noise on our side from the American public than we saw in 2007,” said Bob Dane, a spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, or FAIR, which opposes citizenship for undocumented immigrants. “I think over the last five years Americans have been beaten into submission. They fought deficit spending and ‘Obamacare,’ and they were defeated. So when it comes to immigration, they figure ‘What’s the point?’ ”
Which leaves a question for Speaker John Boehner and the rest of the House leadership: are they really going to ignore something that the majority of Americans want, and something that their constituents have spent all of August recess demanding, just because a small and weakened group of anti-immigrant Tea Partiers oppose it?