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Cantaloupes, Civil Disobedience This Week Just the Beginning: Advocates Planning Event-Packed August for Immigration Reform

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It has been a busy week for supporters of immigration reform.  Yesterday, activists delivered cantaloupes to 224 House members who voted with Steve King on his amendment to defund DACA and deport DREAMers.  Afterward, 41 key immigration leaders conducted an act of civil disobedience and were arrested to call attention to House inaction on immigration reform.  And this morning, Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Tom Harkin (D-IA) traveled to Steve King’s district to hold a forum on immigration and condemn King for his recent remarks against DREAMers.

As pro-reform advocates have been emphasizing, however, this is just the beginning.  Congress is taking off for August recess, the traditional summertime break when legislators return to their home districts, hold town hall events, and meet with constituents.  Over the August recess, immigration advocates across the nation are planning a series of rallies and other events to direct attention to immigration reform and demand that the House take up a bill that contains citizenship when they return to Washington in the fall.

National and local newspapers this week have picked up on this message.  Here’s a cross-sample:

From the Arizona Republic: “Immigration reform backers see hopeful signs in House.”

Immigration-rights activists this month are planning to press their case with House lawmakers. Business, religious, law-enforcement and labor groups already have been lobbying aggressively for reform. Opponents of immigration reform — which many critics call “amnesty” for law-breaking immigrants — also are expected to make their voices heard, but the House’s inaction so far has provided little to galvanize them.

USA Today: “GOP will feel heat at home in August on immigration.”

As they prepare to leave the Capitol for a month-long August recess, Republican members of the House of Representatives are taking with them legislative summaries and informational packets to tackle tough questions in their districts about immigration. Supporters of a proposal to revamp the nation’s immigration laws plan to use the recess to pressure House Republican members in their districts to pass a plan like that which passed the Senate in June.  Those in favor of granting citizenship to an estimated 11 million unauthorized immigrants say they will use rallies, marches, coordinated phone calls, social media campaigns and pressure from big-dollar donors.  “This is the beginning of a long, hot summer for the House of Representatives,” said Eliseo Medina of the Service Employees International Union, a labor union that supports the Senate’s immigration bill.”

Daily Beast: “Immigration Reform Advocates, Foes to Target House GOP During Recess.”

August recess will be no vacation for House members hoping to escape from the pressure of the looming battle over immigration reform. With a Senate bill passed and House Speaker John Boehner planning a vote on some form of immigration legislation before the end of the year, the five-week August break presents the last chance for activists on both sides of the issue to sway undecided or undeclared lawmakers to their way of thinking.  Add to that the potential for televised town-hall freakouts reminiscent of the health-care protests in August 2009, and all involved know this August is make or break for the future of immigration policy for the next 20 years.  At the center of the five-week lobbying and influence effort are 37 House Republicans whose districts are more than 20 percent Latino, including Reps. Darrell Issa, Buck McKeon, Steve Pearce, and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy.  McCarthy’s district, in the agriculture-heavy Central Valley of California, is 35.5 percent Latino, leading advocates to believe he could not only vote with them but also bring others along.

“We think he’s open to persuasion, but he’s not going to just open his doors and say, ‘Welcome, everybody, I’ve changed my mind,” said Jorge Mario Cabrera of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles.  “We’re going to have to be there and show up in strong numbers and make an appeal directly to him.”

“Showing up” for Cabrera and his group means driving a 1,100-car caravan past McCarthy’s Bakersfield office on Aug. 15 to press the whip to vote for comprehensive reform. Like CHIRLA, a large pro-reform coalition is planning more than 350 events around the country over the recess targeting House Republicans they see as potential yes votes—the 37 Latino-heavy GOP districts as well as those in swing districts, like Reps. Mike Coffman in Colorado and Joe Heck in Nevada.  In addition to sending members to town hall meetings, the coalition is planning rallies, neighborhood canvassing, Spanish language social media ads, and earned and paid media to push individual House members to hold a vote on immigration reform.

US News and World Report: “Immigration Advocates Turning Up Heat During August Recess.”

Republicans in the House of Representatives might be ready for a break during August recess, but lawmakers should brace themselves for some raucous town hall meetings as business leaders, immigration advocates and the religious community plan to descend on GOP congressional districts across the country and push for comprehensive immigration reform.  No matter where they go, advocates of immigration reform say GOP members won’t be able to find much relief as donors, voters and advocates lay on the heat. Advocates are confident that after a month-long push, those in conservative districts may come away believing immigration reform is not only important to Americans nationwide, but an important issue for their constituents at home.  The Alliance for Citizenship, a coalition of more than 50 human rights and union partners pushing for immigration reform, announced Wednesday they will travel through 52 congressional districts such as House Majority Whip Rep. Kevin McCarthy’s in California to Rep. Steve King’s in Iowa. They plan to attend at least 360 events throughout the August recess. And when they are not on the ground engaging with elected officials, they will be canvassing, knocking on doors and registering voters.

Washington Post (Blog): “Immigration reformers are not taking the summer off.”

Immigration reform may not be the top issue on voters’ minds as Congress goes into recess (frankly, most voters aren’t concerned about politics at all in August). But that is not to say it won’t be a topic as congressmen make their way around their districts. Two significant developments will keep the pressure on the House to act.  First, the American Action Network — among the most forceful pro-reform conservative groups — announced today that it will be “launching the Conservative Immigration Support Network, an August initiative delivering positive and supportive messages to House Republicans to continue tackling immigration reform. The initiative includes a new $250,000 grasstops program engaging key local leaders, mobilizing our existing grassroots network, and releasing district-by-district studies on the economic impact of immigration reform.”…The Wall Street Journal reports on the other significant development:  On Wednesday, a group of Asians said they would kick off a national tour to raise the “Asian collective voice” for a comprehensive immigration overhaul. During stops in Atlanta, Houston, Los Angeles and six other cities, the immigrants will meet with community leaders and visit local congressional offices…This is an important reminder for Republicans, who seem to think immigration is only about Hispanic voters. Republicans are losing the Asian vote (in the past, they got large majorities of Asian voters) by huge numbers; immigration is one of the reasons. The message that we don’t want immigrants or can’t accommodate those striving to attain the American dream is killing the GOP with Asians.