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Immigration Reform Summer: The House Runs Home But It Can’t Hide

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Below is the third article in the series, “Immigration Reform Summer,” by Gebe Martinez, Advisor to America’s Voice Education Fund.  This article is available for reprint as long as the author is given proper attribution.

As members of the GOP-controlled House head to their home districts for a month-long summer recess, they may wish they could have stayed in the House Chamber, where they can avoid taking tough votes.

Because waiting for them at their district offices, local churches, community halls, streets and other gathering places will be tens of thousands of constituents demanding that the House do its job and pass comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants.

“Immigration Reform Summer” promises to be a vacation House members will not easily forget. The number of constituent-driven events  between now and Labor Day is 360 and counting.

Lawmakers who bypass congressional junkets or secluded vacations will find an unprecedented grassroots movement backed by church leaders and their congregants; farm growers and workers who harvest the fields; business leaders and unlikely labor union allies on immigration; and new Americans as well as families who sought the American Dream generations ago.

They will seek a House vote on immigration that justly treats immigrants and their families and grows the nation’s economy. The Senate already passed a bipartisan bill. Only the House stands in the way of this historic opportunity to reform immigration law.

The main obstacle is whether House Speaker John Boehner allows the House, “where we actually believe we have the majority, to take an up or down vote,” said Lee Saunders, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME). “So here’s the question: ‘Will Speaker Boehner and his leadership stand with extremists like Steve King to block a vote, or will they stand with a majority of Americans who embrace a diverse future?’” Saunders added, referring to Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, a nativist who compares immigrants to animals.

Saunders spoke on Capitol Hill, where Democratic Reps. Luis Gutierrez of Illinois and Joaquín Castro of Texas joined leading voices of the Alliance for Citizenship to discuss civic engagement plans for the August recess.

“Among all the forces that make up the Alliance for Citizenship and the broader set of efforts around this issue, we know we can touch every district out there — rural, urban, North, South, East, West — and that’s why we feel confident,” said Clarissa Martínez-De-Castro, director of Civic Engagement and Immigration for National Council of La Raza.

Whether the House continues to fumble immigration reform will determine, not just the future of the legislation, but also the popularity of the Republican Party that needs Latino and Asian American support to remain viable, as well as the nation’s values as a land of immigrants.

“We have not forgotten our families’ paths to citizenship, and neither should you,” added Rabbi Jack Moline, Agudas Achim Congregation, Alexandria, VA. “Action on immigration reform is not generosity, it is justice. Clearing the path to citizenship for those who have come seeking the blessings of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is the debt that we repay on behalf of those who came before us, whether they came to Plymouth Rock or Galveston, to Ellis Island or Seattle, to San Diego or Charleston.”

Besides Boehner, a key target will be House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy of California, whose central California district is 35 percent Latino and includes the national monument dedicated to Latino leader Cesár E. Chávez.

“Another 40,000 to 50,000 people will be deported while Congress is on vacation, and we simply cannot allow Republicans to drag their feet,” Gutierrez said.

Earlier, Asian American and Pacific Islander DREAMers, joined by California Reps. Judy Chu and Mike Honda, embarked on a DREAM Riders road trip across the U.S. to demand reform with citizenship. They represent hundreds of thousands of young immigrants who applied for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), an administrative program which temporarily halted deportation proceedings for those who were brought to the U.S. as children without documents.

“I see contradictions when the Republican House members try to vote to defund Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (while) also saying to our communities that they care about people who wish to contribute to the country,” said DREAMer Kevin Lee in the shadow of the U.S. Capitol.

“The House is stuck in the process. Not doing anything. Sleeping on it,” said Dai Joong (DJ) Yoon, executive director of the National Korean American Service & Education Consortium (NAKASEC). “Please. Please wake up and do something about sensible comprehensive immigration reform.”

Watch video of them:


US News & World Report: Immigration Advocates Turning Up Heat During August Recess

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

Bloomberg: Immigration Supporters Plan to Hunt Down House Members