While some observers are pessimistic about reform’s prospects, the immigration reform movement is on fire. This week offers more evidence that the pro-reform movement has never been stronger or broader and is prepared to hold all parties accountable until immigration reform with an inclusive legalization program and an achievable path to citizenship is signed into law. Here are some of the highlights:
- Pro-reform forces are winning the August recess: As Jennifer Rubin of the Washington Post noted, “If anti-immigration reformers were going to kill off immigration reform once and for all, August was the time to do it. They promised to rally the grass roots and dissuade House Republicans from daring to even think about bringing it back in the fall. Instead, the anti-immigration forces haven’t turned out.” As Molly Ball wrote in The Atlantic, “Activists on both sides of the immigration debate had put heavy emphasis on the importance of flexing grassroots muscle during this month of congressional recess. The idea is to show Republicans in the House of Representatives, which hasn’t settled on a path forward on the issue, where the most passionate support lies …Hundreds of immigrant advocates have appeared at rallies and town halls across the country. But the other side, the opponents, have been mostly absent.” Just last week, Steve King headlined an event to pressure House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) that drew a few dozen people. The same week, pro-reform forces turned out thousands to pressure House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA). See AP, ABC News, the Washington Post, Politico, US News & World Report, The New Republic, MSNBC.com, and The Week for further evidence. Or, just listen to Bob Dane, the communications director of the anti-immigrant organization FAIR, who called the pro-reform display in August a “staggering, well-financed hard push by the left and the right.”
- Catholics & Evangelicals escalate support for immigration reform: The New York Times reported that, “Catholic bishops and priests from major dioceses across the country will preach a coordinated message next month backing changes in immigration policy, with some using Sunday Masses on Sept. 8 to urge Congressional passage of a legislative overhaul that includes a path to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants.” Meanwhile, USA Today reported that “A coalition of evangelical Christians will spend more than $400,000 on radio ads urging members of Congress to support immigration changes that includes a path to citizenship for most of the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States. The ads, which will run mainly on Christian radio stations this month, are aimed at spurring evangelicals to lobby their lawmakers to support change.”
- Former hardliner Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) becomes the 24th House Republican to support a path to citizenship; Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-AL) speaks up for reform in the country’s reddest district: Yesterday, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) became the most recent and the twenty-fourth House Republican to publicly endorse a path to citizenship as part of an immigration overhaul, telling a local reporter at a town hall event, “There should be a pathway to citizenship, not a special pathway and not no pathway, but there has to be a legal lawful way to go through this process that works and right now it doesn’t.” The comment is particularly notable coming from Rep. Chaffetz, who has previously been viewed as an immigration hardliner. In fact, he won his seat by running from the right against Rep. Chris Cannon of Utah, an ardently pro-immigration Republican. In Alabama, Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-AL) gave extended remarks in support of undocumented immigrants and immigration reform, “I do believe that almost 99 percent of them are here for the same reason that our ancestors came here, and that’s – they’re here for a better life. Human nature is that you go – people have been emigrating – our world is a world that emigrates. But right now who are those people who are here illegally or undocumented? They are part of a family. And that’s what people – I think has not been communicated to the American people, that they are not just one person out there in isolation. You’ve got 3 children, two are here as US citizens, the other came when he was 4… are you gonna send his mother back? You send his dad back? You send the older brother back? And I’ve come down to say no! We let ‘em stay. Y’all may think I’m copping out, but with my Christian faith, it’s hard for me to say that I’m gonna divide these families up.” As Greg Sargent of the Washington Post reports, “GOP Rep. Spencer Bachus of Alabama delivered a long and remarkable speech to his constituents in which he directly took on not only King, but Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions, another anti-reform diehard — and made a faith-based and compassionate argument for reform. Bachus represents a district that as of last year was the most Republican in the country, and in 2012 he faced a Tea Party primary that was partly about immigration.” He tweets, “Conservatives could support immig reform if they wanted to. Rep. Spencer Bachus shows how it’s done.” If these deeply conservative members are publicly for reform with a path to citizenship, why does Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) seem so spooked about moving forward with a vote?
- Rep. Bob Goodlatte reverts to hardline immigration roots, demonstrates why legislative future depends on Speaker Boehner: While earlier comments from House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) suggested he could be a constructive leader in helping to forge a reform solution, more recent clarifications and details have made it clear that Rep. Goodlatte remains an immigration hardliner incapable of leading the House to a decent bill. After all, he is still the Congressman who earned an A+ rating and a Blue Ribbon award from anti-immigrant organization Numbers USA. Just this week, Rep. Goodlatte made it clear he opposes a path to citizenship for the vast majority of undocumented immigrants, including for DREAMers. He signaled his intention to get to “no” on reform, expressing a desire to pretend to want a substantive fix more than actually wanting it. And he continues to champion the hardline SAFE Act: Draconian, Arizona-like legislation that, in the words of the New York Times, would turn millions of undocumented immigrants “into criminals overnight.” In addition, he has become an ally of Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) regarding the trumped up “asylum abuse at the border” story and is planning to hold hearings and possibly draft legislation to address this right-wing trope. Now it’s clear that Rep. Goodlatte’s audition as a key immigration player is over and that he has disqualified himself from being the House driver on reform. Getting to “yes” in the House depends on Speaker Boehner and fellow House Republican leaders, not on Rep. Goodlatte.
- DREAMers and New Yorkers protest continued deportations that separate families, underscore moral imperative of passing reform: The New York Times reports, “In Phoenix on Wednesday, dozens of protesters marched around a federal immigration detention center and four of them chained themselves to the fence outside. Several protesters sat down in a roadway to block a bus taking immigrants out of the center, apparently on the way to deportation. Many demonstrators were young people who called themselves Dreamers, immigrants without legal papers who came here as children…Organizers said they wanted to highlight continuing deportations under Mr. Obama, even as the president has championed legislation that would provide legal status and eventual citizenship for millions of illegal immigrants.” Yesterday in Manhattan, activists with New Yorkers for Real Immigration Reform committed an act of civil disobedience in front of a detention center demanding House action on immigration reform and Obama Administration action to stop the deportations. Chris Hayes of MSBNC tweeted in response to the United We Dream action in Phoenix, “This might be the most forceful, disciplined, morally powerful movement in America right now.”