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First Full Week of “Immigration Summer” Turns Up the Heat on House Republicans

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office hoursImmigration Advocates Bank Early Successes; Only Thing Missing is a Vote in Congress

This week the strategies and tactics that immigrant advocates are using to convince Members of Congress to support immigration reform with a path to citizenship bore significant fruit.  After years of organizing and fighting battles at the local, state, and national level, a diverse coalition made up of labor unions, community activists, business leaders, faith leaders, law enforcement, and families has coalesced to pressure individual Members of Congress at the local level and is already reaping success.  Today, in a conference call with reporters, leaders of the immigration reform movement discussed how they are holding Members of Congress accountable to their constituents on this pressing family issue.

Pili Tobar, Press Secretary, America’s Voice said:

This has been a busy and successful week for immigration reform advocates across the country. It is clear that the movement is diverse, strong, and ready to deliver. Members are hearing from people from the right, left and center who want immigration reform with a path to citizenship and won’t back down. Republican members coming out this past week in support of a path to citizenship is a direct result of the hard work put in by local leaders and allies to build the support needed in Congress for fair and broad immigration reform.  Now, we just need House Republican leaders to schedule it for a vote.

During the call, four immigration reform advocates who are part of local campaigns to move individual Members of Congress spoke about the tactics and strategies they’re using that have already begun to show results.

Victor Galvan, Civic Engagement Coordinator for Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition said:

It was a huge victory for us to get Congressman Mike Coffman (R-CO) to hop on board comprehensive immigration reform with a path to earned legalization. For months the members of our coalition put in their all get a response from Coffman; they went to every event he hosted and brought with them military veterans, immigrants, women, business leaders, faith leaders, republicans, democrats, Asians and Latinos who together were able to sway him on the issue.  This weekend we’re having a March and rally in Greeley, CO in which we will be registering voters to show Rep. Cory Gardner (R-CO) that Latinos will come out in the next election and his support for immigration reform will be a deciding factor in who they vote for.

Said Jess George, Executive Director of the Latin American Coalition:

This march and rally is a testament to the power of organized communities holding their elected officials accountable. The immigrant community in the Asheboro area drew power in numbers, engaged businesses, educators, and other allies, and intentionally brought their message to Rep. Ellmers: keep our families together.

Said Joaquín Guerra, Regional Field Director for the Center for Community Change:

This week we delivered 10,000 petitions to Rep. Farenthold to give us a vote on citizenship. We were ultimately successful in delivering the petitions and meeting with his district director, but it was just a real shame to see a nonviolent petition delivery be disrupted by anti-immigrant tea partiers that were mobilized by the Congressman’s office. We are in touch with Rep. Blake Farenthold’s (R-TX) office and will continue putting pressure on him until we get his support and our vote on citizenship. We hope to change his mind and change his heart once he sees that there is broad support in his district for immigration reform with a path to citizenship. Rep. Farenthold isn’t the only Member of Congress we contacted this week, all across the state, we had people reach their Members of Congress at their town halls and open houses, and let them know that we need them to get to work on immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship.

Rebecca Shi, Organizing Director for Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights said:

We are all incredibly excited that Aaron Schock came out in support of a path to citizenship. For about 6 months we had major donors giving him the logical reasons for why comprehensive immigration reform will strengthen the economy. Businesses made a very good argument that immigrants don’t take jobs, but generate them. We also let him know about a recent poll that was done that showed 85% of Illinois voters support a path to citizenship and he definitely heard that. We have had Catholics, Evangelicals, businesses, laborers, police enforcement and many more calling him and thanking him for his stance. We have all been offering our assistance to make sure that this is a winning decision for him.

Some of the key takeaways from this week include:

  • The hard work of this nationwide effort is paying off. More and more Republicans are coming around to support comprehensive reform with a path to citizenship.  This week in an article titled, “Republicans May Be Changing Minds on Immigration Reform,” Serena Marshall of ABC News highlights two new House Republicans,  Daniel Webster in Florida, Aaron Schock in Illinois, who have, in the face of pressure from pro-immigration advocates, “expressed preliminary support for a way to legalize undocumented immigrants and allow them to eventually earn full citizenship,” They are.  Marshall says, “Even the House GOP whip, Kevin McCarthy (Calif.), announced support for legal status, although he stopped just short of supporting full citizenship.”Jordan Fabian of ABC News wonders whether the evolution of these three members may indicate that “Republican opposition to a pathway to citizenship melting away in the August heat.”  Fabian writes, “These statements of support from Congressional members come as pro-immigration reform groups are laying on the pressure, with dozens of petition drives and rallies in their home districts. Advocates caution that not every member’s statement means that they back a path to full citizenship. But they are cautiously optimistic that support for immigration reform is growing among House Republicans.

    Meanwhile, in a piece from the Orange County Register entitled GOP Opens Up On Immigrants’ Legal Status” Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) said, “Having (undocumented immigrants) come from the shadows and be determined on an individual basis as to whether they stay longterm, midterm, or be ordered to leave – that’s the area that I think we have to get right, because it sends a message (regarding) what we’d do in the future with similar individuals who came here without coming through the front door.”

    And In Washington state, Rep. Dave Reichert (R-WA) takes on a conservative talk radio host about the undocumented, and, says, “The problem is that those people who came illegally have a responsibility and a debt to pay, but there also is a responsibility on our part to recognize that the fed govt and immigration system failed…failed to secure borders and hold people accountable…that brings us to today to the 12 million folks, what do we do?  What about those folks who have been here 25 years?…what do you do with those people?….I want them to pay a fine, there’s some penalties they have to through, I want to hold them accountable and then they get citizenship and pay taxes.”

  • High profile allies continue to speak up. In his first public appearance speaking on a political issue, this week renowned Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg reaffirmed his strong commitment to comprehensive immigration reform.  At a premier screening of the film “Documented” – a documentary about Jose Antonio Vargas life growing up in America as an undocumented immigrant – Zuckerberg told the audience that immigration reform that includes visas for high tech workers and equal opportunities for the undocumented “is something that we believe is really important for the future of our country, and for us to do what’s right… These are issues that don’t just touch our part of the industry, but really touch a whole country.”
  • Opponents of immigration reform are increasingly marginalized. At at the end of this week, we saw the re-emergence of Jason Richwine, the co-author of the Heritage Foundation’s widely-panned immigration report. The Heritage report blew up after Wonkblog’s Dylan Matthews revealed that Richwine’s dissertation included this passage, “No one knows whether Hispanics will ever reach IQ parity with whites, but the prediction that new Hispanic immigrants will have low-IQ children and grandchildren is difficult to argue against.” Apparently, Richwine wants to continue that discussion.  Richwine himself noted in his piece at Politico, “Jennifer Rubin of the Washington Post called me a ‘fringe character.’ Will Wilkinson of the Economist decried my ‘repugnant prejudice.’ The New York Daily News published an unsigned editorial describing me as “the most twisted sort of intellectual” who is ‘peddling offensive tripe.’ The Guardian’s Ana Marie Cox, whose quote began this article, called me a ‘bigot’ and a ‘more subtle and dangerous kind of extremist.’” Exactly.
    • With momentum on the side of reformers, the only thing missing is a vote.  After successfully lobbying Rep. Denham (R-CA) to embrace immigration reform with a path to citizenship, the Congressman has now turned into a vocal supporter, expressing frustration with the lack of progress to date.  According to the Modesto Bee, Denham told a group of local leaders: “The Senate bill won’t get a vote in the House, and it’s something that could have helped this community.  I am frustrated. I thought we’d get this done before the August work period. I think the Senate made tremendous progress. It was done bipartisan and I thought that would be enough to get the House moving forward.”  Fortunately, Denham is in a strong position to influence his own leadership—Kevin McCarthy, John Boener, Eric Cantor, and the like—to schedule the vote when they come back to DC.  There’s a bipartisan majority in the House that’s ready to support a path to citizenship, and the only thing standing in our way is allowing it to come to a vote.
  • Following a successful series of events to kick off the August recess, advocates continue with events targeting House Republican leaders as well as key members of the rank-and-file.  According to the Los Angeles Times recap of the “Countdown to Citizenship:” “They laid out plans for a busy month of protests targeting California Republicans who are home this month during the August congressional recess.  Activists said they planned to visit the offices of every Republican member of Congress across the state and stage canvassing operations in many of their districts.  Bakersfield will be the center of many of the actions because it is home to Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the majority whip and the third-most powerful Republican in the House. On Sunday, 11 immigrants will start a 285-mile protest walk from Sacramento to McCarthy’s office in Bakersfield.  On Aug. 14  thousands of activists from around the state will meet there for a rally.”  The Cleveland Plain Dealer notes of a rally in Cleveland that featured SEIU international secretary-treasurer Eliseo Medina noting the importance of making noise in Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) home state:  “We have to make sure Ohioans get ahold of him and say: ‘Allow the vote; and let the chips fall where they may.’”  The article highlights that an “Immigration Road Show would include 360 events during August.  Some, like the Cleveland stop – which about 200 people attended – focused the base of supporters.  Other events would focus on making sure members of Congress support immigration reform.” Other coverage of local developments includes coverage of events and activities in Colorado and in Arizona in support of reform.

For a recording of today’s call, click here.

To keep tabs on Republican House Members who have come out for a path to citizenship, follow the America’s Voice blog here.