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Immigration Reform “Office Hours” Turns to the House

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GOP Conference Meeting, Sec. Janet Napolitano’s Resignation, Latino Influence on 2014 Congressional Races, Future Latino Voters are Up for Grabs 

Today, America’s Voice Education Fund alongside other immigration advocates and policy experts held the eighteenth in a series of weekly “Office Hours” press briefings.  Moderated by Frank Sharry, Executive Director at America’s Voice Education Fund, today’s call featured Matt Barreto, Associate Professor, Political Science, University of Washington and Principal, Latino Decisions; Simon Rosenberg, President, NDN and the New Policy Institute; and Carlos Rojas, New England Representative to the United We Dream National Coordinating Committee.

During today’s call speakers discussed the closed door House Republican meeting, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano’s recent resignation announcement and what this means for immigration reform going forward. Also during the call, speakers gave a quick overview of actions that took place on Capitol Hill and across the country this week to put pressure on the House to bring an immigration reform bill with a path to citizenship up for a vote; and Latino Decisions’ most recent analysis of future Latino voters’ party ID and how immigration will affect Congressional Races in 2014.

In response to Secretary Napolitano’s resignation, Simon Rosenberg, President NDN/New Policy Institute, said:

The departure of Secretary Napolitano will provide the Obama Administration an opportunity to reacquaint the American people with their very successful management of the complex US-Mexican border.  The Napolitano track record has been a strong one – net migration of unauthorized immigrants is zero today, crime has plummeted all along the US side of the border, while trade with Mexico has almost doubled in just four years.   It is essential the Administration uses this transition to confront the big GOP lie about the US-Mexican border, and demonstrate that the government has in fact made things far safer and better today throughout the border region.

In addition to Napolitano’s resignation, a closed-door House Republican meeting on immigration this week was key in the immigration debate in the House.  Coming away from the meeting, some of the most important takeaways are that Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) wants the House to act on immigration this year, and a growing number of Republicans are grappling with the question of what to do with the 11 million undocumented immigrants in our country today. And as a new analysis from Latino Decisions highlights, how House Republicans position themselves on this very issue will determine the Party’s prospects not only nationally but regionally as well.

Said Matt Barreto, Associate Professor, Political Science, University of Washington and Principal, Latino Decisions:

Recent Latino Decisions’ analysis identified 24 GOP-held House districts where Latinos will make a difference in the 2014 midterm elections and beyond. Current and future Latino voters are paying attention to the immigration debate and this will shape how they vote. Our analysis of future Latino voters shows that contrary to conventional wisdom, future Latino voters are not Democrats in waiting; they have a very low level of party ID and haven’t made up their minds, which leaves the door open for the GOP. The Republican Party stands to gain significantly from helping to pass immigration reform, but they also stand to lose if they don’t. if Republicans don’t get serious about immigration reform this year, it’s not only the Party’s chances at winning the White House that are in peril, but it’s the Party’s ability to keep their majority in the House that’s at risk too. [See the latest analysis from Latino Decisions here.]

In addition to the politics behind the immigration debate, this week saw a series of events and rallies from a vibrant and ever-growing pro-immigration reform movement, signaling to House Republicans what’s at stake if reform fails in the House. Said Carlos Rojas, New England Representative to the United We Dream National Coordinating Committee:

This week United We Dream organized over 500 DREAMers, uncles, aunts, mothers, fathers and siblings who came to DC to demand a solution to immigration reform.  We organized Hill visits, study-ins for the citizenship test, and with the Capitol as our backdrop, hundreds of DREAMers pledged their allegiance in a mock citizenship ceremony.  Everyone shared their very clear demand for citizenship without roadblocks, an end to deportations and the right to reunite for families. Right now, the ball is in the House’s court.  They can be on the right side of history and on the side of the majority of Americans that support a path to citizenship, or they can be on the side of the obstructionists like Rep. Steve King (R-IA) and ultimately threaten the Party’s political viability.  If the GOP wants to win the White House again, this is the year they need to deliver.

Republicans can still make inroads with Latino voters and the only thing standing in their way is scheduling a vote on commonsense immigration reform. As Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice, said:

Coming out of such a busy week for immigration one thing is clear, House Republican leadership understand that they have to act.  Speaker John Boehner knows that inaction would come with a high price tag.  Although the specific path remains uncertain, we are confident that there will be a vote in the House on reform that includes a path to citizenship.  To get there, the immigration reform movement will continue ratcheting up the pressure on House Republicans – from the right, left and center.