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Immigration Reform “Office Hours” Week Four

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CO DREAM Bipartisan Win; SC Business Leaders Weigh In;  Republican Women Step Up; Republicans at CPAC Miss Mark 

Today, America’s Voice Education Fund and fellow immigration experts held the fourth in a series of weekly press briefings, or “Immigration Reform “Office Hours.”  Each week, a different and diverse group of speakers will share the latest information on the players, politics, legislation and other developments coming down the pipeline as the debate in Congress moves forward.

Moderated by Frank Sharry, Executive Director at America’s Voice Education Fund, the call featured Tim King, Chief Communications Officer, Sojourners; Olivia Mendoza, Executive Director, Colorado Latino Forum; and Simon Rosenberg, President, NDN.  Speakers discussed the new politics of immigration, Republican Party politicians’ struggles to define themselves with Latinos, and continued signs that the Party is changing.  From the news that some Republicans worked with Democrats to pass the Colorado in-state tuition bill last week, to the new campaign of business and faith leaders supporting Sen. Lindsey Graham’s (R-SC) leadership on immigration reform and the National Federation of Republican Women’s unanimous resolution urging leaders to offer a pathway to legalization for immigrants, more and more Republicans are stepping forward on behalf of commonsense immigration reform.

Olivia Mendoza, Executive Director, Colorado Latino Forum, explained “We have been fighting to pass the ASSET bill for 10 years, and never in any of the years previous to this one did it garner anywhere near the same amount of Republican support we saw just last week.  The environment was so toxic and the conversation around access to higher education was deeply entrenched in this contentious debate around immigration.  The shift this year was so phenomenal because state legislators finally paused and saw how this issue was impacting the Latino community.  Republicans, in particular, finally realized that they need to institute good immigration policy because that’s what is impacting the Latino community and it’s the Latino community that’s impacting Republicans at the polls.”

“Church leaders have been talking about these national demographic shifts for years– a lot of church leaders have been having these conversations about what the changing demographics look like for their ministries and congregations.  This past June, about 100 different evangelical leaders released a joint set of principles for immigration reform, and this goes back to the fact that in churches across the country you have a lot of white church goers who are now sharing their pew with the immigrant community.  You can’t grab a few verses from the bible and hand it over to a Congressional committee, but there’s no doubt that these verses are changing politics,” said Tim King, Chief Communications Officer, Sojourners

Still, there are still struggles and tension within the party. The Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) is in full swing this week,  and all eyes are on Republican leaders speaking about immigration reform and whether they will enable the remaking of the Republican Party brand among Latino voters, or continue to counsel the party into extinction.

“Events of the past few weeks suggests that Republicans could end up in a place this year where they are pro-immigration reform but still firmly anti-Latino,” said Simon Rosenberg, President of NDN, a think tank in Washington, DC.  “An agenda of overly arduous or no citizenship, reduction of family visas, stripping 10 million Latinos of health insurance, cutting funding to public schools and tax policies geared to the wealthy at the expense of working people is not going to be effective at winning over Latino voters in this or any year.  If the political goal, as spelled out by John McCain, is to win over Latinos, the Congressional GOP has an awful lot of work to do.”

Just a year ago anti-immigrant voices like Kris Kobach were front and center at CPAC, this year they’re nowhere to be found – except for the occasional sad tweet and Breitbart’s shadow session with “The Uninvited.”  Still, yesterday’s CPAC immigration panel, “Respecting Families and the Rule of Law: A Lasting Immigration Policy” showed that the Republican Party still has some outliers who continue to push for same-old, same-old policies on immigration.  While the panel was mainly in favor of some sort of reform that includes legal status for the 11 million, there was not a clear consensus on citizenship.  Clearly, those in attendance weren’t paying attention last week when Jeb Bush took a drubbing for flip-flopping on the issue, and was forced to flop back to the reasonable center in embrace of citizenship.  After all, citizenship truly is the mainstream position—at least among voters.

Frank Sharry, Executive Director, America’s Voice said, “There’s a tremendous struggle within the Republican Party to define themselves with Latinos and within a few months the GOP will face a moment of truth.  Will most vote for reform and return the party to the salad days of George W. Bush, who won a large share of swing Latino voters, or will they oppose reform and deepen their brand as anti-Latino and anti-immigrant?  Let’s hope – for the sake of immigration reform, a healthy two-party system and a democracy that responds to a diversifying America – that they choose to shed their current brand and re-define themselves with the fastest growing group of voters in America.”



America’s Voice Education Fund — Harnessing the power of American voices and American values to win common sense immigration reform