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Office Hours: Week in Review

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office hoursOne Year After DACA–The Biggest Pro-Immigration Policy Change in Decades–Pro-Immigration Movement Continues to Sizzle, While Anti-Immigrant Rallies Fizzle

A year after the biggest pro-immigration policy change in decades – the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival program for DREAMers (DACA) – went into effect, the immigration reform movement continues to fight for a comprehensive solution that will bring 11 million people out of the shadows.

With a series of events drawing thousands across the country, the pro-reform movement emerged from the second week of August recess with momentum and power.  By contrast, a poorly attended “anti-amnesty” rally in Richmond, VA this week underscored the larger problems facing the diminishing and increasingly irrelevant anti-immigrant movement and its shrinking nativist base.

As has become increasingly clear in the immigration debate of 2013, this time around, the anti-immigrant movement is loud but not large.  In a head-to-head matchup of organized rallies, the pro-reform movement continues to dominate in turnout, breadth and support.

Today, in a conference call with reporters, immigration reform leaders discussed this week’s events and the upcoming plans to keep turning up the heat on GOP Members of Congress to support immigration reform with a path to citizenship, and to help put pressure on GOP leadership to bring up a vote on the House floor. Moderated by Lynn Tramonte, Deputy Director at America’s Voice, today’s call featured Xiomara Corpeno, Director of Organizing, CHIRLA; Marisol Montoya, Mi Familia Vota Nevada State Director; and Adam Luna, Director at Own the Dream Campaign.

Said Xiomara Corpeno, Director of Organizing, CHIRLA:

 June 15th and August 15th of 2012 were proof that years of civic engagement and community mobilizations lead to policy change. DACA has helped the larger public put a face to undocumented immigrants and understand the importance of having legal status. This is an exciting summer, thanks to DACA last year and the 2012 elections we’ve been able to build a lot of power and have the conversation with our Members of Congress really shift. Since March, we’ve been working with our campaign full force.  We’ve been able to meet with Republicans and have an open conversation and dialogue.  Now we’re working on Kevin McCarthy and we’ve been able to meet and send constituents to his office every week.  When his office learned about our caravan and thousands coming to his district this week, they granted us a meeting the Friday before.  While he didn’t say everything we wanted, he did seem open to the path to citizenship and we’re going to keep pressing him until he fully commits.  We’re not just on his radar.  We have his attention.

Lynn Tramonte, Deputy Director, America’s Voice said:

The pro-immigrant side is on the rise and we have the wind at our back.  Where did the change come from?  It came from the ground up into Washington.  It came from immigrants themselves and from allies.  It came from DACA, which shattered the conventional wisdom about immigration reform.  After a sustained pressure campaign, President Obama did something good for immigrants and the sky didn’t fall in.  In fact it helped him win the election, and usher in a new understanding about the politics of immigration that remains true today.  I’m sure everyone saw the comments from Reince Preibus yesterday, saying that self-deportation hurts the GOP.  That’s great, I’m glad he’s saying stuff like that.  But we need to see the change in Congress.  We need to see a vote on immigration reform and citizenship scheduled in the House.  It would pass, because of the work we’re doing, because of all the people coming out for it.  It would pass, we just need a vote.

Marisol Montoya, Mi Familia Vota Nevada State Director said:

Mi Familia Vota and our partners are mobilizing for fair and just laws that solve our immigration crisis, put all 11 million undocumented Americans on the path to citizenship, and move us forward as a country. We want our leaders in Washington to lead.

Said Adam Luna, Director of Own the Dream Campaign:

One year in, we can definitively say that the deferred action program has been a success with over half of the immediately eligible applicant pool having already applied.  Now, with new field teams on the ground and technology breakthroughs like the Pocket DACA app, we’re going after the rest and laying the groundwork to implement broader immigration reform when we win it.

As we celebrate the year anniversary of the implementation of DACA, the pro-reform movement continues to dominate August recess and Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) should take note:

  • Rising Tide of Support for Reform Continues Over August Recess: Pro-reform events from coast-to-coast drew support far and wide this week.  A rally in Bakersfield, CA drew thousands to House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy’s (R-CA) district where faith leaders, local officials, DREAMers, and advocates from the right, left and center joined forces to urge the Congressman to tell Speaker Boehner to schedule a vote on citizenship.  This message was further underscored by events in Nevada, North Carolina, Arizona, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Minnesota and many other states where activists ramped up the pressure on key Republican House targets to get behind citizenship for the 11 million Americans-in-waiting.  As Bakersfield’s Republican mayor, Harvey Hall, said at the McCarthy rally, “Immigration reform is important to my community. It’s important to the immigrants in my community. It’s about making life better for everybody.”  Based on the turnout and enthusiasm alone, we can safely assume that this sentiment was shared by many.
  • More Voices Call for a Vote on Immigration:  As an Arizona Daily Sun editorial aptly notes, “It takes just 218 votes to pass a bill, and there are already 195 Democrats in favor. We’d be surprised if there aren’t at least 40 or 50 Republicans in the House willing to support reform. It’s time they got a chance to vote on it.”  They’re right.  As we’ve said for weeks, there’s an existing bipartisan majority in the House that supports reform.  That includes a growing list of 23 Republicans have gone on the record to voice their support for citizenship.  Rep. Jeff Denham (R-CA) told reporters yesterday, “I want to make sure that we’re addressing all aspects and having a full debate in front of the American people…I think part of the challenge is we’re talking about bits and pieces and not allowing the full debate to happen where people can engage in the overall discussion.”  If Speaker Boehner fails to heed the advice of his own caucus members, he and his Party will have to suffer the consequences.  As Scott Reed, Senior Political Strategist at the US Chamber of Commerce warned, “If Republicans don’t pass immigration reform, it’ll be a black cloud that’ll follow the party around through the next presidential election and possibly through the decade.”
  • RNC Chair Denounces GOP’s Extremist Past but Is Speaker Boehner Listening? In comments reported by Business Insider, Republican National Committee (RNC) Chairman Reince Priebus condemned Mitt Romney’s 2012 immigration approach, stating, “Using the word ‘self-deportation’ — it’s a horrific comment to make…I don’t think it has anything to do with our party.  When someone makes those comments, obviously, it hurts us.”  Priebus’s comments offered a stinging rebuke to leading anti-immigrant figures such as Mark Krikorian of the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), whose policy vision of “attrition through enforcement” has held sway over Republican immigration policy in recent years (from the Romney campaign to the 2012 RNC platform).  Moreover, Preibus’s comments are also a good reminder of the political resonance of the immigration issue in the 2012 election – a critical storyline during this week’s one-year anniversary of the DREAMer relief DACA program going into effect.  As America’s Voice noted yesterday, the DACA announcement served as a turning point in the presidential race and helped to generate near-universal consensus in the aftermath of the election that the Republican Party would have to evolve and pass immigration reform.  One year later, that consensus has been unraveling in the face of dedicated revisionist history, from anti-immigrant extremist Rep. Steve King (R-IA), and due to House Republican leadership’s strategy to slow-walk a vote on immigration reform with a path to citizenship – a vote that a bipartisan majority in the House would pass, if given the opportunity to vote.

One year and over 400,000 accepted DACA applications later, it’s no surprise that Steve King missed its importance, but it is a surprise that Speaker Boehner and his fellow Republican House leaders continue to let him dictate their immigration actions.  In fact, the only major vote on immigration policy in the House of Representatives this year has been on an amendment sponsored by Steve King that would defund the Deferred Action program and subject DREAMers and others to deportation.  The choice before Boehner is clear: either save the GOP from the likes of Steve King or rehabilitate your Party’s standing with Latino voters by scheduling a vote on reform with citizenship and do the right thing for the country.

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.