Outside Washington, the momentum and energy continues to build in favor of immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship. California just enacted a historic driver’s license bill; rallies, roundtables and visits are happening in key districts; and hard-hitting pieces are being written by editorialist and columnists alike. All of these are signs the pro-reform movement remains alive and well and that the pressure on House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) to schedule a vote this year continues to mount.
Despite the process excuses and beltway skepticism, here’s a few reasons why the House can’t hide from tackling the immigration issue:
- As President Obama and Senator Menendez Highlight, the Votes in the House Exist: Said President Obama to George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s “This Week” in reference to the Senate immigration bill: “If Speaker Boehner put that bill on the floor of the House of Representatives right now, it would pass. It would pass.” And as Senator Bob Mendez (D-NJ) told Univisión host Jorge Ramos on Sunday’s “Al Punto,” (as translated by America’s Voice): “There is no excuse, whether it’s Syria, the budget or the deficit, should be an excuse for the Speaker of the House to not allow at least one vote on immigration reform. I’m convinced, and yesterday I met with my colleagues from the Hispanic Caucus, the Hispanic members of the House, that if the Speaker of the House allows a vote on immigration reform, including the same law that passed the Senate, that law could pass today. What the Speaker of the House needs to decide is that he won’t allow a minority of the Republican Party keep him in a way where he won’t be able to bring this bill to a vote on the floor. He needs to resist that minority dictating for the majority.”
- Passage of California’s Driver’s License Bill Highlights Need for Federal Action: Last week, the California state legislature took a significant step forward by passing a state driver’s license bill that would allow undocumented immigrants to apply for driver’s licenses and purchase car insurance, a measure that will ease the lives of millions trying to provide for their families, and will make the streets safer for all. But as many noted, this bill is no substitute for real reform at the federal level. As California Governor Jerry Brown said, “Hopefully it will send a message to Washington that immigration reform is long past due.” And as a series of state editorials and columnists highlighted, the journey isn’t truly complete until the Congress acts. As Sacramento Bee columnist, Marcos Brenton, noted, “It’s absurd that it’s even come to this. But in the absence of federal immigration reform conferring legal status on workers that California needs, granting driver’s licenses to the undocumented is a nod by California legislators toward economic reality and human decency.”
- Series of In-State Editorials and Columns Pressure House to Act: Any Member of Congress who thought they could duck and dodge the immigration debate outside the beltway were stopped dead in their tracks over the weekend. A slew of editorials and local voices from Texas, Illinois, Connecticut, Michigan, Mississippi and Ohio ramped up the pressure on House Members to take a leadership role in passing immigration reform or get blamed for blocking it. As Mississippi Press columnist, Sid Salter, noted, “Tough immigration talk in Mississippi may well continue to be a winner in state politics, but Republicans will find the lack of immigration reform that contains a path to citizenship a tough sell in the next presidential election – and the Census numbers suggestion that degree of difficulty will be one that grow.” And as a Waco Tribune editorial highlighted, “Some lawmakers are already insisting that Syrian intrigue may preclude action on immigration in 2013. And nothing will happen in 2014, an election year. This is absurd given the amount of hard work already done and Republican leaders’ own vow at the start of 2013 to pass immigration reform if nothing else. If [Reps.] Flores, Carter and others in our Congress fail to pass these reforms this year, Republicans need to quit lambasting Obama for breaking his own pledge to tackle immigration in his first term because they will have done no better.”
- In-State Rallies and Events Press House Members on Immigration: Despite the end of August recess, pro-reform advocates are keeping up the immigration drumbeat back at home with rallies and events in several key GOP districts. A rally in North Carolina that drew over one thousand people, brought to light what’s at stake for millions of families in Republican districts across the country. As WTVD-TV reported, “The mayor of Durham, a North Carolina lawmaker, and two U.S. congressmen from North Carolina were among those in the crowd all in support of immigration reform. Also among them was a 24-year-old man who faces deportation without their help… ‘My family is here, I barely have any memories of my childhood in Mexico, and I don’t have much family there anymore,’ said Hernandez…He was able to talk to Congressmen Butterfield and Price and told ABC11 they both promised him they would look into his case.” This sentiment was further echoed in a letter issued by Florida’s College Presidents who highlighted the urgency to make reform a reality. And at an immigration roundtable in Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) district, Racine Mayor John Dickert issued this strong statement to the House on immigration: “As a mayor, and all the mayors around the country, I’m going to guarantee you that they’ll tell you one thing: Get it done.”
According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice:
Before the August recess, the conventional wisdom was that the anti-immigrant crowd would kill off reform by mobilizing against it, but the pro-reform movement proved throughout the summer we are bigger and stronger. Now the conventional wisdom is that the pressure of other issues and divisions within the GOP will doom immigration reform this fall. We look forward to once again defying the groupthink and compelling the House to take action this year that will lead to immigration reform being enacted this Congress.