Yesterday’s pro-immigration reform rally on the National Mall drew over 10,000 people and was concluded by the arrest of over 200 activists and eight Members of Congress in an act of civil disobedience. The events helped to underscore the urgent need for House Republican leadership to take concrete action to ensure that the House of Representatives has votes on immigration reform this year. As the New York Times reported, several “House Republicans — including Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, both of Florida, and Jeff Denham and David Valadao, both of California — appeared at the rally to call for bipartisan efforts to pass an immigration overhaul.”
For the pro-reform House Republicans who appeared at the rally, as well as the other members of the club of 26 Republicans who have publicly said they support immigration reform with a path to citizenship, it’s time to translate their pro-reform views and statements into real action. They should join as co-sponsors as HR 15 – a comprehensive immigration reform bill with a path to citizenship that is comprised entirely of provisions that have attracted votes from both Democrats and Republicans in the past – or they should come forward very soon with a serious proposal on how Republicans would provide a path to initial legal status and eventual citizenship for the 11 million undocumented settled in America. Doing either would ratchet up the pressure on Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) and other GOP House leaders to stop delaying and to start delivering a vote on reform this year.
According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice:
Lending support at rallies and delivering speeches are important measures of support, but only if followed and complemented by taking real action and expending real political capital.
The stakes for the GOP are high. The longer that House Republicans delays, the greater the danger for the Republican Party’s brand image among Latino voters. Recent analysis from ABC/Univision titled, “GOP Hispanic Outreach Stalls,” noted that:
Hispanic voters appear as alienated by the GOP as ever…amid the fight over immigration reform, Hispanics have become increasingly negative toward the GOP. Almost two-thirds of Hispanics say they feel closer to the Democratic Party than they have in the past, while less than three in ten say the same about the Republican Party, according to a recent poll by the non-profit Public Religion Research Institute. Almost half of the opinions Hispanics volunteered about the GOP were negative, while only one in ten were positive.
Moreover, the longer immigration reform is on hold in the House, the greater the likelihood that the shrill and anti-immigrant Rep. Steve King (R-IA) wing of the Party will define the GOP to Latino voters. Just this week, the nation’s leading Spanish-language daily newspaper, La Opinión, featured a front page article from Pilar Marrero titled “Immigration Reform’s 8 Worst Enemies.” Those making the list are all House Republicans: Representatives Steve King (R-IA), Lou Barletta (R-PA), Dana Rorabacher (R-CA), Louie Gohmert (R-TX), James Sensenbrenner (R-WI), Mo Brooks (R-AL), Lamar Smith (R-TX), and Michelle Bachmann (R- MN). Univisión’s nightly newscast, which reaches millions of Latinos in America, lifted up the analysis and the profiles. Ouch.
At a time when the only thing standing in the way of reform is a vote in the House, these GOP modernizers need to seize the opportunity to define their party. Members have Congress have the unique capability to sponsor bills, write legislation and make votes happen. It’s time for pro-reform Republicans to turn their words of support into actions that deliver real reform and a different direction and image for their Party.