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As August Recess Begins, Pro-Reform Advocates Start Strong

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Supporters of Immigration Reform with a Path to Citizenship Make their Presence Felt

As Congress begins August recess, the pro-reform movement is making waves.

Matea Gold of the Washington Post writes:

Lawmakers hoping for a respite from Washington’s intense lobbying climate won’t get a break back home during the August recess.  Once a lull in the political calendar, August is now officially part of the high season… this month, the pressure is on.  At town hall meetings, lawmakers will face activists calling for a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants.

In a Sunday editorial, the New York Times put it this way:

An amazing array of determined advocates from all corners of the country has plunged into a month of protests, rallies, vigils, town-hall meetings, phone-calling and canvassing, focusing on Republicans in their home districts.  Their message is that comprehensive immigration reform deserves a vote in the House, and that any legislation must allow unauthorized immigrants to seek full equality as Americans.

National Journal headline put it succinctly:

“Immigration Supporters Plan to Turn Up the Heat on House.”

Here are some examples – from today’s news clips – of just how strongly the movement for immigration reform is making its breadth and depth felt:

More Republican House members, pressed by local constituents, announce support for reform:

  • Pushed by a coordinated effort led by Florida Immigrant Coalition and Mi Familia Vota, Rep. Daniel Webster (R-FL) stated his qualified support for citizenship in an interview with Orlando Sentinel.  He said, “We’re a nation of immigrants, there’s no question about that.  But we’re also a nation of laws.  I think we have to honor both of those.” 
  • Rep. Peter King (R-NY) returned to his district to be met at his office by a group of immigrant Long Islanders to thank him for supporting reform with a path to citizenship.  In response to the celebration, organized by Make the Road New York, Rep. King said, “I am appreciative of the warm welcome back to my district from my constituents, many of whom care deeply about immigration reform.  Our country needs common-sense immigration reform to fix our broken immigration system.  A complex problem requires a comprehensive solution, including strong border security and a path to citizenship.”
  • According to a report by NBC News,  Rep. Aaron Schock (R-IL) yesterday told a group of constituents organized by Illinois Peoples Action that he supports immigration reform and a path to citizenship.

Senator Schumer: Steve King helps prospects for reform:

  • What’s been the impact of Rep. Steve King’s (R-IA) recent inflammatory remarks about DREAMers having “calves the size of cantaloupes?”  In an interview with Sam Stein of the Huffington Post, Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) notes that King’s comments only serve to strengthen and solidify the momentum for reform.  He said, “The more he [Steve King] speaks, the more he helps us get a bill passed.  So I am more optimistic today than I have been since our bill passed.”

Mark Zuckerberg speaks out for broad immigration reform:

  • In his first public appearance speaking on a political issue, renowned Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg reaffirmed his strong commitment to comprehensive immigration reform.  At a premier screening of the film “Documented” – a documentary about Jose Antonio Vargas life growing up in America as an undocumented immigrant – Zuckerberg told the audience that immigration reform that includes visas for high tech workers and equal opportunities for the undocumented “is something that we believe is really important for the future of our country, and for us to do what’s right… These are issues that don’t just touch our part of the industry, but really touch a whole country.”

Evangelicals and other conservatives are speaking out for immigration reform:

  • Reverend Michael Walker, senior pastor of Church of the Reformation, pens a Washington Post “On Faith” blog, reminding Republicans what’s at stake if they fail to make reform with citizenship a reality: “Evangelical leaders deeply understand the life of undocumented immigrants, the suffering of immigrant families, and the harm that a broken and cruel immigration system perpetrates on our nation.  We also understand the political realities of Congress and the risks of courageous leadership.  But God’s work through the immigrant community has convinced us that evangelical Christians, together with our allies of all faiths, must advocate and hold U.S. representatives accountable if they do not take this opportunity to make the immigration system just and humane.  ‘We are announcing the Gospel that welcomes the stranger and we will denounce those that block immigration reform.’”
  • According to the National Journal, “National Immigration Forum Executive Director Ali Noorani says the pro-immigration conservative coalition Bibles, Badges, and Business has some 2,000 opinion leaders in many of the Republican districts that are on hand to go to town halls and ask members about the immigration.  That alone makes a difference for some members, who may decide after getting peppered with questions that they can’t ignore the issue.”

Supporters of reform rally across the country:

  • Advocates for reform with a path to citizenship held rallies to target a number of House Republicans.  The rallies were held at the Capitol in Harrisburg, Pennsylvannia, organized by a coalition including Keystone Progress, Pennsylvanians United for Immigration Reform, Center for Popular Democracy and Central PA Area Labor Federation; at the Capitol in Springfield, Illinois, organized by Organizing for Action; and in downtown Knoxville, Tennessee, organized by a loose coalition of immigrant workers groups, local employers and churches.

Even the right wing media is getting worried:

  • As an article on the right-wing website, Breitbart.com, makes clear, even the anti-immigrant crowd is getting their feathers ruffled over the early and overwhelming displays in support for immigration reform at August recess town halls.  As the headline notes about a town hall in Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee’s (D-TX) district, “Pro-amnesty forces rally at Houston town hall as opponents fail to appear.”  We’ll take that as a win.
  • Byron York of the Washington Examiner, who has been campaigning against immigration reform all year, seems downright pessimistic about whether the base will turn out this August in opposition to it.  He writes:

    “Immigration reform is the most important policy question facing Republican lawmakers as they begin their August break.  But it’s not the hottest topic in the GOP political world, not the one that dominates talk radio and the daily debate. That is the move to defund Obamacare.

    “With immigration, Republicans have the power to determine the outcome of reform legislation that has passed the Senate but still must make its way along a difficult path in the GOP-controlled House. Obamacare, on the other hand, is already law, and Republicans, without control of the Senate or White House, can’t do much to stop the flow of health care subsidies set to begin January 1, 2014.

    “So the question is, when GOP lawmakers are home in August, will they devote more attention to the issue they can control, or the one they can’t?

    “For the moment, it appears the answer is the one they can’t.”

According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director at America’s Voice:

Our movement is taking the fight for immigration reform to every corner of the country.  Advocates from the left, right and center are intent on surrounding House Republicans with some simple messages: immigration reform is an idea whose time has come, a proposal deserving of your support and an issue that deserves a vote in the House of Representatives where a bipartisan majority in support of it already exists.