Immigration reform activists, eager to win the summer recess messaging war, have been tracking down Republicans at public and private events to push for legislation that provides a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million people living here illegally.
The goal is to pressure GOP leaders to bring a bill to the House floor that includes legalization and a pathway to citizenship for the nation’s 11 million people living here illegally.
“This is going to be the immigration reform summer,” said Raquel Terán, an immigration reform activist from Arizona who is now affiliated with the Alliance for Citizenship.
This week’s big targets are Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, who earlier this year abandoned a bipartisan House group drafting a comprehensive immigration reform bill, and House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.
Pro-citizenship activists plan to confront Labrador at a town hall meeting scheduled in his district on August 14 in Meridian.
The event is being coordinated by the Idaho Community Action Network, an activist group.
“ICAN’s members’ goal is to send a strong message to Congressman Labrador that we want immigration reform with a path to citizenship that reunites families,” Fernando Mejia-Ledesma, an organizer, told the Washington Examiner. “We expect between 50 to 60 people.”
Also on Augusts 14, activists, with major help from pro-labor groups, plan to caravan from Los Angeles to McCarthy’s Bakersfield district, where they will hold a march to his district office.
“Let’s go to Bakersfield,” a flyer advertising the event, produced by the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO, reads. “We win there, we win everywhere!”
It’s a critical time in the immigration debate, with the fate of reform essentially resting with House Republican lawmakers. The GOP controls the House, and Republican lawmakers are resisting demands that they take up the Senate-passed immigration reform bill, which pairs additional border security with instant legalization and a pathway to citizenship.
But some of them, including Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., are open to a bill that provides legalization or eventual citizenship.
Pro-citizenship groups want to change more GOP minds in time for the critical fall months. That’s because if reform doesn’t get done by the end of the year, it will likely be abandoned as too politically dangerous as the 2014 election cycle begins to dominate Congress.
“These members of Congress need to feel the pressure and know how serious we are that we expect them to bring a vote on citizenship and fix our broken immigration system once and for all,” Terán said. “And it has to be done this year.”
The House leaders hold the key to whether a bill with a pathway to citizenship makes it to the floor for a vote.
Republican leaders have proposed a bill that would legalize people who were brought here illegally as children, but it does not address everyone else who came here illegally.
Terán said pro-citizenship groups have gone to “extreme measures,” to track down top lawmakers, sending an activist to confront Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., at an August 4 fundraiser in Scottsdale, Ariz., and giving “a warm welcome,” to House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, at a fundraiser in Harrisburg, Pa., on August 5.
Local news outlets reported a few dozen immigration reform activists were gathered outside the fundraiser Boehner attended.
Other lawmakers on the targeting list include Rep. Steve Pearce, R-Ariz.. An August 22 rally is planned in his border district. Pearce is opposed to providing a pathway to citizenship for illegals.
The Center for Community Change, an advocacy group for the poor, is organizing people to crash a town hall event the same day in Rep. Blake Farenthold’s Texas district, which borders Mexico. For activists, Farenthold is a sway-able target. He has said he supports “an earned pathway to legal status,” for people living here illegally.
On August 25, Congregations United for Neighborhood Action will hold a prayer vigil in the Allentown, PA district of Rep. Charlie Dent. Dent is one of a dwindling number of GOP moderates in the House whose support would be crucial if Boehner allowed a vote on a bill that included legalization or a pathway to citizenship.