Immigration activists aren't taking a recess
Updated On: Aug 03 2013 01:42:22 PM CDT
From staging rallies to mounting a caravan through California to setting up phone banks to more private lobbying activists on all sides of the immigration issue are vowing a month of activities to try to push members of Congress and the public over immigration reform during the coming congressional recess.
A coalition called the Alliance for Citizenship, comprised of groups ranging from the AFL-CIO to the Service Employees International Union to La Raza and other Hispanic groups, will stage about 300 events across the country during August to push the House to also pass comprehensive immigration reform. It is calling its effort "Immigration Reform Summer."
"If our communities pull together in August and continue to press their representative, those stonewalling progress will have no choice but to let us fix our nation's broken immigration system and take a vote on comprehensive reform when we get back to DC," Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, said in a statement.
The coalition is sponsoring a caravan through California on Aug. 14 ending in Bakersfield, California, home of the third-ranking Republican in the House Rep. Kevin McCarthy. "This road to freedom...to citizenship...to equality goes through Bakersfield," reads one of its flyers promoting the event. Planners are hoping for thousands of activists to show up there for a rally and march to his office there.
Groups also are staging their own events trying to pressure members of Congress, including the AFL-CIO which will be holding phone banks and rallies and the National Education Association which will be sponsoring a day of action next week.
The advocacy group that pushes the president's agenda, Organizing for Action, on Monday will hold various community action events and visits to congressional offices to press for immigration reform.
The push will get a major public show of support next week when a group founded by leading business executives, including Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg and Microsoft's Bill Gates, host a screening of a film called "Documented." It highlights the journey of 1.4 million "Dreamers," who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children. Zuckerberg is going to speak at the event.
Democratic Senators Tom Harkin of Iowa and Dick Durbin of Illinois on Friday are holding a forum in the Iowa home district Republican Rep. Steve King - one of the staunchest opponents of immigration reform. The event is expected to include immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children.
One of the leading Democratic advocates in the House Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Illinois, is planning do a series of town halls during the recess to build support and may even do events with Republican members.
House Republicans, meanwhile, are being urged to focus on health care repeal and stopping government abuse while they are at home during the recess - and not emphasize immigration reform according to GOP aides. If members are asked about the immigration issue, they are being urged to talk about the "step by step" approach that leaders are taking.
Polls show a majority of Americans support the immigration bill passed by the Senate last month that included a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million in the U.S. illegally.
How much persuasion these efforts will carry is not clear because they will be focused on House Republicans and swaying them. These members are not natural allies of big labor and some of the other groups pushing for support of comprehensive reform. Organizers will focus on the number of union members in these districts and also emphasize how some of these districts have major Hispanic populations which could be crucial politically in coming elections.
Conservative groups opposed to comprehensive immigration reform will also try to use their influence to push lawmakers.
A prominent tea party group, Tea Party Nation, is gearing up to mobilize its members. "We are working on getting our activists out to town hall meetings and one-on-one meetings with their congressmen during the recess. Big rallies will do nothing to change Congress' mind on amnesty. The only thing that will change their minds is to hear it from the voters," Judson Phillips, the group's founder, told CNN. Tea Party Nation has about 80,000 members Phillips said.
The group NumbersUSA, which opposed the Senate bill, says it will be active throughout the recess, especially helping some of its two million members attend various town halls with Republican members of Congress. Its executive director, Roy Beck, told CNN he thinks more pressure is on the pro-reform forces to help move the issue. "For us it's more of a matter of making sure members of Congress...are hearing from the grassroots," Beck said.
Earlier this week the group held a teletown hall to help plan its activities during the recess, and Beck said almost 59,000 members participated. Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Alabama, a key opponent of the Senate measure, will be participating in public events, constituent meetings and local media interviews to argue there would be more pressure on the government if that bill became law because the amount of foreign workers who would be able to get visas to work in the U.S. would increase.
There is not a clear consensus on the conservative side regarding immigration. Some conservative groups support the idea in varying degrees. Also some conservative groups during the recess will be focusing their attention on Obamacare since opposing it is so popular with their supporters.
A lot of the activity will not be public.
The Chamber of Commerce, for example, says it will be engaging in about 60 events and meetings scheduled over the recess, but they will not be open to press coverage.
"We will have representatives of the business community across the country telling the story about why immigration reform is important from an economic and business perspective. In addition to hosting events and meetings with legislators and their staff, we will continue to engage our membership and activate our state and local chambers in the field to mobilize in support of continued progress in the House," Blair Latoff Holmes, senior director for communications for the Chamber, told CNN.
The Chamber has not ruled out running some ads during the recess.
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