Over the weekend, Thousands of Immigration Reform Supporters Appeal to House Leaders’ Sense of Justice
Below is the second article in the series, “Immigration Reform Summer,” by Gebe Martinez, Advisor to America’s Voice Education Fund. This article is available for reprint as long as the author is given proper attribution.
View the slideshow from this weekend
Across five states, in the home districts of House Speaker John Boehner and other key leaders of the GOP-controlled House, thousands of immigration advocates rallied and marched for a House vote for an immigration reform bill that includes a path to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants.
Capping off a week in which Republican leaders were forced to denounce the hateful comments of Rep. Steve King, R-IA, who claimed immigrants have “calves the size of cantaloupes” because they are drug smugglers, members of families trapped in the broken immigration system prayed that Congress justly resolve immigration because it is a moral imperative.
“People’s comments will make your blood boil, but in the past years I’ve learned something about Americans. We are good. We are compassionate. We love justice,” said Lana Heath de Martinez, at a rally in the Virginia district of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. She and her husband, an undocumented immigrant, and their child live in Richmond where she studies at Union Presbyterian Seminary.
“Don’t stop (contacting Congress) until you know that they have heard your voice and they will do what we are telling them to,” she added.
Another mother, Linda Cedillos, cited Bible verses upholding the sanctity of family and told of last seeing her husband, Humberto, 18 months ago when he was deported to Honduras. “I will fight for him until the day I die,” she said.
Key Republican leaders are hearing the public clamor for the House to vote for a path to citizenship. The question is whether they will muster the courage to produce sensible solutions and not yield to the noisy nativists who preach “self-deportation” and renounce the growing Latino electorate that cares about immigration.
Rep. Cathy McMorris-Rodgers, the fourth-ranking GOP leader whose Washington State district has a large population of farmworkers, acknowledges her party’s need to repair its image with all demographic groups. But her public immigration stance is still evolving. During the weekend, singers, artists, faith leaders, DREAMers rallied outside her district office and asked that she meet with immigration advocates in Washington.
One who already lost at the hands of the Latino electorate is Rep. Paul Ryan, R-WI, who was the GOP’s vice presidential nominee in 2012 when the ticket lost to President Obama.
Before his town hall at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Racine on Friday, Voces de la Frontera brought 200 people and held a prayer vigil before the start. Ryan promised a vote on a path to citizenship, but the proposal would be one of several separate bills -- not part of a comprehensive reform bill favored by advocates -- and the path to citizenship would take 15 years, two years longer than proposed by the Senate.
Not good enough, DREAMers in the audience suggested.
It gets worse among other leaders. Rep. Peter Roskam boasts of how Chicago area “legal” immigrants have strengthened the local economy, but opposes reforms sought by advocates, suggesting that eventually -- after strict enforcement measures are in place -- undocumented immigrants might have a chance to “get right with the law.” West Chicago constituents responded this weekend, as 1,500 people marched to his office to demand a real solution for their families.
Boehner, meanwhile, is being urged to lead his divided caucus and bring a path to citizenship to the House floor.
At City Hall in Springfield, OH, where Boehner has an office, Jeff Cook, a Cedarville University professor who teaches Bible and urban ministry urged the 500 gathered not to let history’s mistakes be repeated. "We don't want to be on the wrong side of history. We know looking back to the Civil Rights era there were a lot of people sitting on their hands, and we say 'Shame on them.’ We must act,” Cook implored.
Failure to act will have political consequences, as naturalized citizen, Luzmila Toussieng, warned in Richmond this weekend. “I vote(d) for Eric Cantor. Now, Eric Cantor, vote for us.”
For more on Speaker Boehner and Rep. Paul Ryan:
Cincinnati Enquirer (July 27, 2013): Rally presses Boehner on immigration WDTN-TV (July 27, 2013): Immigration reform activists descend on Boehner's office
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (July 27, 2013): Paul Ryan lays out immigration proposals in Racine town hall meeting
Politico (July 26, 2013): Immigration bill 2013: Immigration vote may wait until October, Paul Ryan says
View more from Immigration Reform Summer here