August recess will be no vacation for House members hoping to escape from the pressure of the looming battle over immigration reform. With a Senate bill passed and House Speaker John Boehner planning a vote on some form of immigration legislation before the end of the year, the five-week August break presents the last chance for activists on both sides of the issue to sway undecided or undeclared lawmakers to their way of thinking.
Add to that the potential for televised town-hall freakouts reminiscent of the health-care protests in August 2009, and all involved know this August is make or break for the future of immigration policy for the next 20 years.
At the center of the five-week lobbying and influence effort are 37 House Republicans whose districts are more than 20 percent Latino, including Reps. Darrell Issa, Buck McKeon, Steve Pearce, and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy.
McCarthy’s district, in the agriculture-heavy Central Valley of California, is 35.5 percent Latino, leading advocates to believe he could not only vote with them but also bring others along.
“We think he’s open to persuasion, but he’s not going to just open his doors and say, ‘Welcome, everybody, I’ve changed my mind,” said Jorge Mario Cabrera of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles.
“We’re going to have to be there and show up in strong numbers and make an appeal directly to him.”
“Showing up” for Cabrera and his group means driving a 1,100-car caravan past McCarthy’s Bakersfield office on Aug. 15 to press the whip to vote for comprehensive reform. Like CHIRLA, a large pro-reform coalition is planning more than 350 events around the country over the recess targeting House Republicans they see as potential yes votes—the 37 Latino-heavy GOP districts as well as those in swing districts, like Reps. Mike Coffman in Coloradoand Joe Heck in Nevada.
In addition to sending members to town hall meetings, the coalition is planning rallies, neighborhood canvassing, Spanish language social media ads, and earned and paid media to push individual House members to hold a vote on immigration reform.
“We are working to create the space for what I call the ‘coalition of the willing,’” said Clarissa Martínez-De-Castro from the National Council of La Raza, another member of the coalition. “We will be in the districts, helping people perform brain surgery so that they can see the light when they get back.”
Eliseo Medina, secretary-treasurer of the Service Employees International Union, said August will be part of “a long, hot summer” for members of the House. “Speaker Boehner and the Republicans in the House are in for a big surprise because we are ready to welcome them when they come home,” he said. “We will be pounding the drums for reform.”
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