Latino Leaders Wage Mobilization for Immigration Reform

By Raisa Camargo, Voxxi

Comprehensive immigration reform advocates including top national Latino organizations will be exerting pressure on Congress through a scorecard in an effort to overwhelm the opposition.

The strategy is being likened to Latino vote mobilization efforts that were credited with unprecedented support throughout the election. Organizers are fairly confident they will garner bipartisan support including switching some hardliners in the Republican party.

“This comprehensive immigration reform for the Latino community is personal,” said Maria Teresa Kumar of Voto Latino. “The fact that we came out in record numbers in 2012 was personal and that’s a calculation that members of Congress do not understand.”

It also comes at a turning point. The Latino electorate is already projected to double by 2030, according to the Pew Hispanic Center. As of right now, Latinos are 53 million or 17 percent of the U.S. population.

Momentum is building inside of Congress for immigration

Eight national Latino organizations who played a pivotal role in mobilizing Latino turnout will be engaged in the effort, which includes the National Council of La Raza, LULAC, the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, Voto Latino, the Hispanic Federation, Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, Mi Familia Vota and Service Employees International Union (SEIU).

NCLR president Janet Murguia said that they will keep track of Congress members in the coming weeks. That includes participating in various Hill visits to reach out to members in the Republican fold including key senators such as Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who is often signaled as a “natural” to court the Latino vote for his party.

Murguia said that they have already “sat down” with him and are looking for more consensus.

“I’m not trying to take away anything from Senator Marco Rubio, who I believe has a goal of wanting to see reform, but we may just disagree on the approach,” she said.

Rubio has publicly stated that he is not in favor of pursuing a full comprehensive reform package, he believes it’s easier to push for a set of “comprehensive” bills. Although some of his Republican colleagues including Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) have previously supported one sweeping immigration reform bill in the past.

Momentum is already building inside of the Senate. The so-called “Gang of eight” or eight senators who are beginning discussions on immigration reform are likely to become an influential force. Such senators include Sen. McCain, Sen. Lyndsey Graham (R-S.C.), Sen. Chuck Schumer (D – N.Y.) and Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) among others. Organizers indicated that they are working “closely” with them.

Murguia explained that this broad coalition will also be targeting those “20 percent” of freshman Congressional members.

Eliseo Medina of SEIU says it will be a “massive pro-immigration” movement

The White House is likely to play a pivotal role in their campaign for immigration reform as they collaborate with each other. Although, it is dubious whether the president will be rated on a score card.

“I don’t believe at the end of the day president Obama wants his legacy to be a failed effort around comprehensive immigration reform and I know he doesn’t want the take away after eight years in office to be the one thing we can say about him and immigration is that he deported the highest number of immigrants than any previous president in the history of our country,” she said.

The strategy resembles a multi-layered approach advocated in the election through social media engagement, online petitions, advertising and grassroots mobilization in areas where the Latino vote made a “huge difference.”

They will also be delivering the information on the score card district-by-district and state-by-state based on individual members of Congress. The report card is projected to be finished by the end of 2013. Until that time, there will be plenty of advocacy including in early March where NCLR is projecting they will bring 200 to 300 individuals or grassroots activists to Washington D.C.

“I think that beginning next year, you are going to see a massive pro-immigration reform campaign unlike any that has ever been waged in this country, so stay tuned, it’s going to be a doozy,” said Eliseo Medina, secretary treasurer of SEIU.

Center-right organizations and business stakeholders sign on to pursue immigration reform

Another part of the strategy is continuing voter registration and naturalizing more persons who are eligible. Still, the contention is likely to be getting more Republicans and Democrats to sign on. That’s part of the reason why momentum for immigration is building from different fronts including center-right organizations.

Jennifer Korn, president of the Hispanic Leadership Network, told VOXXI they have been joining with both conservative and liberal organizations to push for the “best way forward” on immigration reform. She said “it’s going to be a heavy lift.”

“We’ve already started working on the Hill,” said Korn. “After the New Year, we will all be in contact with each other on who we are meeting with, who are allies arewe will be releasing a blue print on immigration what our stance iswe hope that president Obama is going to work in a bipartisan way and that he and Senator Reid don’t try to push a huge bill that doesn’t have any Republican ideas in it.”

Part of the reason why immigration reform failed in previous years is also because not enough pressure was placed from business stake holders. That’s what makes this movement so distinct from previous years, explained LULAC executive director Brent Wilkes.

“Now, that this election is over that releases them from that strategy. There’s no sense in trying to damage Obama anymore. He’s the president for the rest of this term,” he said.

Wilkes added that they’ve been working with the Partnership for a New American Economy led by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg that includes such influencers as Microsoft and Bill Marriott. They’re hoping to gain support from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

“I think if we got some of those elements plus some of the conservative religious leaders together, I think we got by far a really strong coalition. I think it’s going to be hard for Congress to not do a bill,” he said.

This article was first published in Voxxi.

Raisa Camargo is a staff writer at Voxxi.

[Photo by SEIU Local 1]

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