By Ione Barrows, Community Organizing Intern
The Republicans in the House of Representatives are receiving pressure from constituents and donors to pass immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship. The month of August will be important for urging Republican legislators to take action.
Last week, Congressman Steve King (R-Iowa) drew criticism from both sides of the aisle after his hateful comment about the children of undocumented immigrants. Bigotry is never welcome news, especially coming from our political leadership. But this incident has a silver lining: King’s remark highlights an increasing distance between rank-and-file Republicans and anti-immigration extremists. The latter continue to bluster, but it has become clear their position is far from ubiquitous in Congress. Speaker John Boehner denounced King’s remark: “What he said does not reflect the values of the American people of the Republican Party,” he said in a statement on Wednesday.
At the beginning of June, when Illinois Representative Peter Roskam joked that passing CIR in the House was “a pipe dream,” the Republican party seemed unified in their resolve to block immigration reform. But lately more conservatives are understanding the vast economic benefits of an immigration system overhaul. For example, Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI) has just come out in support of immigration reform. In an interview with the National Journal, Ryan made the case for immigration reform for economic reasons: “We want to go toward an immigration system where we’re bringing people into the country to contribute and to pay taxes, start businesses, and work. That is good for economic growth…Most Republicans agree that legal immigration…is good for the economy and good for the country.” This is an unexpected show of support coming from a Congressman who has historically been more focused on national debt than issues like immigration reform.
Further, on Tuesday, a group of major GOP donors wrote a letter to House Republicans urging them to support an overhaul to the immigration system. The letter explicitly supports a path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants who are living in this country already.
The letter signals a shift in the mainstream Republican stance on immigration reform – and it encourages lawmakers to get on board. One of the signers, Frank VanderSloot, said “I think most Republicans are on board with a path…They’re O.K. with [undocumented immigrants] having a path to citizenship, but not having an advantage over those who have been waiting in line for a long time legally.”
Slowly but surely, Republican Congressmen are summoning up the courage to defy their party’s traditional anti-immigration stance. Conservatives are beginning to publically recognize that the current immigration system is broken, and that we are in desperate need of reform. CIR can provide a much-needed jump start to our economy, keep families together, and even mend the Republican Party’s reputation among Latino voters.
Whether their stated motivation is economic or ethical, our representatives must work towards CIR this summer – and it’s our job to hold them accountable.
Want to get involved? Contact Rabbi Ali Abrams, JCUA’s Director of Organizing.