At a rally in Los Angeles on Tuesday a coalition of groups seeking to pressure the House of Representatives to act on an immigration overhaul put its message in terms politicians can understand: votes.
House Republicans who refuse to take up a Senate bill that would create a path to citizenship for most of the estimated 11 million immigrants in the country unlawfully “will be branded as anti-immigration and anti-Latino for a generation," warned Angelica Salas, director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles.
On the other hand, Salas said: “If [Republicans] work with Democrats to get it done, they could begin to regain their competitiveness among the fastest-growing group of voters in America.”
Salas and other activists spoke outside Los Angeles City Hall, where they laid out plans for a busy month of protests targeting California Republicans who are home this month during the August congressional recess.
Activists said they planned to visit the offices of every Republican member of Congress across the state and stage canvassing operations in many of their districts.
Bakersfield will be the center of many of the actions because it is home to Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the majority whip and the third-most powerful Republican in the House. On Sunday, 11 immigrants will start a 285-mile protest walk from Sacramento to McCarthy's office in Bakersfield. On Aug. 14 thousands of activists from around the state will meet there for a rally.
Similar campaigns are taking place in Republican congressional districts across the country, said Rep. Judy Chu (D-Monterey Park), who spoke at Tuesday's rally. “Members of Congress will not be able to avoid immigrants and their families during this August recess,” she said.
Maria Elena Durazo, head of the powerful Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, said lawmakers should not underestimate the electoral power of Latinos.
It was new Latino voters that helped turn California into a blue state after the 1994 passage of Proposition 187, a ballot measure that sought to deny public services to undocumented immigrants, she said. If the House refuses to take up the Senate bill, she said, “There will be consequences."
Republican leaders in the House have said they will not bring the Senate bill -- which passed with bipartisan support -- to a vote, opting instead to consider a series of small-scale immigration bills in the fall.
The Senate bill would allow most of the immigrants in the country unlawfully to apply for legal status after passing background checks and paying fines. It would also allow more foreign workers to enter the country for farm work and high-tech jobs.
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