GOP state lawmakers prod Congress to act on immigration

Immigrant rights advocates rally in Fullerton in support of comprehensive immigration reform. GOP state lawmakers sent a letter Thursday to California Republicans in Congress urging action on immigration this year.
(Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times)

SACRAMENTO -- Republicans in the state Capitol have a message for their counterparts representing California in Congress: It’s time to act quickly on comprehensive immigration reform.

Fifteen GOP senators and assemblymembers have signed a letter to Republican members of the state’s congressional delegation, urging them to encourage House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) to vote on immigration by the end of the year.


The letter “shows there’s a growing solidarity among Republicans to support action on immigration reform and to put this issue behind us as a state and as a nation once and for all. And to do so this year,” Assemblyman Jeff Gorell (R-Camarillo) said.

“This solidarity, we’re hopeful, will give them the extra support that they need and are looking for to take action and take action now,” Gorell said.

The U.S. Senate passed an immigration overhaul bill earlier this year, but the effort has stalled in the House of Representatives. Advocates for reform have put particular pressure on California Republicans, who are divided on the measure.

At a news conference Thursday, GOP state lawmakers gathered with representatives from various industries to voice support for the Senate package, which includes a pathway to citizenship for people now in the country illegally.

Sen. Anthony Cannella (R-Ceres) acknowledged the support for immigration reform is a change of philosophy for California Republicans. He said the new tack may pose a challenge for the party once known for backing Proposition 187, which restricted access to public services for people in the country illegally.

“You cannot erase 20 years of ignoring an issue with a year or few months of getting on the right side,” Cannella said. “So we’ve got many years to build back the trust.”

Republicans have not wholly embraced the immigration measures moving through the state Legislature, however. Many of them opposed the Trust Act, an anti-deportation measure that passed this week, as well as a bill that would allow noncitizens to serve on juries. Both bills, AB 4 and AB 1401, now await the governor’s signature.

“A lot of these measures would be rendered moot if Congress would’ve acted. We wouldn’t see so many of these issues that are really the state Legislature’s effort to backfill where the federal government has failed,” Gorell said.

In the future, he said, “we hope not to be put in the position to have to make these decisions on immigration, which is a federal issue.”


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Twitter: @melmason