More than 200 people on Tuesday demonstrated in front of the state Republican Party headquarters in Burbank to demand that the U.S. House of Representatives take up a package of immigration reform measures recently passed in the Senate.
"The ball is in their court, they can fail to have this debate, or they can consider it," said Angelica Salas, chairwoman for the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, or CHIRLA. "What this country deserves and this community deserves are options."
The demonstration, organized by CHIRLA, came on the heels of a special conference on immigration planned by House Republicans for Wednesday.
Immigration reform advocates are pushing Republicans, who control the House, to take up the immigration reform bill that was hammered out by a bipartisan coalition in the Senate, known as the "gang of eight."
That bill, which passed the Senate on a 68-32 vote two weeks ago, includes a 13-year path to citizenship for immigrants here without legal status — something opposed by many Republican representatives. But some Republicans say they are hoping other provisions in the bill — such as bolstered border security — will entice rank-and-file members.
Salas said that the protest in Burbank was accompanied by protests at four local Republican Party offices throughout California.
Demonstrators held up signs that read "Road to Extinction or Road to Citizenship," noting Republicans are distinctly in the minority in California, and can't afford to block comprehensive immigration reform.
Horacio Arroyo, who came to the United States from Mexico in 1992, said he knows many immigrants who would vote Republican but for the party's stance on immigration.
"We're trying to show the Republicans' priorities need to include immigrant families to have a chance to survive in California," he said at the protest. "We've seen a lot of leadership in the past from Republicans…[Immigrants] aren't just on the liberal spectrum."
When organizers attempted to deliver letters and petitions to the GOP office, the door was locked and there was no response from inside the building.
An office staffer who answered the phone about an hour later declined to comment.
Later in the afternoon, California Republican Party spokesman Mark Standriff said in a statement that immigration reform is being debated by Congress in Washington, D.C., and activists should focus their protests there.
"This group should be contacting the Congressmen directly involved and able to vote on any proposed legislation," Standriff said in the statement. "Protesting outside a nearly empty office building may generate press coverage, but it will not influence the debate going on in Washington, D.C."