Immigration reform supporters continued to push for action this weekend, with both legislators and activists taking to the streets to further their cause.
Families gathered on Saturday to keep pressure on the House to support a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country. The families, who worked with the advocacy group the Fair Immigration Reform Movement (FIRM), protested in the home states of several key GOP leaders including Speaker Boehner of Ohio, and Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia.
“Our demand is simple,” said FIRM spokesperson Kica Matos. “Pass an immigration reform bill in the House by August 2 that one includes a path to citizenship and that two keeps families together.”
Meantime, some of the very leaders the families sought to pressure were traveling to other states to push reform forward- including Rep. Cantor.
Cantor was part of a bipartisan group of lawmakers who went on an immigration “pilgrimage” this weekend along with Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart and Rep. Joe Crowley. The group visited historically important immigration cites in the New York City area including Ellis Island and the Jewish Center of Jackson Heights in Queens.
“This trip will provide us with the opportunity to put politics aside and focus on the common link that we all share,” Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart said in a statement ahead of the trip.
The “Becoming America Pilgrimage” was sponsored by the Faith and Politics Institute, which highlights the growing role of evangelicals in the immigration reform effort.
The bipartisan support for reform this weekend is especially significant in the face of heightened tensions over a path to citizenship. Rep. Steve King’s incendiary remarks comparing Dreamers to drug mules caused backlash from many lawmakers- including those in his own party as the GOP struggles to appeal to Latino voters.
The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) released a new series of Spanish language web advertisements Sunday morning in seven Republican-held Congressional districts with large Latino populations. Eliseo Medina, SEIU Secretary-Treasurer says the ads are meant to call on Republican members of Congress to support reform and isolate extremist positions within the party.
“Latino communities need to know – do their Representatives stand on the side of extremist politicians like Steve King or will they stand with our community and support citizenship for immigrants,” Medina asked. “The Republicans have a choice to make – join the majority of Americans in supporting a commonsense solution to fixing our immigration system or continue down the path set forth by the extremists in their party that will further distance them from Latino voters.”
Al Cardenas, chair of the American Conservative Union and one of D.C.’s top lobbyists told Univision’s Al Punto on Sunday that the GOP cannot be the “party of no” to immigration. Angel Garcia, leader of the Young Republicans in Chicago, called for a Republican Party image facelift in an interview with the Associated Press.
“[W]e have to have a conversation on all these issues so we don’t leave Democrats to say we’re just old white men and racist, bigoted homophobes,” he said.
As some reform supporters continued their calls for action within U.S. territory, others took more drastic action.
A group of nine Dreamers attempted to cross the U.S.-Mexico Border through a legal port of entry in order to start a movement and send a message on immigration and the need for reform. After being detained in Nogales by U.S Customs and Border Protection officials since Monday evening, six of the nine young immigrants were place in solitary confinement on Friday.
“At first they refused food because of the phone access, and now they are refusing food until they are released. So that means Lizbeth Mateo, Claudia Amaro, Ceferino Santiago, Lulu Martinez, Marco Saavedra & Mario Felix are all now in solitary,” the National Immigrant Youth Alliance posted to their Facebook page Friday evening.
The young immigrants began a hunger strike to demand more flexible phone privileges and raise awareness for their plight behind bars. On Twitter the hashtags #Dream9 and #BringThemHome have gone viral as hundreds of people tweeted their support for the group.
The National Immigrant Youth Alliance has collected signatures from 22 members of Congress in a letter urging President Obama to grant the Dreamers humanitarian parole and bring them home. The letter campaign will continue throughout the weekend with an announcement on Monday of the legislators who support bringing the Dream 9 home.