Much of the immigration debate has taken place on Capitol Hill, but a group of immigration activists are looking to show average Americans that reform is important for them, too.
The Bridge Project aims to bridge the gap between parties, and connect Americans from across the political spectrum to push immigration reform. The group is kicking off a nationwide tour today called “Lets Talk: Immigration Reform” in California in an effort to bring the public into the debate.
“We want to talk to everyday Americans and get their sense of where they are at on immigration and demystify and correct any misconceived notions they may have,” says nationally renowned Dreamer Gaby Pacheco, Director of The Bridge Project, to NBC Latino. “We’re doing that because we feel that they are as important to the debate as community leaders and advocates.”
The tour will stop at 10 cities across the nation, where the group will hold listening sessions and invite members of the community to start a dialogue about and garner support for reform. Pacheco says she hopes to motivate people to support reform in any way possible.
“More than anything we want to show that this is an issue that affects more than the 11 million undocumented immigrants, but rather the 330 million people in our country,” she says.
The Bridge Project’s tour comes at a crucial time as legislators have left D.C. to go to their home towns for a five-week break. Just before lawmakers left, immigration reform had languished in Congress since the Senate passed its sweeping bill in June. The chamber is only in session for nine days in September, during which it will have to deal with spending bills to avoid a government shutdown.
The Project is not the only group that is stepping up its activism in August. In late July, Latino groups on different sides of the political aisle announced their groups’ intentions to keep the pressure on Congress while legislators leave D.C. to go to their home towns. The Alliance for Citizenship, an umbrella group composed of different organizations, held a press conference on their plans for what they are calling immigration reform summer.
“In August, Republicans will be hearing from their constituents, from business owners, from law enforcement, from clergy, from their voters and their campaign contributors that sensible immigration reform absolutely has to pass this year,” Illinois Democratic Congressman Luis Gutierrez said on the call.
Meanwhile, legislators have hinted at signs that the House may vote on reform measures come October. Paul Ryan, the House Budget Committee Chairman, hinted at an immigration timetable at a district town hall in his home state of Wisconsin. The former vice presidential candidate said that the House is tentatively scheduled to start voting on immigration bills in October.
Senator Chuck Schumer said he wouldn’t be opposed to a piecemeal approach by the House, as long as it provides a pathway to citizenship.