Complaints that immigration reform activists are harassing Republicans by sending children to confront House Speaker John Boehner at breakfast or singing protest songs at the Capitol tree lighting drew a sharp rebuke from Latino leaders Tuesday.
“I understand it can be a little painful to be face-to-face with the consequences of your inaction and that’s what we are bringing to the doorstep of Congress and to their offices at the district level,” said Clarissa Martinez-De-Castro, an immigration expert at the National Council of La Raza.
She said the tactics pale in comparison to a father not coming home after a shift, a child not seeing his mom or a U.S. citizen losing her breadwinner spouse and not knowing how she’ll make ends meet.
“If bringing those stories to the doorstep of Congress is harassment, then we are happy to do it,” Martinez De Castro said.
Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., told Politico the activists had killed reform. “It’s over. It’s dead. They killed it,” he told Politico. “I begged them not to do crazy things and they decided to be crazy. Now it’s dead. That’s what they get. It’s stupid. Why target the people who actually want to do reform?”
Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., said for the article that the efforts by those who staged a fast on the National Mall were helpful, but of other protests, he said, “Yeah, that’s not helpful.”
Brent Wilkes executive director of League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), said groups have had well over 80 visits with House members and have been discussing immigration reform since the 2012 election ended. But he said the only way anything ever passes in this Congress is with dialogue and public protests.
Republicans turned down invitations to meet with people staging fasts on the National Mall for immigration reform, said Ben Monterroso, national executive director of Mi Familia Vota.
Hector Sanchez, executive director of the National Hispanic Leadership Fund, said the tactics used by the protesters are basic elements of democracy and civic participation used by such leaders as Nelson Mandela.
The Latino leaders had gathered for a news conference at the Capitol, despite the snowy morning, to announce that they were issuing scorecards on Congress and individual members assessing their performance on immigration reform for the 2014 elections. The scorecards will be distributed to Latino voters and will be part of the collective groups’ mid-term election efforts.
“They’ve been deporting our community and we are going to vote to deport them out of office,” Monterroso said.