Posted on December 11, 2013

Tough Tactics on Immigration Reform

Seung Min Kim, Politico, December 9, 2013

Immigration reform advocates have tried being polite. They’ve staged acts of civil disobedience and warned Republicans the party will pay at the ballot box if they drag their feet on an overhaul.

But none of that has worked — so now, immigration activists are in all-out harassment mode.

In recent weeks, advocates have taken a decidedly sharper, more aggressive turn in their efforts to pressure lawmakers — primarily Republicans — on an immigration overhaul that would create a pathway to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants in the country.

They stormed House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s (R-Va.) condo in Arlington, Va. They delivered reams of letters to House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and dozens of other House Republicans from children of immigrant families. They’ve confronted Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) during breakfast at his favorite Capitol Hill diner and prayed on the doorsteps of his suburban Cincinnati home.

But, so far, the in-your-face strategy isn’t working. After the Senate passed the most comprehensive immigration overhaul in a generation in June, the effort has stalled. And the tough tactics are turning off key House GOP lawmakers whose support will be vital if legislation is to clear Congress.

“They’ve killed reform. It’s over. It’s dead. They killed it,” said Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), who favors immigration reform. “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?”

Backers of an immigration overhaul aren’t apologizing.

“They are refusing to move on reform; thousands of families every week are broken apart because of the failure to move,” said Kica Matos, a spokeswoman for the Fair Immigration Reform Movement, a coalition behind much of the strategy. “We are determined to see reform passed. So give us reform and we’ll go away.”

The latest example of the escalation in tactics came Monday, when advocates crammed into a small room in the Rayburn House Office Building, and young children came forward to tell stories of how the nation’s immigration laws have separated their families and caused emotional hardship.

For their finale, the children did a skit featuring Boehner as the “Grinch,” the Dr. Seuss character that has become a symbol for ruining holiday cheer. In their version, “Grinch Boehner” was standing in the way of uniting families.

“Mr. Boehner thought he’d done it, that he’d crushed all their spirits. That they’d no longer bother him, that he wouldn’t have to hear it,” the narrator said. “But the people were angry, and their love was too strong. They came back even stronger, they knew he was wrong.”

Then the young children proceeded to the offices of several House Republicans with letter-filled boxes that read: “Children’s Holiday Wishes” with a bright red “Denied” stamp.{snip}


At last week’s Capitol Christmas Tree lighting ceremony, dozens of children sang to the tune of “Jingle Bells”: “Speaker Sir, Speaker Sir, Don’t you let us down! Deportations hurt this nation, act for families now!” Two days later, activists camped outside Boehner’s personal office and sang, “We pray for Speaker Boehner” to the tune of “We Wish You a Merry Christmas,” according to a video posted by the group.


Dozens of activists engaged in a loud protest late one Wednesday night, in the condo lobby where Cantor, the No. 2 House Republican, lives, according to a report in the Washington Examiner. And a 9-year-old girl named Liz Marquez tried to confront Cantor as he was quickly making his way to the House chamber last week, according to a video posted by FIRM.