Week Ending April 5
In this week’s edition of “This Week in Immigration Reform,” we feature our NCLR Affiliates in California who made sure their voices were heard at a town hall with Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.) Our Affiliates in Arkansas, Idaho, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, and Wisconsin were also busy sending letters to their members of Congress to lead on immigration reform. In the Keystone State of Pennsylvania, one Affiliate executive director asked his Senator and Representative to address reform at a business roundtable. The NCLR Action Fund has also joined the fight. This week, it also held eight tele-town halls attended by nearly 38,000 Latino voters. During the town hall, listeners were urged to contact their members of Congress and press for reform with a roadmap to citizenship. In national news, Rep. Don Young, (R-Alaska), faced a storm of criticism from GOP leadership after using the slur “wetback” recently, the AP dropped the use of “illegal immigrant,” and the Senate Gang of Eight comes even closer to reaching a finalized proposal after business and labor come to an agreement on worker visas.
- NCLR Affiliates in Action
- Rep. Don Young Faces Strong Backlash From Fellow Republicans for Using the Derogatory Term “Wetback”
- AP Drops “Illegal Immigrant”
- Business and Labor Reach a Major Deal on Worker Visas
NCLR Affiliates in Action: NCLR affiliate organizations across the country continued to turn up the dial on immigration reform this week, taking advantage of their members of Congress being at home during the second week of Easter Recess.
In California, NCLR Affiliates El Concilio and PIQE attended a town hall hosted by California Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.) in Modesto, Calif. on April 10. The event was packed full of people, most all of whom spoke in favor of immigration reform including a roadmap to citizenship. Of particular note was the presence of Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) the Chairman of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security. Rep. Gowdy, invited by Rep. Denham to speak about the Subcommittee’s efforts on immigration reform, talked about his desire to do reform the right way so that the problems caused by our current broken system do not continue to trouble the country in the years ahead.
Leaders of NCLR Affiliates in Arkansas, Idaho, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, and Wisconsin sent letters to their members of Congress this past week, collectively thanking those members who have stepped up as leaders in the fight for immigration reform while also encouraging those lawmakers who have yet to speak out for reform with citizenship to take leadership on the issue.
In the letters, Affiliate leaders urge their members of Congress to pass immigration reform including a roadmap to citizenship, explaining the importance of reform to their state and communities and noting how reform with citizenship would greatly benefit their state’s economy and tax revenues.
Affiliate leaders Margarita Solorzano, of the Hispanic Women’s Organization of Arkansas, and Rev. Max Rodas, of the Nueva Luz Urban Resource Center in Cleveland, hand-delivered the signed letters to the staffs of their respective Senators Pryor (D-Ark.) and Portman (R-Ohio).
The Rev. Max Rodas (first on the left), Executive Director of NCLR Affiliate Nueva Luz Urban Resource Center, meeting on April 5 with Senator Rob Portman’s office in Cleveland, Ohio, as part of an interfaith immigration reform coalition. Rev. Rodas delivered the NCLR Ohio Affiliate Network’s letter, urging Senator Portman to step up and lead on immigration reform, to Sen. Portman’s staff. (photo: Rev. Max Rodas)
In Pennsylvania Michael Toledo, executive director of NCLR Affiliate the Daniel Torres Hispanic Center, raised the issue of immigration reform at a meeting of Latino business leaders and Pennsylvania lawmakers. Toledo asked Senator Pat Toomey (R-Penn.) and Rep. Joseph Pitts (R-Penn.) how they planned to address the need for immigration reform. Sen. Toomey observed the country needs to create legal avenues through which immigrants who want to come and work in America can enter, while Rep. Pitts suggested establishing a new temporary worker program where participants could ultimately pursue citizenship.
Finally, as part of its Easter Recess push to encourage champions of immigration reform to continue leading on reform with a roadmap to citizenship, the NCLR Action Fund conducted several tele-town halls during the Recess, speaking to nearly 38,000 registered Latino voters in regions throughout Texas, California, Florida, and Nevada. Together with Affiliate and partner leaders such as Elke Cumming of YWCA El Paso, Esther Reyes of the Austin Immigrant Rights Coalition, Juan Sousa-Rodriguez of the Florida Immigrant Coalition, and Richard Garza of the Houston Gateway Academy, the NCLR Action Fund reminded Latino voters of the urgency of gearing up to fight for immigration reform as a bill draws near in April.
• Rep. Don Young Faces Strong Backlash From Fellow Republicans for Using the Derogatory Term “Wetback”: After describing the Latino workers who labored on his father’s California farm as “wetbacks,” Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) faced a storm of criticism from leaders within his own party. Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) released a statement saying that such “slurs” “do nothing to elevate our party,” and Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) characterize Young’s words as “offensive and beneath the dignity of the office he holds.” Among other Republicans, Young also drew the criticism of Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.).
Since the Latino electorate unequivocally exercised its power this past November, the GOP has been working to increase its appeal among Latino voters, whether by embracing immigration reform or by spending $10 million on outreach to Latino, black, and Asian-American voters. That top Republicans were quick to condemn Rep. Young’s comments reaffirms that the GOP recognizes the significance of the Latino electorate and will not tolerate bigoted actions from its members that threaten the party’s electoral future.
Young apologized a day after his comments, describing the term as one that ought to be left in the past, saying that he was sorry that he had “shifted our focus away from comprehensive immigration reform,” and calling on Congress to address immigration reform.
• AP Drops “Illegal Immigrant”: The Associated Press dropped the term “illegal immigrant” from its Stylebook on Tuesday, April 2nd, with Senior Vice President and Executive Editor Kathleen Carroll explaining that the word “illegal” should only be used to describe an action, and never an individual. As the most widely-used stylebook in the country, the AP’s decision is already making waves – for one, causing the New York Times to reconsider its use of “illegal immigrant.”
• Business and Labor Reach a Major Deal on Worker Visas: Members of the Gang of Eight hailed a March 29 agreement between leaders of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO as a major step toward finalizing their own bi-partisan plan for immigration reform, with Senator Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) telling NBC that within the small group, “[e]very major policy issue has been resolved.” In past immigration reform efforts, disagreements between business and labor surfaced as perhaps the biggest stumbling blocks in the path of achieving reform. Now, with labor and business in agreement on the creation of a new “W Visa,” and the Gang of Eight ready to move forward with their proposal,