Undeterred by the government shutdown, immigration reform activists took to Capitol Hill today, telling lawmakers to end the shutdown and get to the business of the people, including passing a comprehensive immigration bill. Groups are calling for a national day of action on Oct. 5, in addition to today's lobbying efforts. The League of United Latin American Citizens, LULAC, organized its members to meet with congressional representatives - both Republicans and Democrats - delivering letters signed by a coalition of groups including immigrant rights, religious and labor organizations. The letters outline their demands to fix the broken immigration system.
Tweeting with the hashtag #ACTober, @LULAC reported some of the responses they got from representatives. Among these, Rep. Raul Grijalva from Arizona said, "Most important domestic issue is #ImmigrationReform. It would pass if on the floor. Democracy must continue."
Grijalva was referring to Speaker John Boehner's refusal to bring a comprehensive immigration bill to the floor of the House. The Republican speaker is following a right-wing procedure, named after former Speaker Dennis Hastert, R.-Ill., called the Hastert Rule, which means a bill doesn't come to the floor unless the majority of the Republicans in the House agree to it, regardless of whether the bill would pass the full House. With the 200 Democrats and a minority of moderate Republicans, immigration reform would get the needed 218 votes. So would the Continuing Resolution, the funding mechanism that the Republicans refuse to pass without defunding the Affordable Care Act, which has caused the current government shutdown.
Iowa LULAC State Director Joe Henry said they would deliver a letter to Iowa Rep. Steve King. King is known as a notorious conservative who vehemently opposes immigration reform. In their letter, which calls for "commonsense immigration reform," the Iowa Network for Immigration Reform Now says polls show Iowans want "commonsense solutions from Congress, including a roadmap to citizenship for immigrants who aspire to be citizens."
The letter points to the state's aging demographic and the growth of the Latino population, which makes up 39 percent of new families moving into rural areas. The letter says that Iowa "being a welcoming state is not and cannot be a thing of the past."
The coalition also challenges the "enforcement only" approach to immigration. Calling it a "failure," the groups point to a tenfold increase in the border enforcement budget while "unauthorized immigration" has tripled. The criminalization of immigration has forced undocumented workers to stay here and bring their families, the letter says.
Economic benefits from providing legalization include $5.4 billion in tax revenue, the letter states, according to a report at immigrationpolicy.org.
For more information on participating in the National Day of Action for Immigration Reform, Roadmap to Citizenship, go to AFL-CIO Now.
Photo: Activists hold an immigration reform rally in Washington, D.C. Jacquelyn Martin/AP