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Bipartisanship. It is so rare in today’s toxic political environment that some may not remember what it is or how it’s supposed to work. But I, for one, haven’t lost hope that it can exist; indeed, it must re-emerge as the force that pushes Congress to pass common-sense immigration reform this year.
I offer this opinion from a unique perspective. I’m a media consultant who’s had the honor of working on the past four presidential elections, producing ads for the Republican side in pursuit of the Hispanic vote. I’ve also worked on causes such as immigration reform.
By the way, I’m also one of those consultants who doesn’t talk much about how we do media campaigns. I’m a firm believer that one is hired to promote the candidate or the issue, not myself. But my recent work on immigration compels me to offer my dos centavos.
Even before the Senate’s historic bipartisan vote earlier this year for immigration reform with a path to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants, I was very hopeful that we were on a path to enactment. I also knew we would need to encourage open-minded Republicans to join Democrats who have been championing common-sense reform because that would be the only way to get a bill through the House.
So I did something that would be a suicidal move during a general-election cycle for a Republican consultant: I joined forces with pro-immigration-reform groups whose grass-roots campaigns are often funded by labor — the same folks who hit Republicans very hard every election year. But hey! I am an immigrant — a naturalized citizen — and dedicated to the cause that requires bipartisan support, so I said, “Why not?”
Our first video under the “Time Is Now” banner was “Exercise Your Right,” which showed people exercising their fingers and lifting up telephones to show their political muscle and “exercise” their right to call Congress and demand citizenship. The video featured Benita Veliz, the DREAMer who gave an inspirational speech at the Democratic National Convention last year.
The next and most recent project for “Time Is Now” was paid for by the nonpartisan Mi Familia Vota Education Fund. It goes to the core of the bipartisanship that will be required to get immigration reform this year.
In the video, “R+D=C,” Reps. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas and Jeff Denham, R-Calif., acknowledge that they don’t usually agree on much, but they agree the “time is now” to pass immigration reform with a path to citizenship. They jointly urge the public to call their representatives in Washington and demand reform with a path to citizenship.
The message is solid and greatly needed. Especially in these times when politicians are willing to shut down the government to make a partisan political point, the immigration reform movement needs lawmakers to stay focused on the issue and not get lost in partisan battles.
Kudos to Rep. Denham, who had the courage to take the first step when we shot the bipartisan video and the greater step this past week by joining with the other side of the aisle for “a common-sense solution to our broken system.”
Denham’s message was loud and clear. “We can’t afford any more delays,” said the congressman, who represents a district that is 40 percent Latino. “We are a nation of immigrants, but today, our broken system has failed to secure the border, enforce our current laws and help us to attract the best and brightest who want to come and contribute to the greatness of America.”
Let’s get real. Republicans need to drag their party leaders to the table and force a House vote on immigration reform because an increasing number of them are representing districts with expanding immigrant populations. The electoral pressure to engage in immigration reform has never been greater for many in the GOP. I know it firsthand; I worked for Mitt Romney in 2012.
Democrats, meanwhile, cannot simply blame Republicans for not passing immigration reform. They have to try to work together because the Hispanic communities will not forgive them if they fail. After all, they and President Barack Obama ran their 2012 campaigns with the promise of winning immigration reform with a path to citizenship this year.
Here’s my bipartisan message: Both sides will get blamed if immigration legislation fails and both sides can share the credit if they succeed. It’s a win-win!
Don’t worry about succeeding and losing a political issue to fight over in the 2014 elections. As the current government crisis shows, you have plenty of other areas of disagreement. On immigration, give bipartisanship a chance.
The time is now!
César Martínez is president of MAS Consulting, a public affairs firm that does media strategy for Republican candidates.