Immigration overhaul advocates Friday warned that House Judiciary Committee Chairman Robert W. Goodlatte’s opposition to a path to citizenship could keep Republicans from winning Latino votes in upcoming elections.
“It’s crazy to us that Republicans would think that they could change their image among Latino voters by pursuing a second-class status for their family members and friends,” said Lynn Tramonte, deputy director for left-leaning immigration overhaul proponent America’s Voice Education Fund, on a conference call with reporters.
Tramonte noted that polls this week showed that a majority of Americans support her group’s position, including a poll by Bloomberg that showed 53 percent of Americans support a path to citizenship while 18 percent back a process toward legal status for illegal residents already in the country if certain conditions are met.
Goodlatte — whose committee has oversight over immigration policy — earlier this week told National Public Radio that “people have a pathway to citizenship right now — it’s to abide by the immigration laws. And if they have a family relationship, if they have a job skill that allows them to do that, they can obtain citizenship. But simply someone who broke the law, came here, say I’ll give you citizenship now — that I don’t think is going to happen.”
Advocates of an immigration overhaul have been critical of Republican opposition, mostly coming from the House, to a path to citizenship. They hope the GOP will ultimately be inclined to support comprehensive immigration overhaul given that Latinos are a growing voting block around the nation.
“I find it stunning, cynical and short-sighted,” said Andrea Zuniga DiBitetto, legislative representative for AFL-CIO, who was also on the call. “If there are any Republicans in the House whose goal it is to try to re-brand themselves and be Republican Party 2.0 with the Latino community, this is taking them way back.”
Hispanic voters played a significant role in helping re-elect President Barack Obama after being turned off by the harsh rhetoric used during the Republican presidential primary where prospective candidates moved to the right on the issue.
“The mandate that was delivered by the Latino vote was for a path to citizenship and bringing all the 11 million [undocumented citizens in the U.S.] out of the shadows,” said Angela Maria Kelley, vice president for immigration policy and advocacy, Center for American Progress Action Fund, who was also on the call.
In the Senate, a bipartisan group of eight Senators are working to write immigration legislation they hope to unveil next month. A markup in the Senate Judiciary Committee is expected soon after.
The group released a framework last month, including a path to citizenship that is expected to be contingent on certain factors including further securing the border, learning English and paying fines.
“It feels like in the Senate that they are more settled on question on citizenship,” Kelley said.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.