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Group members have also worked closely with the bipartisan “gang of eight” senators, who are expected to unveil an immigration bill in the coming weeks. Gutierrez and Becerra were among some half-dozen leading CHC members who met with Obama to discuss immigration in February. The caucus, which consists of mostly of House members but includes Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., released a list of principles in November that leads with a path to citizenship for the nation’s 11 million undocumented immigrants.
The caucus is “focused on getting to a solution and not on making this a political weapon,” said Clarissa Martinez, the National Council of LaRaza’s director of civic engagement and immigration. Gutierrez has applauded recent calls by the Republican National Committee and Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., for GOP action on immigration.
Gutierrez is scheduled to speak April 22 at joint appearance in Chicago with House Budget Chairman Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis. The event “sold out in the first 12 minutes that tickets were on sale,” he told reporters at a recent Christian Science Monitor Breakfast. A longtime advocate of immigration changes, Gutierrez has been traveling the country to rally grass-roots support for an overhaul at packed events in California, Florida, New Jersey, Texas and elsewhere, many of them with fellow caucus members.
“It wasn’t just about showing up on Election Day, but we are in the thick of things day in and day out,” Martinez said. “And we need to continue that pressure.”
The immigration debate has sparked massive demonstrations and lobbying by labor, Latino, civil rights religious and other organizers, including protests in Senate hallways last week by activists pressing for a bill. Their next event will be an April 10 rally and demonstration on the Capitol’s West Lawn.
Lobbying expenditures and fundraisers by interests backing an overhaul, from technology industry heavyweights such as Microsoft Corp. to trade groups such as the Associated Builders & Contractors, have also intensified. The number of clients lobbying on immigration reached 355 last year, the highest level since 2008, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Private sector companies with a stake in the issue have hosted a flurry of recent fundraisers for lawmakers playing an influential role in the debate, according to the Sunlight Foundation. These included a March 15 breakfast for Becerra at the National Democratic Club, and a “Spring Kick Off Reception” for BOLD PAC hosted by Comcast that was attended by all but a half-dozen or so members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.