Immigration Reformers Crash GOP Senators’ Offices

Posted September 15, 2010 at 12:16pm

Updated: 4 p.m.

Immigration reform advocates staged a surprise “pray-in” in the offices of five key Republican Senators on Wednesday afternoon to try to reignite some of their past support for reforms.

Faith leaders hit the offices of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) and Sens. John McCain (Ariz.), Lindsey Graham (S.C.), Orrin Hatch (Utah) and George LeMieux (Fla.) at 1:30 p.m. Each Senator was singled out for a specific reason: LeMieux and Hatch are viewed as possible supporters of the DREAM Act, while Graham and McCain have previously supported comprehensive immigration reform.

As for McConnell, the reasoning is more about “respect” and reminding him that “Republicans are not engaging,” said Jeff Parcher, director of communications for the Center for Community Change.

The “pray-in” involved faith leaders going to each of the Senators’ offices and asking for a meeting to discuss immigration reform. “Presumably, they will not get it,” Parcher said, so the advocates then got down on the floor and prayed for them to support reform.

The purpose is to “help create an environment where Republicans are directly challenged before the elections,” said Chung-Wha Hong, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition. Advocates hoped to send the message: “We’re not dismissing you. We’re praying for you to do the right thing,” she said.

Grass-roots advocates were also scheduled to meet with Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) at 2 p.m. to discuss how to shore up support from moderate Democrats and Republicans on the issue.

All of the activities are part of immigration reform advocates’ newly unveiled three-point plan: press for immediate passage of the DREAM Act, rally behind immigration reform legislation that Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) is planning to introduce this work period, and press President Barack Obama to provide “administrative relief” by easing up on Bush-era deportation policies. Menendez and leaders of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus are scheduled to meet with Obama on Thursday to discuss how to move immigration reform forward. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) announced Tuesday that he would add the DREAM Act to the defense authorization bill.

“The news is that we’re going from no bill to a bill,” Hong said of Menendez’s announcement on Wednesday that he will file a bill, which will be based largely on the immigration reform blueprint crafted earlier this year by Schumer and Graham.

“We’re not going to be held hostage” to GOP obstructionism, she said. “We’re going to move forward.”