WASHINGTON -- With prospects of comprehensive immigration reform dependent on the House of Representatives moving a bill, advocates of reform have scattered across the country to put pressure on lawmakers. The results have been mixed, local news reports suggests.
Organizing for Action, the nonprofit policy advocacy arm formed to push President Barack Obama's agenda, gathered only eight people to rally outside of the Merillville office of Rep. Pete Visclosky (D-Ind.) on Monday to push the congressman to support reform. The congressman was not actually in his office at the time.
Visclosky has opposed a pathway to citizenship in the past and voted against the DREAM Act in 2010, according to Project Vote Smart, making him a prime Democratic target for OFA. Visclosky's office could not be reached for comment about the representative's current stance on immigration reform.
OFA started its immigration campaign a few months ago with the promise that it could place substantial grassroots pressure behind reform. The nonprofit group has an estimated 13 million-member email list — including scores of potential on-the-ground volunteers.
But while it failed to turn out major numbers in Merillville, Ind., OFA and others had more success elsewhere.
OFA members in southeast Tennessee made a slightly better showing, with 20 people coming out to rally in celebration of the Senate passing an immigration bill. And OFA organized 25 people to rally outside House Speaker John Boehner's (R-Ohio) West Chester Township office Monday.
A speech by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) drew hundreds to a rally in support of immigration reform in Las Vegas on Monday.
After the Senate passed a comprehensive immigration reform bill on June 27 by a margin of 68-32, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) indicated that the House would apply some breaks to process. Rather than up the Senate bill, Boehner pledged to pass a House measure. Boehner also said that he will invoke the Hastert Rule, which requires the majority of the majority to support a bill before it comes up for a vote in the House.
And so, the challenge now facing reform advocates is getting Republican-run House to act. And the tactic most often used is to put enough pressure on lawmakers back home.
Other groups also took Monday to hold rallies and protests surrounding immigration reform while members returned to their districts for the weeklong July recess. Two progressive groups in Colorado rallied at the office of Rep. Scott Tipton (R-Colo.) to show their support for a pathway to citizenship.
Tea Party groups in South Carolina protested Sen. Lindsey Graham's (R-S.C.) vote for the immigration reform bill on Monday.
OFA sent out an email to supporters on Tuesday highlighting some of the rallies it held in support of immigration. The email spotlighted about 10 events, most more popular than the one in Indiana. They included several rallies at the Boehner's district offices where dozens of people rallied, an event in Reno, Nev., attended by a "handful" of people, and one at the Des Moines office of Rep. Tom Latham's (R-Iowa) where a dozen people rallied for immigration reform.
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"Gang Of Eight"
A <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/28/immigration-reform-framework_n_2566494.html?1359387491">bipartisan group of senators</a> have come together to address the issue of immigration reform. The group consists of four members of each party -- Democratic Sens. Chuck Schumer of New York, Dick Durbin of Illinois, Bob Menendez of New Jersey and Michael Bennet of Colorado, plus Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Marco Rubio of Florida, John McCain of Arizona and Jeff Flake of Arizona. Their framework was announced Monday.
Pathway To Citizenship
A <a href="http://www.docstoc.com/docs/142894316/Bipartisan-immigration-plan">"tough but fair" </a> road to citizenship is the main tenet of the bipartisan immigrant plan. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) is the most significant supporter of this idea, giving hope to those who doubt Republicans will support the plan.
The New Process
The new process of obtaining citizenship would be just that -- a process. Probationary citizens would be required to pass an additional background check, learn English, pay taxes and show that they have a history of employment to apply for permanent residence and a green card. Undocumented immigrants will receive green cards after all probationary citizens have been processed, ensuring that documented immigrants are addressed first. Separate processes would be designed for young undocumented immigrants who came to the US as children and agricultural workers.
Enforcement, Then Green Cards
The first goal, before any green cards are handed out, is to "demonstrate our commitment to securing our borders and combating visa overstays," the senators say in their framework.
Enhance Border Security And Drones
Emphasizing enforcement measures, the framework calls for increased boarder control, including more border agents and aerial surveillance and drones. A new system would be added to ensure visa stays are being adhered to, along with a commission of border lawmakers to aid legislation.
Increase Employment Verification
The senators have proposed to create an "effective employment verification system" that would help prevent identity theft while allowing employers to feel secure in hiring documented immigrants.
No Benefits For Probationary Immigrants
Immigrants who are in the probationary category would not be eligible for federal benefits in the senators' framework. This addresses the concern that public benefits, particularly health-related ones, are being spent on undocumented immigrants.
An Easier Path For 'The Best And Brightest'
The framework recognizes that a different sort of process would be needed for "the best and brightest," including highly-skilled workers and those with higher education. This has been previously addressed in the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/28/stem-act-white-house-immigration_n_2207279.html">STEM Act </a> which was ultimately vetoed by the White House.