WASHINGTON -- Immigration activists will hold rallies on Saturday in more than 160 cities aimed at boosting momentum for comprehensive reform that, for now, most House Republicans seem unwilling to consider.
The idea is to show that immigrants and their allies haven't forgotten about reform legislation and won't give up, even as a crowded calendar in Congress threatens to derail efforts there.
House Democrats introduced a bill this week based on two pieces of legislation: the comprehensive bill passed in the Senate 68-32 in June and a border security bill that passed with bipartisan support in the House Homeland Security Committee.
The House Democrats say their bill could pass if it went for a vote because nearly all their caucus would support it and some GOP members might, too. But House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has said he will not bring a comprehensive immigration bill to the floor if a majority of GOP members oppose it -- and that is the current state of affairs. A spokesman for Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), who controls the House calendar, said simply "no" when asked if there was a chance the House Democrats' bill would get a vote.
Reform supporters are hoping they can change Republicans' minds. After the pro-reform actions on Saturday, advocates are predicting thousands of people will gather on the National Mall in Washington on Tuesday to make another call for reform, including through civil disobedience near the Capitol that could lead to arrests. View a full list of the actions across the country on Saturday here.
Most of the events on Saturday will call for House Republicans to support comprehensive immigration reform that would allow undocumented immigrants to gain legal status and eventually be eligible for citizenship. But there's a separate movement as well: a call for President Barack Obama to halt deportations for the people who might be eligible for a path to citizenship, if it existed.
"It's not just about the Republicans, it's also about the Democrats," said Arturo Carmona, executive director of advocacy group Presente. "President Obama bears major responsibility for continuing to implement unjust deportation policies."
Obama has said repeatedly that he won't halt deportations by an executive action. "That's not an option," he told Telemundo's José Diaz-Balart last month.
NumbersUSA, a group working against comprehensive immigration reform, put out a statement pointing to its own actions in response to the planned rallies around the country.
“NumbersUSA is currently mobilizing our activists across the country to contact their members of Congress and demand an immigration policy that respects and dignifies all legal American workers -- whether foreign-born or U.S.-born -- instead of rewarding lawbreakers with lifetime work permits to compete against Americans," NumbersUSA President Roy Beck said.
Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), one of the most vocal supporters of immigration reform in the House, said Thursday that the Democrats' bill was in response to the "daily drumbeat" of fights for an end to the deportations of "long-term, peaceful, hardworking immigrants."
"Why have the Democrats put forward their bill right now?" he said at a press conference. "Because in 163 cities across the country this Saturday, there will be demonstrations and rallies and activities to demonstrate that the country, the community and the broad coalition is not only still hungry for immigration reform, the country not only still supports immigration reform by overwhelming majorities, but the country demands immigration reform that stops the deportations and keeps families together."
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