U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez, a prominent Democratic Party voice in the U.S. House immigration reform process, is stepping into Republican Party territory on Monday thanks to an invite from local groups to continue the fight to change the status quo.
The Illinois congressman will take his reform message to Virginia -- first in the 10th District, which is represented by Republican Rep. Frank Wolf, and then on to Harrisonburg, which is represented by House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte. Both representatives were invited to attend but declined because of scheduling conflicts.
At the first event in Chantilly, Gutierrez will be part of a panel looking at the impact of immigration reform on women and girls in celebration of Women’s Equality Day. The Harrisonburg event is an immigration town hall meeting.
“These are areas with growing immigrant population and some members of the community are undocumented,” Shola Ajayi, advocacy specialist and elections specialist at the nonprofit Casa in Action, said. “So in terms of immigration reform these are residents that are reaching out to their congress people locally and also [in] D.C. to pass a comprehensive reform bill that protects families and make sure that these women have a means to stay with their children and also provide for them. Right now the actual representative from this district hasn’t taken a clear stance on immigration reform.”
Casa supports an all-encompassing reform bill that includes a path to citizenship, much like the Senate measure passed in June. It is unlikely though that Wolf would back such a plan; his website states that Wolf supports open and legal migration, he wants the borders secured, and the laws fully enforced.
“I opposed legislation in 1986 that granted amnesty to some immigra[nts],” the site read. “We have seen that the measure did not work to keep people from violating current immigration laws. The massive influx of illegal immigrants over the last two decades has shown that amnesty is not the solution and may, in fact, make the problem worse.”
The House has stalled on putting together a comprehensive immigration reform bill and its bipartisan Gang of Seven has missed every deadline it has set for itself in releasing legislation its members have been working on for years. At the same time, House Republicans have embarked on a piecemeal approach that is producing measures more focused on border security and interior enforcement.
These events are ripe opportunities for Gutierrez to make some headway because he can influence the narrative in those communities.
“Both Districts are examples of how the changing demographics of the country are changing the electorate, even in red and purple Districts,” Douglas Rivlin, Gutierrez’s director of communication, said. “And even in the reddest districts, support for immigration reform is very high among Republican voters, business-owners, faith voters, and Latinos and Asians.”
With budget and debt ceiling talks in Congress set to dominate much of the fall, immigration reform advocates say time is running out.
“Immigration reform is a crisis,” Ajayi said. “There are families being torn apart and there are people waiting for reform. So it is our hope that Congress would’ve had this time to listen to the people in their district and move to pass a legislation before the end of the 2013 session.”