Latino Groups Deliver ‘Report Card’ to Speaker of the House John Boehner, Staff Moves Suggest Hope for Progress

An allied group of Latino organizations issued the US House of Representatives an “Incomplete” grade for their refusal to act on legislation pertaining to immigration during the regular session and delivered that decision to US Representative and Speaker of the House John Boehner today.

The groups included the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA), the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), Mi Familia Vota Education Fund, NALEO Educational Fund, NCLR (National Council of La Raza) and Voto Latino. A corresponding letter sent to Rep. Boehner was signed by more than 200 Latino organizations.

The groups involved say they are serving notice that legislators are being given “report cards” that are going to be delivered to Hispanic communities across the country.

“Today’s progress report essentially means we are calling in the House leadership for a parent-teacher conference,” said Bertha Alisia Guerrero, Director of National Advocacy, Hispanic Federation. “The ‘caution mark’ means the House still has time to redeem itself on immigration, but needs to turn around their performance and show immediate progress in order for individual House members to make the grade with Latino voters and with the nation. In the short run, individual members can improve their standing by co-sponsoring H.R. 15 or signing a pledge stating their support for reform and publicly committing to move it forward, but the final grade will be based on whether reform is achieved.”

With the conversation on immigration reform running long, and actions taken toward resolution continually coming up short, patience is waning among Latino groups in the US.

“It is time to act,” said Hector Sanchez, Executive Director of the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement. “We know the votes exist in the House to get this done, and the time for obstruction is over. There is no way to avoid this issue because labor, faith and community groups are united, and we and our allies across the political spectrum are bringing the voice and action of our communities and constituents to the doorstep of Congress. Nobody is off the hook and even with a bill passed in the Senate, nobody is unfurling a ‘Mission Accomplished’ banner for any party or politician. The damage caused by our broken immigration system is too high-every single day-to keep wasting time on the road to reform.”

Boehner may not have needed the “report card” to understand that immigration is going to be a key issue moving forward. Washington-watchers have noted that a newly hired staffer at Boehner’s office suggests some hope for movement in the area of immigration reform. Her name is Becky Tallent and she was until recently the director of immigration policy at the Bipartisan Policy Center.

Tallent has been quite publicly outspoken on the issue. She advocates passing smaller parts of the immigration puzzle through congress that can be more easily digested by legislators who must then face the scrutiny of their particular constituents. She noted that the political ramifications for immigration reform can be quite different depending on the voting base of the individual politician..

“For the House to pass immigration reform, it needs an opportunity to work through its own process, moving smaller, piecemeal bills that members feel they have the opportunity to review and allow their constituents to vet,” Tallent said in an Op-Ed for the Christian Science Monitor in November. “Politically, members of the House are also facing a different dynamic in their districts than their Senate counterparts who run for state-wide office. The fact is that the majority of House members come from gerrymandered districts that make surviving their party primary the main obstacle for reelection.”

The Bipartisan Policy Center issued a joint statement on immigration reform in August 2013, though it did come with a disclaimer that the statement did not necessarily reflect the views of all its members.

The statement, titled Room for Consensus,” was a product of a task force chaired by politically diverse personalities Haley Barbour, Ed Rendell, Henry Cisneros and Condoleezza Rice.

The statement calls for stronger border security as well as a “go to the back of the line” approach to accepting immigrants who are already here into the valid immigration system. It advocates a worker program that does not force migrant workers to apply for a green card, and it does endorse a pathway to citizenship.

“In order for a new immigration system to function properly, we must appropriately deal with individuals living in the country without authorization,” the statement reads. “Undocumented individuals who pay all penalties, pass a criminal background check, and fully comply with other requirements should not be denied the ability to eventually apply for citizenship. This is in keeping with the tradition of the country’s immigration system.”

Published at Latino Post.