Wednesday, July 26, 2006

"War talk" on immigration reform

Military metaphors are not something you would normally find on the website of an organization founded by Quakers, but leave it to Washington to bring them into the mix. Last week, the reported that Republican representatives in the House have organized a communications "war room" to promote their enforcement-first agenda. Immigration reform is becoming a skirmish in anticipation of the big battle at the ballot box in November.

More like a coordinated plan rather than an actual room, the GOP "war room" coordinates the party's message in local media markets during the next round of hearings up until the November elections. They want to "saturate those markets with favorable comments about the [enforcement-only] House bill". Staffers have separated the country into 12 regions and recruited a dozen press aides from various personal offices to review clips from media markets in each region. They have a conference call every morning at 8:30 and meet in person at least once a week to discuss strategy. The "war room" is coordinating opinion/editorial pieces in local media and they are sending out e-mailing regular "Border Bulletins" about the field hearings schedule, the problems with the Senate bill or the failure of the Democrats to articulate a plan. They also launched a website last week.

What are Democrats doing? They have been pointing out the Republican-lead Congress and the President's failures on the border and criticize their Republican counterparts for their own failure to move a bill to the president's desk. Staffers organized by Pelosi's office meet regularly to discuss the immigration issue, and they will continue to distribute information packets to members who participate in the field hearings.

As immigrant rights advocates feared, the recent (sham) hearings held around the country are being touted as proof that Americans are for enforcement-only. The reports that during a recent conference meeting of House Republicans, Rep. Jeb Hensarling (Texas) told members about the positive responses he heard during a series of town-hall meetings he held to explain his enforcement-first approach. "Town-hall meetings"? That would imply that the public could ask questions or offer testimony; neither of which has yet happened in one of the hearings.

One staffer Kevin Madden was quoted as saying "This is us going before the American public as judge and jury because all the facts are on our side". Where exactly is this forum going to be? The hearings have not provided such a space. He must mean the November elections.

Republicans are planning to use immigration enforcement-only proposals to rally voters to their side and help them maintain the majority in Congress after the up-coming elections. "Members are really on the offensive about this," said a spokeswoman for the House Republican Conference. But writer Patrick O'Connor wonders if it will create more expectations that Congress will actually pass some sort of reform bill BEFORE the elections.

What will all this mean for real/true/actual comprehensive immigration reform? Advocates hope that some positive change will happen. To use a phrase Secretary of State Condaleeza Rice has been using repeatedly in regards to Lebanon, "We do not want to return to the status quo ante." But with the proposed 'arsenal' of enforcement-only measures, immigrant rights advocates are still wondering if the "status quo ante" is preferable.


Call Kevin Madden, with House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) 202.225.6205 and tell him that immigration reform should not be a partisan issue. Everyone knows that the Senate bill was co-authored by Republicans and it should not be portrayed otherwise. Tell him that enforcement-first or enforcement-only strategies are not the answer and that we need TRUE immigration reform that addresses global economic root causes and protects immigrant families. Tell him that to date there has been no forum for Americans and immigrants to act as "judge and jury"” on immigration reform and ask that future field hearings be more open and democratic.

Call Jennifer Crider, spokeswoman for Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) 202.225.4965 and tell her that you do not agree with the Democratic strategy of highlighting the RepublicanÂ’s failures at the border. Tell her that you do not support more immigration enforcement that destroys families and militarizes our border. Tell her that 10 years of enforcement have not been the solution and what we really need is truly comprehensive immigration reform that addresses economic root causes and protects immigrant families.

Call Rep. Jeb Hensarling (Texas) 202.225.3484 and tell his staffer that the Congressional hearings have NOT been town-hall style. Participants have not been able to ask questions or contribute to the debate. Ask the Representative to make the August field hearings more democratic and open so that he can truly hear from Americans and immigrants.

Call the following Republican staffers and tell them that you are disturbed that the party is using immigration reform as a wedge issue rather than truly seeking a solution. Tell them that enforcement-first or enforcement-only strategies are not the answer and that we need TRUE immigration reform that addresses global economic root causes and protects immigrant families.

Laura Blackann, with Rep. John Doolittle (R-Calif.) 202.225.2511
Courtney English, with Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-Kan.) 202.225.6216
Sarah Jackson, with Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.) 202.225.4806
Charlie Keller, with Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite (R-Fla.) 202.225.1008
Ryan Loskarn, with Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) 202.225.2811
Brad Mascho, with Rep. Paul Gillmor (R-Ohio) 202.225.6405
Tory Mazzola, with Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) 202.225.2431
L.D. Platt, with Rep. Tom Reynolds (R-N.Y.) 202.225.5265
Becky Ruby, with Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.) 202.225.2931
Michelle Stein, with Rep. Mike Burgess (R-Texas) 202.225.7772