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bLetter No. 51: Immigration reform now!

Felicia Persaud | 11/7/2013, 10:34 a.m.
Felicia Persaud

Dear Mr. President,

John Boehner spent Halloween, it seems, scaring up his few constituents and fans with a tweet that claimed your health care promise “stretched credulity.” In fact, while several people were being arrested in New York on Oct. 29 in a civil disobedience exercise urging him to bring an immigration reform bill to the floor for a vote, and 300 conservatives from around the country lobbied for passage of the measure, Boehner spent between Oct. 24 and 31 focused on “Obamacare” on his website postings. Why? Guess Boehner, like many in his party, refuses to face reality. His party’s likeability is at an all-time low because of him, and now the latest Kaiser Health Tracking Poll, conducted Oct. 17-23, says the public paid more attention in October to the political fights over the shutdown and raising the debt ceiling than to the technical problems with the opening of the online federal health insurance exchange created by the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Further, a solid majority of the public (60 percent) say they oppose the idea of cutting off funding as a way to stop the law from being implemented, and a higher share would like to see Congress expand the law or keep it as is (47 percent) rather than repeal it (37 percent).

Compare this to a CBS News poll that found that 77 percent of Americans favor a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants in the U.S. if they met certain requirements—including a waiting period, paying fines and back taxes, passing criminal background checks and learning English—compared to just 20 percent who oppose this.

Further, a new Public Policy Polling poll of eight congressional districts, commissioned by the Service Employees International Union, shows that Republican House members can begin to rebuild the damage to their popularity caused by the government shutdown if they vote for common sense immigration reform.

The districts polled were those of Reps. Gary Miller (Calif.-31), John Kline (Minn.-2), David Joyce (Ohio-14), Joe Heck (Nev.-3), Rodney Davis (Ill.-13), Mike Grimm (N.Y.-11), Frank LoBiondo (N.J.-2) and Mike Fitzpatrick (Pa.-8). At least 65 percent of voters in all of these districts support immigration reform, with more than 70 percent support in Minn.-2 (78 percent), Pa.-8 (77 percent), Ohio-14 (76 percent), N.Y.-11 (72 percent) and N.J.-2 (71 percent).

At least 60 percent of independents in every district support immigration reform, the poll found, as do a majority of Republicans in each of them. Most notably, voters made it clear in each of these districts that they’ll be more likely to vote to re-elect their congressmen next year if they vote for immigration reform. In seven out of the eight districts, including all of the ones where the incumbent Republican trails a generic Democrat, voters say by a double-digit margin that they’d be more likely to re-elect their member next year if they vote for immigration reform. The numbers are particularly telling in Pa.-8 (a 25point boost), Minn.-2 (a 22-point boost), N.Y.-11 (a 21-point boost) and N.J.-2 (a 16-point boost.)

As SEIU Executive Vice President Rocio Saenz put it: “Speaker Boehner, by siding with extremists in his party and refusing to schedule a vote on immigration, is putting at risk members of his caucus who could otherwise side with their constituents and vote for immigration reform.”

The reality is more and more Republicans, fearing they could lose their seat next year, are crossing the line and supporting the measure. Kudos to Reps. Jeff Denham, Joe Heck and David Valadao, all Republicans, for being sane in the madhouse that is the GOP caucus. They must be used to push their other colleagues and Boehner to deliver a Christmas gift for immigrants and bring a comprehensive immigration bill to a vote without the Hastert Rule.

Respectfully,

Felicia Persaud

The writer is CMO of Hard Beat Communications, which owns the brands NewsAmericasNow, CaribPR Wire and Invest Caribbean Now.