AFL-CIO, SEIU Step Up Pro-Immigration Reform Drive With Broadcast Ad Buys

WASHINGTON —The AFL-CIO and the Service Employees stepped up the drive to force the GOP-run U.S. House to pass comprehensive immigration reform, including a path to eventual citizenship.  They launched expensive broadcast ad buys targeting House Republicans in “swing vote” districts with high and rising shares of immigrant voters.  The campaigns may last longer than their planned two weeks, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka says.

In separate press conferences on Nov. 6-7, Trumka and new SEIU Executive Vice President Rocio Saenz said the point is to force House GOP leaders to let lawmakers vote on the comprehensive reform bill before the end of this year.  Unions and their allies won’t accept anything less than that, Trumka warned.

“The TV ad campaign has two main objectives: To spur House Republicans into action on immigration reform this year, and to hold Republican members of Congress accountable for their hostile statements about Latino immigrants,” he said.

“The Republican Party controls the immediate fate and future of immigration reform.  But Latino voters control the long-term fate and future of the Republican Party.”

“We will not stop fighting until there is a vote on a bill in the House that provides 11 million aspiring Americans with a pathway to citizenship,” Saenz said.  “Nothing less is acceptable, and we will make sure Republicans understand the cost of inaction at the ballot box in 2014.”

The AFL-CIO is running $1 million in ads for two weeks on Spanish-language TV stations in Atlanta, Denver, Orlando, Fla., and Bakersfield, Calif.  The figures may rise, Trumka said.  SEIU’s 2-week ad drive in seven districts will cost $500,000 “and it’s on top of $2.5 million we’ve already spent this year in paid media,” Saenz said.

The campaigners will also engage in thousands of door-knocks, phone calls, leafleting, demonstrations, town halls and even arrests on principle.   Some 90,000 door knocks are planned in the districts of the nine vulnerable lawmakers alone.

The objective of the increased drive is to force a House vote on comprehensive immigration reform.  The Senate previously passed the legislation, to bring 11 million undocumented people out of the shadows.  That includes 7.5 million undocumented workers, who would be immediately covered by labor law.

That’s important because venal, vicious and law-breaking employers use undocumented workers two ways.  They exploit the workers by underpaying them and employing them in substandard conditions, threatening to call immigration officials on any workers who stand up for themselves.

Bosses also use the threat of firing regular workers and hiring the undocumented to replace them to drive down wages and benefits and to kill union organizing drives.

Trumka, Saenz and the other speakers did not mention those purposes during their press conferences.  Instead, they stressed the justice of comprehensive immigration reform and denounced daily deportation of 1,200 undocumented workers.

If comprehensive reform comes up on the House floor, Trumka and the others said, it would pass with overwhelming Democratic support, plus a handful of Republicans.  Three have signed on to the House Democrats’ version of the Senate’s comprehensive reform bill, which includes a 13-year torturous path to citizenship.

Two of the nine Republicans the ads target endorsed comprehensive reform.  The other seven have issued statements saying they support a path to citizenship.  The ads call on them to give more than just lip service to the cause.  Instead, they must “organize their colleagues” to pressure GOP leaders to allow a vote, just as the Tea Partyites did, said AFL-CIO immigration campaign leader Tom Snyder.

“We’re not going to let them off the hook just because they co-sponsored the bill,” he added.  Four of the targeted lawmakers represent California districts, while two are from Colorado and one each hail from New Mexico, Florida and Nevada.  All won in 2012 with less than 55% of the vote.  The Latino voting age population in their districts ranges from 13% in Joe Heck’s Nevada turf to 66% in Californian David Valdao’s.

Despite majority support nationwide, House Republicans won’t consider the comprehensive bill.  They prefer piecemeal, anti-worker, anti-Hispanic bills, such as one ordering local law enforcement officers to stop anyone who “looks different,” demand their papers and arrest, detain and deport those who lack them.

“If they block immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship and strong worker protections, House Republicans are risking their political future…The bottom line is this: If the GOP doesn’t get right on immigration and regain their competitiveness with Latino voters, they will cease to be a party that can win national elections for a generation,” Trumka predicted.

Hispanics, now the largest U.S. minority group, voted in huge numbers in 2012 and the off-year 2013 elections, and voted overwhelmingly Democratic, exit polls show.

“Mr. Cuccinelli understands very well today the costs of inaction” on immigration, added Gustavo Torres of Casa de Maryland.  Ken Cuccinelli, the Radical Right GOP gubernatorial nominee in Virginia, who called undocumented workers “rats,” lost the Nov. 5 election narrowly to Democrat Terry McAuliffe.  Minority-majority precincts up and down I-95 from D.C. through Richmond lopsidedly backed McAuliffe, exit polls say.

Los Angeles County Federation of Labor President Maria Elena Durazo noted she’s been working for comprehensive immigration reform since before the reign of then-Gov. Pete Wilson (R).  He pushed through a vicious anti-Hispanic anti-immigrant initiative in 1994, and the GOP has tanked in California, the nation’s largest state, since.

“Back then, we were a 50-50 state in the U.S. House delegation.  Now it’s 28% Republican-72% Democratic.  Back then, the California state senate was 55%-45% Democratic.  Now it’s 73%-25%.  Before then, Republicans had won nine of 10 presidential elections.  Since then, they’ve lost six,” she said.  “Today, the GOP faces the same crossroads nationally as it did in California in 1994.”

“We reject the notion that this (comprehensive) bill can’t be passed and shouldn’t be passed,” Trumka declared, when asked if the fed would accept the House GOP’s piece-by-piece plan, which does not include a path to citizenship.  “We’re in a coalition with Latinos, Asian-Americans and others and we all believe the Senate bill is a good bill and we are not willing to go less than that.”

-PAI