Summer recess is underway for the House of Representatives without any votes being taken on immigration legislation.
That’s fine with opponents of legalizing millions of illegal immigrants, but the lack of action might well be the deliberate strategy of GOP leaders hoping to get a comprehensive bill passed this year.
The National Journal reported this week that House Speaker John Boehner initially wanted something passed before the August recess but then decided to delay the House action to help members avoid a backlash at town-hall meetings.
But that may be wishful thinking on his part.
“If you have a town hall or if you don’t, we’re going to find you in the grocery store because this is it. We’ve never been this close,” said Rep. Xavier Becerra, D-Calif., one of the chief immigration negotiators in the House.
The Alliance For Citizenship, a coalition of labor, religious groups, and Latino and Asian advocacy organizations, is hosting hundreds of rallies and vigils in 30 congressional districts, most of them in western states, as part of a “Summer for Citizenship.”
“In August, Republicans will be hearing from their constituents, from business owners, from law enforcement, from clergy, from their voters and their campaign contributors that sensible immigration reform absolutely has to pass this year,” Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., said at a press conference on the campaign.
“If they go to a beach resort, I want the hotel owner and the maid who puts a chocolate on their pillow to talk to them about immigration reform.”
Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, isn’t sure how big of an issue immigration will be at town-hall meetings around the country this month. He says his constituents want the border secured but are otherwise focused on bigger issues.
“They want tax reform like we’ve promised for years. Let’s go to a flat tax. Let’s throw out the IRS,” Gohmert told WND.
“People want to know what happened at Benghazi. People don’t want their government doing any more spying than they are. Those are the issues that I’m hearing more from, except for those that are getting paid to make a big deal out of trying to legalize people that are illegally here.”
August is typically a time for legislators to hold public forums and talk to voters — a tradition that became more complicated in 2009, when town halls erupted with tea party members blasting President Obama’s health-care bill.
“There’s no sense talking about legalization of anybody until you control your own border because you’re inviting people to do exactly what they’re doing, and that is come in numbers 3-5 times more than they were before,” he said. “Secure the border and quit talking about legal status until it’s secure. Then we’ll get this stuff worked out,” explained Gohmert.
Whether the tea party will be able to reprise the kind of grassroots battle it waged on the health-care law remains to be seen. However, one powerful method of persuasion remains at their disposal — the ability to threaten “pro-amnesty” lawmakers with a primary challenge.
Ron Hughes, with the South Carolina Tea Party Coalition, told Fox News that activists would “love” to see Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., face a primary challenge.
“We wanted a full-time conservative senator, and he has not done that for us,” he said.
Another blow for border-security advocates came this week from Graham’s “Gang of Eight” colleague, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who indicated that he would work to greatly reduce the Senate plan for 20,000 new border agents when the issue heads to a House-Senate conference.
Gohmert says he highly respects McCain’s service to this country, but is disappointed by the senator’s approach to this issue.
“He just doesn’t get it,” said Gohmert. “When you keep trying to do a bill that deals with people illegally in the country and you still haven’t secured the border, then there’s no use having a bill. The president has the money, he’s got the manpower, he’s got the ability, just like Woodrow Wilson did when he completely secured the border.
“He could do it if he wants to and we don’t need to have the administration and people like Senator McCain saying, ‘OK, we’ll put this in the bill and allow him to extort legalization for people that are illegally here or citizenship for people that are illegally here in return for him finally doing the job he is sworn to do,” he said.