Seven years ago, I bemoaned the fact that we were being whipped by anti-immigrant groups in advocacy on immigration reform. In 2013, it’s exactly the opposite. Anti-immigrant groups are seemingly absent from the debate (with the exception of cranky comment writers on news service web sites). Pro-immigration advocacy groups – and there are so many that are active this year that I won’t bother naming them – have simply amazed me with the work they’re doing. Whether it’s social media campaigns, visits with congressional offices, relentlessly engaging with journalists to keep immigration reform in the news or more dramatic civil protest actions like hunger strikes or sit ins in congressional offices, no one can say that the pro-immigration side hasn’t been working like crazy to get an immigration bill passed.
In fact, the pro-immigration advocacy is now a movement the likes of which the US has seen rarely in recent years. Perhaps the anti-war protests during the Bush years, the environmental movement in the early 90s and – yes – the Tea Party movement that started in 2009 are the closest examples in the last quarter century.
Today’s latest action involved 1,500 activists who staged vigils in 200 congressional offices in the House office buildings in Washington. I followed the activity on Twitter and live streams that America’s Voice had on its web site. While some pro-immigration folks will criticize the protesters for being too “in your face.” The gadfly approach is one that might not make everyone comfortable, but has the desired effect of reminding members of Congress that they are being watched closely and making the immigration issue go away by simply ignoring it is not an option.
I also learned in 2006 and 2007 that the groups that make the most noise – whether they have large numbers of people on their side or not – make a big difference. Anti-immigrant groups were able to flood the Capitol with faxes and phone calls while pro-immigration groups found themselves outnumbered sometimes by a 100-1. And all the evidence pointed to their being just a small percentage of the electorate that strongly agreed with the anti-immigrants.
Pro-immigration groups have always had large numbers of people on their side. There are millions of Americans who have close relatives or friends with immigration problems and public opinion has been pretty positive to the idea of comprehensive immigration reform. If the pro-immigration groups, which have the advantage of having millions more people on their side, could just get organized, then maybe they could even things up.
Well, boy have they made up for the deficiencies of 2006-2007. This evening Rachel Maddow said that the immigrant activists should have been selected as Person of the Year as opposed to Pope Francis. Maybe that is a bit much, but it’s pretty clear that they’re shaking up Washington and 2014 is going to be a VERY interesting year for immigration in large part thanks to them.