Immigration Reform Advocates Target House Republicans In Houston

Lawmakers in the House of Representatives enjoy a break during the August recess. But immigration advocates, the religious community and worker's rights groups are canvassing certain GOP congressional districts to push for comprehensive immigration reform.

“Si se puede!

Se Pude?

Si se puede!”

The lobby of St. Stephens Episcopal Church was packed with advocates of immigration reform, confident that lawmakers in conservative districts may be convinced into believing that the issue is not only important to Americans nationwide, but for their constituents at home.

The Reverend Ronnie Lister says the hardship of illegal immigrants is comparable to the plight of African Americans in the 60s.

“We have now re-entered that stage again with the immigration issue, with the return of the voting rights issue. These are things that we have to fight that at the very center of human rights. The people that we are dealing with now are Jim and Jane Crow, who are still trying to hold on to an old world that has died.”

Julie Love is a retired HISD bilingual teacher. She says immigration reform is near to her heart.

“Most of my students were Hispanic. A large number of them were undocumented, and the obstacles that they faced and almost always overcame was impressive. And they deserve a path to citizenship.”

Supporters of immigration reform say they hope to send a message to Houston Republican representatives Pete Olson and Ted Poe. Carlos Duarte is state director of the group Mi Familia Vota.

“We are talking to voters, and what we found as we’re knocking on doors, is that overwhelmingly they are supporting a path to citizenship. But the problem is that Congress members are not necessarily hearing that. People do not know necessarily, how to contact their Congress members. So that’s what we’re doing for them. We are providing for them with a phone number with an e-mail address to contact them.”

Hernandez: “Hope many doors do we hope to open, or knock on?”

Duarte: “Before they go back to Congress in Washington D.C., we would have knocked on 6,000 doors in those two districts.”

Immigration scholar Dr. Michael Olivas of the University of Houston calls the plan being considered a punitive plan that attaches criminal penalties that in his view are not warranted.

“And it doesn’t recognize that we’ve already been deporting people at the highest levels than we have, ever since the early 1950s.”

Last month, a group of Republican campaign donors sent a letter to the GOP caucus, warning that a vote against immigration reform could impact the national party’s success in future presidential elections.